May Founding Member Call with Eliot Cutler

Towards the end of May, Founding Members were welcomed to an exclusive call with Nick Troiano, executive director of the Centrist Project, Eliot Cutler, former gubernatorial candidate from Maine, and Joel Searby, senior strategist of the Centrist Project.

On the call Cutler told us about the effort he is leading, called Maine Independents, to recruit and train down-ballot candidates. Through the Centrist Project’s partnership with Maine Independents, Nick explained, we announced our first candidate endorsement for Terry Hayes in Maine’s gubernatorial race.

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There’s a strong history of independents in Maine - since the 1970s the state has had two independent governors, and one senator in Angus King. Maine has a “centrist history” because they’re Yankees who think for themselves, Cutler explained. In Cutler’s first gubernatorial race, he lost by just 9,000 votes to current Republican governor Paul LePage. Cutler ran again in 2014, and placed third to LePage and a Democrat. The lessons we’ve learned in Maine and nationally, Cutler noted, is that it’s “terribly important” to build this movement from the bottom-up. It is tremendously difficult to elect independents to high office (senators, governors, and presidents) when we don’t have a base of active local and state offices filled by independents.

That being said, it doesn’t take many independents to make a real difference in legislative bodies. Maine’s state legislature started the year with two independents, and picked up three more over the year of people who have left their political party and become independents. So far, Cutler and Maine Independents have conducted over 40 interviews and are in the process of recruiting candidates. Maine’s term limits provide frequent turnover and many open seats each election cycle.  

In addition to the myriad of down-ballot races Centrist and Maine Independents are supporting, State Treasurer Terry Hayes recently announced her independent candidacy for governor in 2018. Hayes is an anomaly in the Maine government. Positions like state treasurer and attorney general are elected by the legislature, yet she, an independent, was able to recruit enough Democrats and Republicans so that she was elected over a Democratic candidate. Hayes has been an excellent governor - she “went to Bowdoin, not supported not supported not supported


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