US Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) (WLBZ/WCSH)
PORTLAND, Maine (NBC) -- Maine Democratic Rep. Michael Michaud announced in an op-ed Monday that he is gay -- but that it shouldn't matter as he runs for governor next year.
"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 re-creating the uncertainty that led to our current governor's election three years ago would start their attacks," Michaud writes in a column that appeared in the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald. "So I wasn't surprised to learn about the whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls some of the people opposed to my candidacy have been using to raise questions about my personal life. 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?'"
Michaud's announcement brings the number of openly gay members in the U.S. House to seven, and there are eight total openly gay legislators in Congress, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
But if he wins in a year, Michaud would be the first openly gay candidate elected governor in history. In 2004, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey announced he was gay, but the Democrat came out after his election.
The six-term Democratic congressman is currently the favorite to win his party's nomination in the Pine Tree State, but he faces other hurdles in unseating Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The GOP incumbent only narrowly won a three-way contest in 2010, with Independent Eliot Cutler taking 36% to LePage's 38%. Now, Cutler is running again, hoping to appeal to the state's sizable unaffiliated bloc that helped Sen. Angus King win last year as an independent.
But, Democrats are afraid that Cutler could again play spoiler and hurt their chances at knocking off LePage, who has a history of controversial statements and style in the blue state. A Critical Insights poll from late September showed Michaud with a narrow three point lead over LePage, 33% to 30%, with Cutler taking 24%.
Michaud wrote that he didn't plan to make his opponents' personal lives part of his campaign strategy -- and he hoped they wouldn't make his an issue either.
"That may seem like a big announcement to some people," he wrote of his coming out. "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."