As Democrats and Republicans move swiftly to position themselves for retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe's, R-Maine, seat, a potential candidate who's not of either party could add another dimension to an already surprising race.
That candidate is Eliot Cutler, the independent gubernatorial contender who lost to current Republican Gov. Paul LePage by less than two points in 2010.
"I am grateful for all the advice -- in every direction -- and I am trying to figure out what is the best way I can serve the people of Maine, help to rebuild the political center and reform our politics. I will decide soon," Cutler said Thursday afternoon in a post on his Facebook page.
A former aide to Jimmy Carter
, Cutler has hinted that he may be more interested in running for governor in 2014. When Hotline On Call
asked him about the Senate race a year ago, Cutler didn't sound like someone
eager to head back to Washington.
But with Snowe out, circumstances have changed. And Cutler's kept up with politics since the 2010 race. He headlined a town hall last year with the non-partisan alternative political group No Labels and sits on the board of directors of Americans Elect, a group trying to secure ballot access for an independent candidate for president in every state.
But those close to Cutler insist he's more interested in building the political middle than he is in running for the Senate.
"He hasn't shut the door on it but I don't think being U.S. senator was on the top of his list," said Ted O'Meara
, who managed Cutler's 2010 campaign.
Snowe decried the vicious partisanship that has seized Washington in her retirement explanation, and as an independent, Cutler would be well-suited - in a state that has a history of embracing independents - to portray himself as the kind of consensus builder missing from the upper chamber.
Given Snowe's comments since her retirement announcement, Cutler would possibly be even more well-positioned than in 2010 to cause headaches for Republican and Democratic strategists alike, who would be free to focus exclusively on the opposing party's nominee otherwise.