The state of Maine rejected the opportunity on Tuesday to vote into office for the first time an openly gay person to the office of governor.
In a race where polls were tight right up until Election Day, Democratic candidate Mike Michaud, a six-term member of Congress, lost the race to incumbent Gov. Paul LePage, a Tea Party Republican seeking a second term.
The Associate Press declared LePage the winner at 1:47 a.m. With 62.35 percent of precincts reporting, LePage won 47.7 percent of the vote, while Michaud won 44 percent and independent candidate Eliot Cutler won 8.4 percent, according to the AP.
During his 12 years in Congress, Michaud took pro-LGBT positions, such as voting for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and against a Federal Marriage Amendment. (He also voted against a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it didn’t include transgender protections.)
LePage, on the other hand, was dubbed the craziest governor in the United States by Politico. Since taking office, he’s praised global warming, said that “47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work,” and told the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” The governor also criticized the public school system in his own state, saying, “If you want a good education, go to private schools.”
When Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign was gearing up last year, Michaud came out as gay in an op-ed published in Maine newspapers in November 2013 just days before a Senate vote on ENDA.
Michaud said he made the announcement, which made him one of nine openly LGB members of Congress, to put an end to “whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls” about his sexual orientation.
Although he was running against a Tea Party Republican, Michaud’s sexual orientation didn’t emerge as a negative in his campaign. The only criticism came from supporters of Cutler, who faulted Michaud for voting against non-discrimination protections for LGBT people when serving as state legislator in Maine from 1981 to 1997.
Michaud had the backing of major players in the Democratic Party ahead of his election. First lady Michelle Obama stumped for the candidate at a campaign rally at the University of Maine in Bangor. That was followed by a later event at the Portland Expo with President Obama, who said Michaud believes “America is a place where no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you can make it if you try.”
Michaud had the backing of national LGBT groups as he pursued his gubernatorial bid, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, in addition to support from the statewide LGBT group Equality Maine.
But his race was under the radar for many in the LGBT community. In a September article titled, “Gay donors missing history in Maine,” Politico reported that Michaud advanced in his bid “with precious little help from the nation’s most elite LGBT donors and professional activists.” According to the article, only one of the 32 individuals who sit on the board of HRC by that time had contributed to Michaud’s campaign.