366 days before the 2014 Gubernatorial election, Democratic candidate Mike Michaud used an OpEd piece on his website and in Maine’s two largest newspapers to announce he is gay.
The six term Congressman wrote he made the decision to come out because of whisper campaigns, and insinuations.
“Twenty or thirty years ago this would have had huge,” said Husson University history professor David Haus “I mean, this could have ended someone’s campaign before it even started.”
With the announcement the 58 year old became the seventh member of the US House to come out as openly gay or bisexual, and he says it doesn’t change who he is, quote – “When I entered the race for governor, I did so because I love the state of Maine and am tired of seeing it dragged in the wrong direction. There was never any question that it would be a tough race, but I know I have the vision, the experience and the commitment to lead Maine forward.
Once I jumped to an early lead in the polls, I knew it was only a matter of time before individuals and organizations intent on recreating the uncertainty that led to our current governor’s election three years ago would start their attacks. Already my opponents have tried to blatantly distort my support for a woman’s right to choose and my tireless commitment to our nation’s veterans.”
In is expected to be a hotly contested race for the Blaine House between Michaud, Governor Paul LePage, and Independent Eliot Cutler. It is unknown what impact this announcement will have on the race or how the campaigns are run.
“Will people take a statement saying ‘This candidate is gay’ as something that’s negative?” asked Haus? “Ultimately in order for a negative campaign to work, people one have to believe it and be afraid of it in order to buy into it, the question is I don’t, are there enough Mainers to believe that?”
“We’ve seen I think in Maine and not just in 2012, but over the course of many campaigns around LGBT rights that we can have these conversations respectfully and thoughtfully in a way that moves the dialogue in the state forward,” said Ian Grady a spokesperson for Equality Maine.
In his statement, the Congressman addressed some of the whispers floating around the campaign quote, “They want people to question whether I am gay. Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: “Yes I am. But why should it matter?” That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation mill worker or a lifelong Mainer. One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine.”
Husson professor David Haus believes this topic will die away and the issues will again be in the forefront of the Gubernatorial race. “Ultimately the main issues that Mainers are going to use on this ballot and decide the election will be jobs, employment and the future of Maine. I don’t think that the people who might vote against Mike Michaud based on whether or not he’s gay, they weren’t going to vote for him anyway.”