Why I’m voting for Eliot Cutler

Eliot-Cutler-630x421I have many friends on both sides of the political aisle, and they undoubtedly will chastise me for supporting a gubernatorial candidate that is trailing in the polls.

But polls are just polls, and a growing number of my friends are growing disillusioned by the two political parties and their candidates.

It’s time for a change.

For more than 30 years, I have been an active voter. In 1982, I supported Republican Sherry Huber. Four years later, I did a bit of volunteer work for Bill Diamond’s campaign to capture the Democratic nomination.

In the years that followed, I never missed an election. But I did miss feeling the passion of voting for a candidate, not against a another candidate. I spent those roughly 30 years feeling rather uninspired, somewhat hollow.

True, I did not vote for Eliot Cutler in 2010. But I cannot, in good conscience, make that mistake again.

I have been on the fence for several weeks. I have met and spoken with all three candidates. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but only Eliot rises above the fray.

While Governor Paul Lepage and Congressman Mike Michaud continue sniping at each other, Cutler has focused on his vision for Maine: a vision that runs right down the middle, on a parallel course with common sense.

But what really sealed the deal for me was something that happened a couple of weeks ago at an energy forum in Portland.

You’ve probably read about what happened at the E2Tech forum in the newspaper, but as one of roughly 300 paying audience members it was one of the most awkward experiences I can recall.

LePage refused to sit at the same table with the other candidates. LePage, in fact, left the event and sulked in the parking lot.

Grown men acting like children and refusing to sit at a table together. That’s not leadership.

That’s boorish.

Michaud ran through a set of talking points; answered a few questions and then was off to do important things (the event was not designed nor intended to be a debate). Michaud supporters say he arrived at 8:30 because that’s when he was scheduled to speak. So the audience waited 30 minutes in silence, staring at an empty stage because LePage forfeited his 8 a.m. speaking time.

With somber dignity and clarity, Cutler began his remarks by apologizing to the audience. He later drew a round of laughter from the crowd when he said it’s simply not good enough to say that you are better than the other guy.

When asked a question about natural gas expansion by an environmental advocate, Eliot gave an answer that she did not like. In essence, he said that there are no perfect solutions; that Maine cannot afford simplistic thinking on energy issues or any other issue; that reality must drive how we lead.

I was impressed by his honesty, integrity and wisdom. He wasn’t willing to tell her what she wanted to hear (which would have been the popular path). Instead, he laid out a vision and a plan that acknowledges the very real challenges that so many Maine families are facing when it comes to heating their homes.

Eliot Cutler is a different kind of candidate. He has unmatched and proven experience in job creation, and he is the only candidate who continues to put forth detailed policies and plans to invest in infrastructure and education and to use tax dollars more efficiently.

He is the only candidate not beholden to political parties or special interests. He has not and will not accept money from PACs or special interests. Translation: you won’t see as many television commercials.

I believe Eliot is the right candidate to bring people together in search of common solutions.

For too long, political divisiveness in Augusta has overshadowed the real needs of real Maine families.

It’s time to end the boogeyman scare tactics of voting for so and so means so and so will win.

It’s time for vision. It’s time for integrity. It’s time for common sense.

It’s time for Eliot Cutler.

Learn More

 

Radio Free Europe

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

There’s one aspect of this year’s Maine gubernatorial race that has received little attention: where will dispassionate Republicans land on Election Day?

Four years ago, in what was largely a three-way race, Republican Paul LePage became Maine’s governor by securing approximately 38 percent of the vote.

Since then, much has been said about plurality, the merits of run-off elections and the so-called Cutler effect.

But little has changed in how Maine will choose its next governor, and today LePage is again on the ballot with two opponents.

More importantly, we don’t have Independent Shawn Moody (9 percent) to kick around this time.

Moody was always a long-shot, a late entrant, dark-horse candidate with broad appeal. At least a third of his support likely came from Republicans who were less than impressed with LePage’s style and tone.

From my perch, it’s hard to see how LePage has done anything to build his base, to draw in moderates; and I wonder where will those folks go. Will they hold their noses and vote for LePage? Will they hold their noses and vote for Cutler? Will they clamp down on their noses and vote for Democrat Mike Michaud; or will they leave their noses alone and just stay home on Election Day?

Many Democrats blame Cutler for LePage’s election in 2010. They say he split their party’s voting block and could do it again this time.

So far, Cutler is only a shadow of the threat he was in 2010; but even then his support came late in the game. Say what you will, but Cutler’s numbers will likely rise over the next few weeks as LePage and Michaud busy themselves with tearing each other down.

Recent polls have shown LePage and Michaud in a very tight race. So, I want to know where the Moody voters from 2010 will go; all nine percent of them.

Nine percent may not seem like a big number, but LePage simply cannot rest on his base of 35 percent. This time, the Democrats are working harder and smarter than they did in 2010. They are more unified and reaching for the middle.

LePage has an opportunity to draw in some of those moderate voters in the middle, but so far there’s been no evidence that he’s willing to court their vote.

So far, Eliot Cutler is the only candidate working really hard for the middle, the place where a growing number of voters call home. I doubt it will be enough for him to win, but I am positive that it would be enough for LePage to lose.

 

Lido Shuffle

The experiment is over, and it was a bittersweet experience letting it go.

As it is with so many things in life, it occurs to me that my endeavor to create a diverse group to debate differing political ideas with civility was both a phenomenal success and an utter failure. We called this group “Thinking Politics” and its membership quickly swelled beyond my expectations.

WP_20140906_18_48_58_ProLast night, I had the pleasure of participating in the phenomenal success part; but it was the utter failure part that led me to let go of the reins, end the “experiment” and let the group go wherever it wants; allow the other members of this “secret” social media group to experience true self-determination.

I started the group, and until last night served as its primary moderator. Admittedly, I tried to control the group: to maintain a balance between liberal and conservative thought.

My bigger mistake, however, was trying to appease all members of the group, and that caused a lot of anger and dissension.

A few months ago there was a schism of sorts. Roughly 20 percent of the members left the group after I announced that we would leave religion out of our political conversations.

I was angry that these departing members hijacked my group’s name and started a similar group entitled Thinking Politics/Free Speech, as if free speech has no limits.

But the bulk of the original group’s members remained, yet still the dynamic I envisioned never really materialized in a substantive way.

I wanted to see if there would be more intellectual curiosity; if members would be willing to re-examine and challenge their own political pre-conceptions and beliefs.

One of the problems is that the group quickly became dominated by one side of the political aisle. Those in the minority felt frustrated and stopped participating.

In a recent Facebook post, Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Clinton, spoke of the value of having his ideas challenged by a good friend during a monthly lunch meeting.

Perhaps that is why last night was such a stunning success.

About 30 members of Thinking Politics convened for an impromptu dinner in Portland. All members, regardless of political affiliation, were invited. It was an awesome experience, full of laughter, shared experiences, good food and plenty of libation.

That experience reminded me of the Political Beer Summits I once organized with friends who often disagreed about political issues. Those summits inspired the creation of Thinking Politics.

When you’re sitting at a table, directly across from your adversary, it becomes instantly clear that you have much more in common than not. We all have funny stories, fond memories, shared experiences, including loss, fear, hope and dreams.

It’s almost impossible to establish that kind of intimacy on the internet. When you are separated by a keyboard and a monitor, it’s much easier to belittle your opponent, to say things you would never say if you were sharing a meal with them.

So, part of me thinks I failed; but as I looked around at the group last night, I also felt a certain sense of pride. The conversations were real, the friendships were plainly evident.

It was a good time for me to say goodbye, to let go of my moderator status and turn over the keys to six others.

Where Thinking Politics goes from here is unknown. What is known, however, is that I will no longer be at the helm of that ship.

My experiment is over, and I regret nothing.

A good friend from Rhode Island accompanied us to the dinner. Her observation meant a lot to me. “Look at all these people, they came from Texas, Illinois and all over, and they really want to be here and meet the other members in person. You started that, Randy, and that’s impressive.”

So, in the end, maybe my time at the helm of Thinking Politics was a stunning success; and thus, it was the perfect time to walk away and let others steer that ship.

 

Does anyone really care

 

For those of you who are excited that the Lincoln Mill Clock Tower has been “saved,” it’s a bit early to put on your party hats and break out the champagne.

Sure, the clock tower was moved from the ground where it sat rotting for seven years, but it’s hardly saved.

It will likely take hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the dilapidated structure, replace the missing bell and weathervane.

But now, I fear, the clock tower has been moved out of sight — out of mind.

It has been moved to another place behind the building so that its rotting carcass will no longer be a public nuisance, an eyesore.

The story of how the clock tower landed on the ground is a complicated one, and detailed here.

Along with a few dozen other curious spectators, I was there on Thursday night, watching the giant crane hoist what remains of the clock tower onto a flat-bed truck.

I spoke briefly with the building’s new owners and asked if the tower would ever be placed back on its perch.

The response? “No way.”

And who could blame them? They inherited a mess created by the building’s previous owners.

Everyone in Biddeford, it seems, has an opinion about the clock tower, ranging from “it should be scrapped” to “it should go back on top of the building.”

But only a handful of people have stepped up to help save this iconic symbol of the city’s storied past.

My hat goes off to a group of passionate Biddeford High School students who last year tried to raise interest in saving the structure and organized yet another fundraising drive.

Like the fundraising drive that I helped coordinate in 1999, neither effort met its goals. Though the students have not stopped yet.

Will the residents of Biddeford step up to truly “save” the clock tower?

From my perspective, it’s a long shot but one worth taking.

As I said before, we save what we care about. Now I wonder, does anyone really care?

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PREVIOUSLY:

A new fundraising effort

A look at the clock works from the late 1990s

 

 

Who do you love?

cover-classic1.jpgI was saddened this morning to read that the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram will end their longstanding tradition of offering endorsements of political candidates and races.

Although this decision will likely be a popular one among the newspaper’s readers, I think it is a terrible mistake.

In today’s media world, newspapers are struggling to keep up with increasing competition (broadcast journalism, blogs and social media). Newsrooms across the country are also facing other challenges: budgetary constraints that are decimating newsrooms and declining advertising revenues.

For those reasons, and some others, newspapers are losing their gravitas and their once dominant position as the chief source of news and information.

In today’s editorial, the newspaper makes its case for discontinuing endorsements.

“Editorial endorsements are a tradition from the 19th century, when American newspapers were affiliated with political parties. Those newspapers existed to affect the outcome of elections, not just to report on them. The news business changed, but although most newspapers have hung on to the tradition, we could not convince ourselves that hanging on made sense for us.”

The editorial goes to great lengths to disclose its ownership interest by S. Donald Sussman, a frequent contributor to Democratic candidates and the husband of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree as a another reason why it should refrain from making endorsements.

That is, perhaps, the newspaper’s best argument, but the rest of their argument is weak, and not what one would expect from the state’s largest daily newspaper.

“Some people say that a news organization, because of its access to candidates, is in a better position than the average voter to make a choice, but no voter has a shortage of information these days.”

Based on my own experience working for both newspapers and candidates, this argument is tepid, at best.

For the better part of two decades, I worked as both a reporter and an editor at much smaller, community-based newspapers.

During my days as editor of the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Courier (1999-2006), I ran endorsements of local candidates. Today, as it was then, fewer than 2 of 10 people could tell you who was the councilor from Ward 4 in Biddeford or which city council candidates voted against the proposed school budget.

Today, I no longer cover local politics. I work on public policy issues across the state of Maine and beyond.

I spend very little time in my hometown. It’s now basically where I eat and sleep. If I want to know what’s going on, I read my local newspapers. I view the newspapers as more credible and more informed than a local blogger or what Susie Q. Public posts on her Facebook page.

It’s the same for most people I know. We lead busy lives: our kids need back-to-school clothes, there are bills to pay, lawns to mow, laundry to fold, not to mention the demands of our careers.  I no longer have the luxury of hanging out at City Hall as a paid witness.

But when I was an editor, I could speak with authority about local issues and the players driving them. I had a unique perspective. It was my profession.

Shortly, after I left the newspaper business, that publication also stopped offering endorsements of local candidates. I heard from a lot of people who bemoaned the lack of those endorsements and a vibrant editorial page. The purpose of the editorial page is to be subjective (a departure from the rest of the paper that should be objective and neutral) It’s the whole point of an editorial page: for the newspaper to take an informed position on important issues affecting its readers.

How an endorsement changed my life

Finally, the best reason for making endorsements:

It was almost 13 years ago today that I sat down to write a set of endorsements. There were three candidates seeking two seats on the Old Orchard Beach School Board. This was a minor race that the Press Herald would not weigh in upon. Of those three candidates, one was a respected incumbent and two were political newcomers.

But I made a mistake, I thought there was only one seat available. So, I endorsed the incumbent.

The next day, I got a rather nasty e-mail from one of the candidates who told me I should do a better job with my research.

We traded barbs for several days, an e-mail exchange that eventually turned friendly. I met her on election night, but did not dare speak to her.

There were some more e-mails and then a first date.

And then a second and third date.

We have been happily married now for the better part of 12 years.

If I didn’t make any endorsements, I would have never met the love of my life.

And if that isn’t a good reason for making endorsements, then what is?

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would not change a thing.

 

The clock tower is saved!

IMG_1884-1We just received word that the former Lincoln Mill Clock Tower will finally be moved from the near grave it has been resting upon for several years.

A recent fundraising campaign, a long with the generosity of some local real estate developers, has paved the way for the tower to be moved on Thursday, Aug. 28, to a location where it will be restored for future use.

Over the last few years, the remaining portion of the tower has become a public eyesore.  It was removed from its perch in 2007 by the building’s former owners. A previous fundraising campaign fell far short of its goal to keep the tower on the city’s skyline.

The city council fielded numerous complaints about the rotting structure that was sitting idly on the ground, near the center of downtown. They ordered the tower removed or destroyed, despite its historic significance.

But earlier this year a group of Biddeford High School students stepped up, and now there is momentum once again to save an iconic piece of the city’s past.

According to those involved with the move. A crane and equipment will arrive around 6 p.m., and the goal is to have the tower relocated by 2 a.m. 

Lincoln Street may have  to be shut down for several hours (approx 40 yards south of Mulligans to the corner of Lincoln and Main Street).

Survey says . . .

Eliot Cutler

Eliot Cutler

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler is in trouble.

At least according to the latest All Along the Watchtower survey (and every other poll conducted over the last few months)

Whatever star power the independent from Cape Elizabeth had during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign has all but vanished.

Of the three major candidates, Cutler was the only one to see his support fade (a 40 percent drop) between my two surveys conducted on March 14 and July 24 of this year

Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Paul LePage saw a 19 percent jump in support between the survey period, but Democrat Mike Michaud maintained strong and commanding leads in both surveys, handily winning each with 48 percent in March; and 49.5 percent in July.

As I said previously, this was NOT a scientific poll. It was not restricted to Maine voters, and there are no cross-tabs to analyze. An eight-year-old girl from Toronto could have voted in this survey, so no one should get too wound up about the results . . . except for Eliot Cutler.

Before I proceed, it should also be noted that my latest survey (launched on July 24) had far fewer participants than the earlier survey I conducted in March.

In my March 14 survey, there were 2,411 participants. By contrast, only 122 people participated in my latest survey.

I am not sure how to explain the dramatic drop in participation. It could be that we are in the middle of summer. It could be that people are growing weary of politics and are waiting until Labor Day to get fired up. It could be apathy. It could be a lot of things, but Cutler’s team could have shared this survey widely among their supporters. They could have easily had a small win. 75 votes for Cutler would have resulted in a blog post that “Cutler wins survey.”

gov chart1What would be the value of a minor league blog announcing a Cutler win?

Well, it would be something that Cutler could point to as semi-tangible evidence of his campaign’s viability. It would likely help him more than saying he was asked by the Democrats to be their party’s nominee.

Instead, the results here are just more bad news for a campaign that has yet to have a sun-shiney day during the 2014 cycle.

It’s also further evidence that the Democrats don’t need to worry too much about Cutler, and it’s a bit of bad news for the LePage team that desperately wants Cutler to cut into the Democratic base.

That eight-year-old girl from Toronto probably had no idea about how much power she and her friends could have wielded in the 2014 campaign for the Blaine House.