PORTLAND, Maine — Democrat Mike Michaud conceded defeat early Wednesday in Maine’s heated three-way governor’s race, handing outspoken Republican Gov. Paul LePage a second term.
As LePage and Michaud remained neck and neck in the polls for months, observers believed the outcome would hinge on independent Eliot Cutler’s impact on the race.
Democrats feared Cutler would siphon votes from Michaud to give LePage another four years in the Blaine House. Republicans embraced Cutler’s candidacy, even touting him in ads to aid in the takedown of Michaud.
LePage sought to show voters throughout the race that ‘‘actions speak louder than words,’’ touting his efforts to improve Maine’s economy and business climate, cut red tape, eliminate a debt owed to the state’s hospitals and overhaul welfare.
Yet the 65-year-old former mayor of Waterville also consistently came under fire for his often-aggressive approach to governing and his tendency to put his foot in his mouth.
Michaud, a 59-year-old former mill worker and six-term congressman, painted himself as a consensus builder, arguing that LePage’s divisiveness was hindering the state’s economy and stressing that he was the only candidate in the race who could defeat the governor.
Cutler, a 68-year-old attorney from Cape Elizabeth who narrowly lost to LePage in 2010, argued that he would remain above partisan bickering in Augusta as an independent governor.
But he trailed in a distant third in the polls throughout the entire race. As the campaigns drew to a close, Cutler faced increasing pressure to withdraw because of fears he would split the liberal vote and help LePage win.
Less than a week before Election Day, Cutler reiterated that if his supporters feared he couldn’t win, they should vote for one of his opponents. Hours later, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King announced he was supporting Michaud, saying, ‘‘The circumstances require that those of us that supported Eliot look realistically at options before us at the critical moment in Maine history.’’
None of this was enough to defeat LePage.