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Cutler is the only candidate offering the change Maine needs

The race is tight, and the winner will be the candidate who can steer us in the right direction.

You have to give Alan Caron, the primary author of the recently released "Reinventing Maine Government," credit for perseverance.

Back in 2006, Caron took the lead in developing the Brookings Institution Report "Charting Maine's Future," and now he is back with a dynamite new offering that goes to another level of specificity about what needs to be done to get the Maine economy back on track.

In 2006, legislative leadership in Augusta couldn't wait to table the Brookings Report, unwilling to take on its principal recommendations and piqued that outsiders should tell them how to do things.

Five years have passed, the Maine economy has continued to stagnate, difficult decisions have been deferred, but Alan Caron perseveres.

If the first Brookings report was ignored, Caron resolved to come up with something more compelling.

Maine's next governor will need some good ideas, and "Reinventing Maine Government" has many of them.

The latest polls suggest that any of three gubernatorial candidates could win next Tuesday. Paul LePage was favored by 32 percent of those surveyed.

Libby Mitchell and Eliot Cutler were in the 20 percent range, and 21 percent were still uncommitted at this late date. If the bulk of the undecideds go with either Mitchell or Cutler, that candidate would win.

If you, like Alan Caron, believe that Maine needs to do things significantly differently, you only have two choices next Tuesday – Cutler or LePage.

Libby Mitchell is a leader for the last century, well-meaning but out of touch with the times.

She opposed the major reform efforts proposed by Brookings. She is joined at the hip with the teachers union in opposing meaningful education reform.

She has a long history of adding to the costs of doing business in Maine. A vote for Libby Mitchell is a vote for everything that has gotten the state into our current fiscal and economic mess.

So it is Cutler or LePage. They both advocate change, but they couldn't be more different in how they would go about it.

LePage conveys a strong disdain for government and suggests that what is needed is simply the ability to slash services and taxes.

He is the change agent with the simple, consistent message: Elect me and I will bulldoze all in my path.

Unfortunately, governing is not like blasting a new road through the North Woods.

Governing requires firmness and persistence, to be sure.

However, governing also demands the ability to engage both allies and adversaries, to explain and teach as well as direct, and to understand when to show flexibility as well as when to show firmness.

Candidate LePage has few of these governing qualities. He does not like to explain his proposals.

In fact, at times he does not seem to know the details of his proposals. When pressed, he has the tendency to get angry and to retreat into himself.

He is neither experienced in governing – Waterville City Hall is not the State House in Augusta – nor does he give the sense it is a skill he cares to develop.

A vote for LePage is a vote for change, but not the kind of change that will lead Maine anywhere except stalemate in Augusta.

This leaves Cutler. Cutler has shown the deepest understanding of Maine's problems and has been the most constructive, with proposals to address those problems. He has been honest in not making promises that he cannot deliver on.

He has considerable experience as a problem-solver in both the public and private sectors. Cutler can be blunt, and at times he has looked uncomfortable in his interactions with the other candidates.

However, most who have had the opportunity to meet him in small-group settings come away impressed with his ability to cut through complex problems and to engage with his audience.

Cutler is a man of significant ability at a time when the state needs a governor with more than ordinary competence.

A vote for Cutler is a vote for change – the kind of change that Alan Caron recommends in "Reinventing Maine Government," the kind of change that can, as Cutler himself puts it, "make Maine the comeback state of the next decade."

The choice is clear – will you be voting for keeping things as they are with candidate Mitchell; will you be voting for building a moat around the Governor's Office with candidate LePage; or will you be voting for Cutler, a candidate who doesn't just talk about change, but actually is capable of achieving it?

For me the choice is clear – Eliot Cutler.

Here is how I expect the results to look on Election Day: Cutler 35 percent, LePage 33 percent, Mitchell 26 percent.