A political endorsement in the Maine Governor's race has sparked a war of words between campaign staffs of two gubernatorial hopefuls. The announcement came Thursday morning at the downtown Portland headquarter's of the state's largest gay rights advocacy group.
"On behalf of our 70,000 members in Maine, Equality Maine is very proud to announce our endorsement of Mike Michaud to be Maine's next governor," said Equality Maine's political director Ali Vander Zanden at a press conference in Portland.
She describes Democratic congressman Michaud, who came out as gay in November, as the best candidate to move Maine forward. She also talked about the opportunity to make history by electing America's first openly gay governor.
When asked if Equality Maine's decision would have been the same had Michaud not announced he was gay, Vander Zanden had this to say:
"We made the decision based on who was the best candidate for Maine's LGBT community and we feel strongly that Mike is that candidate," said Vander Zanden. "We know that he'll move Maine forward in the right direction, we know that he has a strong record of supporting the LGBT community, and whether or not he was gay that would be true."
"He is a listener, he's a bringer together of sides, he is going to be great," said Equality Maine activist Dale McCormick. She has been described as Maine's first openly gay politician and she held a sign saying "I Like Mike." She said she got to know and like Michaud when they served together in the state legislature back in '90s.
"So I got to see him up close and personal," she said.
It's Michaud's years in Augusta however that prompted one of his gubernatorial opponents to release a statement slamming Equality Maine's endorsement.
Independent Eliot Cutler, who narrowly lost the 2010 race for governor against Republican Paul LePage, described the endorsement as a "partisan political decision" and pointed to Michaud's voting record while he was a state legislator.
Cutler spokeswoman Crystal Canney said Michaud voted 19 times against equal rights for the LGBT community.
"19 votes are a lot of votes against equal rights for people, and I would say that might be a theme throughout this entire campaign - the evolution or re-invention of Mike Michaud," Canney said.
She said Cutler was disappointed not to get the endorsement, which he felt he deserved.
"Because Eliot and his family, back to his father, have generations and generations of interaction with the LGBT community," Canney said. "They've done fund-raising, organizing, they've been outspoken advocates for decades, and his record really speaks for itself."