As a lifelong Democrat who has deviated on only a couple of occasions to vote for Republicans or Independents, I was deeply angered at the trash that my party put out only a couple of weeks before the recent gubernatorial election.
When it became clear that Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler was surging in polls and surpassing Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell, the Maine Democratic Party went on the attack of spreading lies and deception to attempt to influence the vote. As a Maine Democrat, I am mad and thoroughly disgusted at the tactics that my party employed.
Never have I seen my Maine Democratic Party operate in this fashion. This certainly isn’t the party of Ed Muskie, Frank Coffin, George Mitchell, Joe Brennan, Mike Michaud and others from years past who would not have allowed what happened in this recent election.
During the course of one week, I received from the Maine Democratic Party three 8.5 x 11-inch glossy colored mailers attacking Eliot Cutler. The first attempted to liken him to BP, which was responsible for the Gulf Coast oil spill. The mailer also shows rocks by the Portland Headlight appearing to be darkened by oil and a photo of oil-soaked birds that we have seen recently from the Gulf Coast oil spill. The Maine Democratic Party did this despite knowing that Eliot Cutler is vehemently opposed to off-shore drilling in Maine.
The same day I received this trashy mailer, I attended a gubernatorial forum in Portland. There, Eliot Cutler held up that mailer and asked Libby Mitchell to call the Maine Democratic Party and ask it to cease and desist from putting out this type of trash. She responded by saying that as a Clean Election candidate she wasn’t allowed to speak to the party. There was nothing to prevent her from condemning such dirty campaigning. She remained silent, and two other mailers followed that were even worse.
The next one I received showed two Chinese fortune cookies, which said “China’s lobbyist Eliot Cutler Knows Your Fortune.” It claimed that Cutler has spent the past few years helping “Chinese corporations buy American companies so they can ship those jobs back to China.” It also claimed that “As recently as this summer, while running for Governor, Cutler welcomed to Maine a group of Chinese businessmen promoting Chinese involvement in our economy.”
The mailer, which attempted to depict Cutler as trying to take jobs away from Maine and ship them to China, was completely opposite from what Cutler did.
In June of this year, Cutler brought Chinese businessmen and officials, such as Ning Gaoning, chairman of the China Overseas Food Corp., and Fang Fenglei, chairman of the investment fund Hopu, to take a firsthand look at Maine’s lobster, blueberry and aquaculture industries. The objective was to export Maine’s products to China, which has a large consumer population that could help Maine’s economy and create jobs. I find it most unfortunate that my party would attack him with such deceit by portraying what he was intending to do for the good of the State of Maine.
I saw in Eliot Cutler a man with worldwide experience who could use his talents for the good of the people of Maine. This was a mere sampling of what he could do by reaching out beyond our borders. I realize this is a strange phenomenon, since it really hasn’t happened under the leadership we have had in several years.
The third and final mailer I received at home is the one that truly enraged me about what my party was doing. It read: “Eliot Cutler’s advice to Mainers Looking for a Job … Learn Chinese.” It shows a “Help Wanted” ad written in Chinese.
To add insult to injury, it also had a red star with a depiction of the Chinese flag, a communist country. On the back side was written, among other things, “With Eliot Cutler as Governor – Mainers might as well learn Chinese.”
Here is the record, according to Wikipedia encyclopedia about Eliot Cutler: “He served as Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science in the office of management and Budget in the Carter administration, and was the principal White House official for energy. Cutler began his career as a legislative assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, helping craft the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.”
This is why the ads put out by my Democratic party are so offensive—they are completely the contrary to Eliot Cutler’s life’s work trying to protect our environment and working for the American people.
As a party, we need to look back and ask ourselves if this is the way we want to be viewed by the people of Maine. It is clear to me that such tactics were rejected soundly.
I first met Eliot Cutler late this past spring. He made an appointment to meet me at City Hall to tell me about his candidacy. I didn’t know this man from Adam; however, it didn’t take long in our conversation for me to determine that this man was highly intelligent, had vast experience and was very personable. He had a commanding presence about him that, along with his personal assets, could be a leader for the State of Maine. It was a very cordial meeting.
I was straightforward with him and told him that I had committed over a year ago to supporting former Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe for governor. I had been involved in my last employ working with Steve Rowe on training issues dealing with human trafficking, elder abuse, financial exploitation of seniors and early childhood education. Also, I had gotten to know Steve Rowe as a man of character who was most honest and sincere.
Cutler asked me if I could ever consider supporting an Independent. I told him yes. As a matter of fact, I had endorsed U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins in her last election. He then said,” If Steve Rowe doesn’t get the Democratic nomination, could I come see you on June 9,” the day after the primary election. I told him yes.
He did come to visit me again. I had a few questions to ask him about his position on issues such as what has angered me about the past state budget, much of it balanced on the backs of municipalities. He was clear about the fact that it is a mere shifting of the burden from the state to municipalities where the burden befalls on the local property taxpayer. I had other questions for him. His responses led me to tell him that he “hit a homerun.” That is when I committed to supporting him for the office of Governor of the State of Maine.
I knew that he was a virtual unknown with zero percent in opinion polls in the month of June, but I knew that once the people of Maine got to know him that they would see what I saw in him and might just elect him as our governor. It came close and given another week or so, he might just have become our governor-elect. I firmly believe that we have lost an opportunity to place a man in office with a plan that could have truly led us out of the hole we are in.
Since the election, I am hearing from more and more from people that we missed a good opportunity to place this man in office. I concur fully with their assessment.
By the way, during the primary season, I was called by Libby Mitchell and Pat McGowan to meet with them. I told them about my support for Steve Rowe. Mitchell won the primary, but never followed up afterward, like Cutler did.
During the campaign, my wife Pat and our son Larry Jr. joined me in volunteering on Cutler’s campaign, as they also felt that he was the best candidate for Maine. During my time with Eliot, I saw him talking to people from all walks of life and he connected with them as he connected with me. It was clear to see that he is a people person, a quality I admire greatly.
I was invited to join Eliot on the last weekend of the campaign, which traveled from Madawaska to Kittery. Joining him on the bus tour were his wife, daughter and two brothers; spending hours together, I had an opportunity to observe this family that I saw as one that is close and supportive. The loving relationship with Melanie, his wife of 37 years, and with that of their daughter and his two brothers was very special.
I left the bus tour in Belfast on Saturday before the election to attend our daughter Karla’s wedding on that Sunday. On Monday, I met up again with the family in Portland at the rally in Monument Square. Consistently, from every member of the family, starting with Eliot, was the question, “How was the wedding?” As I mentioned earlier, this entire family is genuine and down to earth as well as being very caring. Their genuineness was clearly felt.
Throughout the campaign there were constant expressions of gratitude by Cutler himself, his family and his staff. On the day after the election, I received a “thank you” e-mail from Eliot. Below is what he wrote:
“I am proud of the fact that we came from literally zero to just a few thousand votes short of winning in a mere 16 months. And I am prouder still that we stuck a dagger in the heart of negative campaigning in the State of Maine, that we never ran a single negative attack ad nor made a single personal attack, that we withstood an onslaught of lies, slander and deception directed against us and that we emerge from this race with our heads held high and our integrity intact.
Eliot Cutler, I am proud, as my family is proud, to have supported you in your campaign of highest integrity. We stand with you in holding our heads high. We only wish the results might have been different. I am also hopeful that my party will have learned a lesson that the people of Maine do not condone the type of campaigning that was demonstrated by not only my party, but by both political parties in the days leading up to the election.
We are hopeful that you will consider another run in the future for the sake of the State of Maine. We are also hopeful that Governor-elect Paul LePage will live up to the responsibilities that the people of Maine have entrusted to him. We wish him well.
See Mayor Gilbert’s personal blog at www.MayorLarryGilbert.com.