Civil rights leader Betsy Smith switches support to Michaud

Betsy Smith - Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Betsy Smith – Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Betsy Smith, an Eliot Cutler campaign finance committee member, former head of an independent PAC supporting Cutler and (before that) former director of the LGBT rights organization EqualityMaine has announced that she now supports Congressman Mike Michaud for governor and urges others to do the same, saying that he represents the best chance to “restore dignity to the state of Maine.”

“Election Day is around the corner and I’ll be casting my vote for Mike Michaud,” wrote Smith in an email. “It’s not where I started but it’s important to be here because we cannot afford another four years of Paul LePage.”

Smith also praised Michaud’s stands in favor of equality for members of the LGBT community.

“I’ve known and worked with Mike throughout his 12 years in Congress and I’ve been proud of his evolving support on LGBT issues. One particular version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) comes to mind when after challenging debate and discussion, he was just one of seven members of Congress to support the position we asked him to take.”

Smith had been one of Cutler’s most prominent supporters, endorsing him initially despite the fact that Michaud, if elected, would be the nation’s first openly gay governor. Smith’s former organization, EqualityMaine, endorsed Michaud.

Smith originally served as head of the Campaign for Maine PAC, an outside organization supporting Cutler but she left the PAC and joined the campaign proper as a volunteer in July, a result, she said, of a disagreement with PAC leadership. She says she pushed for more aggressive fundraising and campaigning by the organization than others were comfortable with.

Smith’s announcement joins the endorsement of Senator Angus King yesterday as almost mirror-image versions of events that occurred in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In that election, King’s late endorsement was one of the pillars of a surge of progressive and moderate voters towards Eliot Cutler at the end of the campaign that nearly saw him overtake Paul LePage.

An email sent to EqualityMaine’s large list of supporters in 2010 (gathered during the marriage equality referendum the year before) by then-director Smith was similarly influential.

“It has been our strategy from the beginning of this campaign to defeat Paul LePage, and to support the pro-marriage candidate who is within striking distance of that goal. Tomorrow, please vote for the pro-marriage candidate who you believe has the best chance of beating LePage,” wrote Smith at the time. She included poll numbers showing Cutler ahead.

Smith’s switch, along with endorsements by King, other prominent Cutler supporters, and the general collapse of the Cutler campaign, make clear that the movement in support this year will be toward Michaud.

With nearly every poll showing a deadlocked race between the two major-party candidates going into the last few days of the election (leaving the outcome largely dependent on get-out-the-vote efforts by the two campaigns), even a shift of just a few percentage points or an infusion of even a small amount of enthusiasm for either campaign could make a big difference in electing Maine’s next governor.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.