Eliot Cutler’s “WooGate”? And what’s the real effect of his candidacy?


Politics ahead, but first…

One reason we live in So. Thomaston…

Our post office has lace window curtains. Who else can say that? Are we the only ones in Maine with a P.O. like this? In the entire U.S.?

DSC_9780Barry Tower is our postmaster – as gentle and courteous a postman as you could ever ask for. Don’t know where the curtains came from.


Cutler’s Woogate?

True, I’ve lived here just two years and a few minutes, but Maine politics – especially the governor’s race – has me intrigued. I’m plunging in head first for Mike, so be forewarned.

Now, from news reports last week:


Eliot Cutler



[In May, 2011] Cutler said they [he and Maine Democratic Party chair Ben Grant] were on a post-lunch walk down Commercial Street when Grant asked him to run as a Democrat, promising to the clear the field of other party candidates. “I remember this so well, because I was taken aback by it,” Cutler said. “I remember stopping on the sidewalk on Commercial and said, ‘First of all, Ben, I am not a Democrat and … secondly I don’t want to govern as a Democrat.” – as reported by RandyBillings in the Portland Press Herald


Ben GrantBen Grant.jpg


Cutler’s claim is 100 percent false. The party was focused from the very beginning on Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, because they were most viable candidates to unseat Paul LePage. Eliot Cutler was never in consideration.” – Ben Grant, in a statement last month

This story, as reported in the Portland Press Herald and Seacoastonline.com, caused a bit of a political kerfuffle. Cutler said he was being wooed by Maine Democrats to run as a Democrat in 2014. Ben Grant admits that the meeting took place, but flatly denies any wooing, adding that it wasn’t his place – even as party chairman – to “clear the field” or “woo.”

In response to Grant’s denial, Cutler doubled down, saying he’d sign an affidavit attesting to the wooing content of the meeting, if not the exact wording of the wooing. In response, State House lobbyist and Democratic Party donor Severin Beliveau told the Press Herald’s Billings, “That’s (Cutler’s) ego. We all have egos, but his is in another world, in the ether somewhere.”

Cutler’s remarks to Billings about being wooed happened just a week ago – the first time Cutler has gone public about such a conversation in the three years since it allegedly took place. Why wait three years to say Maine dems were wooing you, then blurt it out and have it flatly denied by party head Grant as “100% false”?

I put in a call to Mary-Erin Casale, Maine Dems Executive Director, but she had no comment on Cutler’s original assertion, his “doubling down,” or why he waited three years to make such a claim. Rachel Irwin, Communications Director, sent me Ben Grant’s original “100% false” statement to the press.

My head’s shaking. I don’t get it. Someone’s not on the level, has serious memory issues, or else has a dangerously rich imagination.

Late-breaking: transcript of their Commercial Street chat!

Actually, our team of crack sound engineers were there, on Commercial Street in May 2011, with their hyperbolic microphones and super-sensitive equipment. Here’s a transcript of what they heard between Eliot and Ben after their lunch:

Eliot: Gee, Ben, I almost beat the guy [ed note: LePage]. If we had one or two more weeks…

Ben: I’m worried, Eliot.

Eliot: About what?

Ben: Not politics. David Ortiz. I’d like to see him in the Hall of Fame someday but… well, he can’t play the field.

Eliot: Wait – did I hear you right?

Ben: He has fear of the field.

Eliot: You’ll clear the field??

Ben: No, he wants to keep clear of the field —

Eliot: Clear the field! That’s great Ben! But I’m not a Democrat —

Ben: Eliot, what are you saying?

Eliot: Actually, speaking of which, I have a big field behind my estate that needs clearing, it’s got rotting haybales all over it, and my landscaper just quit and —

Ben: Are you asking us, the Maine Dems, to clear your field?

Eliot: Well, I’m a little short of cash right now, after the campaign –

Ben: Okay, okay, we’ll get some volunteers and clear the field.

Eliot: You’ll clear the field?

Ben: Yes, in the spirit of bipartisanship, Eliot, we can clear the field for you.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t exactly what was said. But probably not too far off.


Cutler shouldn’t drop out – Rep. Jeff Evangelos

This morning I spoke with Rep. Jeff Evangelos, Independent from Friendship and the first Maine rep to endorse Mike Michaud for governor (Jeff also spearheaded a move to have AG Janet Mills investigate LePage’s repeated meetings with the extremist group Constitutional Coalition). Jeff was unaware of “Woogate,” but made it very clear he does not support anyone asking Eliot Cutler to drop out of the race. “Everyone has a right to run, and it’s wrong to ask them not to,” he said. He noted that while he is firm in his support for Michaud, “Cutler is a fine man,” “has some very good ideas” and should stay in the race.

Jeff Evangelos - Bangor Daily News photo

Jeff Evangelos – Bangor Daily News photo

Jeff convinced me I was wrong in my first Cutler post asking Eliot to quit. He also surprised me with this:

“Maine Democrats don’t have it quite right: they worry about Cutler taking votes away from Michaud, but that’s not what I’m hearing out there on the ground. Michaud’s support is solid all over the state and will stay that way. But moderate Maine Republicans are fed up with LePage and looking more and more to Cutler as an alternative.  As the months wear on you’re going to see a serious erosion of Republican support for LePage – they’re deserting him for Cutler. Cutler could gain several percentage points, mostly at the expense of LePage, further solidifying Michaud’s margin of victory.”

Chuck Kruger: Dems are behind Michaud

t600-Chuck Kruger-1 cbk@midcoast.com


Our own Rep Chuck Kruger also checked in, fresh from a strenuous weekend running the Lobster Festival. He told me, “Maine Democrats won’t abandon Mike Michaud the way they abandoned Libby Mitchell four years ago.” He added he felt confident of a solid Michaud victory.

Wow. And all this time we thought Eliot Cutler was chewing away at Mike’s numbers. Okay, Eliot, hang in there. Pound the pulpit, grab a ton of votes from former LePage supporters who understand that backing a governor who meets eight times with a right wing group advocating violence and even death against local politicians is not all that super cool, waffle a bit on your “yes, I was wooed” affidavit, but hang in there, right up to the grand finale.

Thanks to Jeff Evangelos for a fun, lively interview. If his predictions are right, you’ll see some changes to the graph, below, of average polling numbers for this race.


poll graph from Huffington Post, updated Aug 1. 

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.