- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A campaign finance rule change is helping independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler bring in tens of thousands of dollars from previously maxed-out donors, but Democrat Mike Michaud continues to lead the pack in fundraising and in cash on hand, according to reports filed Tuesday.

Michaud, who is seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage, raised more than $430,000 in the latest two-month reporting period and has more than $1 million in his campaign bank account as the three-way race enters its final weeks, according to the report that cover July 16 through Sept. 16.

Cutler received about $419,000 from donors, including about 200 who had previously given the maximum amount of $1,500 to his campaign. A judge ruled last month that the independent should be able to receive $3,000 per donor over the course of an election cycle, like Democratic and Republican candidates may.

Cutler, who is trailing in the polls behind Michaud and LePage, has just $378,000 left on hand.

But his campaign said his strong fundraising totals this reporting period are a sign that his campaign is gaining momentum.

“Our fundraising, just like every other aspect of the campaign, is way ahead of where Eliot was at this point in 2010, and Eliot is emerging as the one candidate in this race who can bring Maine people together,” spokeswoman Crystal Canney said in a statement.

The court decision also helped LePage and Michaud’s campaigns by allowing them to bring in double the amount from any new donors this fall.

Previously, the candidates would have been limited to accepting only $1,500 from donors after the June 10 primary, but the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices decided that all candidates should be able to collect double that over the course of the campaign.

LePage’s campaign raised about $393,000 and has about $988,000 on hand.

LePage spokesman Alex Willette criticized Michaud for spending more than $100,000 more than the governor over the two-month period.

“Congressman Michaud’s campaign spending reflects his habits in Washington, spending campaign cash almost as fast as the nearly 300 percent increase in the national debt that has occurred during his tenure in Congress,” he said in a statement.

Cutler, a lawyer from Cape Elizabeth, gave a $100,000 loan to his campaign, bringing the total amount he’s lent to his bid to more than $1 million.

Democrats dismissed the idea that Cutler’s campaign is gaining strength, noting that he’s largely self-financing his second gubernatorial attempt.

“Eliot Cutler has had to self-finance his own campaign to stay in this race,” Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said in a statement. “He’s now topped $1 million in personal loans. This has been an ongoing trend each fundraising period as Cutler struggles to stay out of the red.”

The election is Nov. 4.


Follow Alanna Durkin at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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