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October 31, 2010

Maine Sunday Telegram photo by Gregory Rec

Melanie Stewart Cutler, the wife of gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, photographed at Cutler campaign headquarters in Portland on Wednesday.

Spouses offer insights into candidates

By Amy Calder
acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Ann LePage is a housewife who works at Marden’s Surplus & Salvage and cares for her ill mother.
Melanie Stewart Cutler is psychiatrist and a former lawyer.


Jim Mitchell is a veteran probate judge and attorney.


They are three vastly different people, but they have one big thing in common: Their spouses are running for the highest office in the state, and one of them soon will become first lady or first gentleman.


The three have another common characteristic: They are fiercely loyal to and supportive of their spouses in the race for governor, and each believes he or she is best qualified for the job.


Last week, they talked about their lives, their mates and the campaign.
Ann LePage, 52, wife of Republican candidate Paul LePage, works part time at Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, where her husband is general manager, and she drives him to all campaign events.


She says the family plans to move to the governor’s mansion, the Blaine House, if her husband, now Waterville’s mayor, is elected. When Angus King was governor, he and his wife remained in their Brunswick home.


“We will move to Augusta because, knowing Paul the way I do, I know he is going to work 15 hours a day; and I’m used to that, because that’s how Paul rolls.”
People often ask what her focus would be as first lady, she said.


“I’m a mom, I’m a wife, and we take care of my mom. To me, it’s all about family. I haven’t really thought about that position in the Blaine House. Right now, my mom is my No. 1 concern. She is 72. We told my dad when he died that we’d protect her, we’d take care of her — and we’re doing that.”


Likewise, Dr. Melanie Stewart Cutler, wife of independent candidate Eliot Cutler, said they would move to the Blaine House from Cape Elizabeth.


“It’s a beautiful house, and we’d be proud to live there,” she said.


Melanie Cutler, 61, is a psychiatrist who works with children and adolescents in Portland. She was an attorney before enrolling in medical school in her 40s at the urging of her husband, who she said knew that was her lifelong dream.
As first lady, advocating for the mentally ill would be among her important projects.


“There are so many issues crying out for attention — particularly mental health and behavioral issues,” she said. “I have a long-standing interest in issues related to domestic violence, elder care, elder abuse ... delivery of mental health services generally, and the stigma attached to mental health. I’m likely to be an avid advocate for the mentally ill.”


Jim Mitchell, husband of Democrat Libby Mitchell, the state Senate president, has been a probate judge for 31 years in Kennebec County and is a partner in a law firm, Jim Mitchell & Jed Davis., P.A., in Augusta. He is running for re-election for probate judge Nov. 2.
Jim Mitchell, 68, said he expects his wife and he would leave Vassalboro for Augusta.


Ann LePage grew up in Vassalboro, the daughter of millworkers, and graduated from Winslow High School in 1976. Her father was an electrician at what was then Keyes Fibre Co.; her mother stacked paper plates.


Married 26 years, Paul and Ann LePage met at then-Scott Paper Co. in Winslow, where she was a union representative and he was in management, she said.


She said she loves to clean and organize and spend time with people.


“I’m a people person. I enjoy people. I just think I’m real. I’m not pretentious, but I like to have a good time.”


She said she is uncomfortable in the spotlight, and that she had a tough time when accusations were made that she had claimed a Florida property tax exemption illegally while caring for her mother there. Florida officials have since ruled the exemption legal.


She said her mother, Rita DeRosby, suffers from an incurable disease, scleroderma, and cannot be in the cold; and that is why she goes to Florida in the winter — to be with and care for her, she said. DeRosby lives with the LePages in Waterville during warmer months, she said.


The couple has two biological children: Lauren, a Florida State University graduate; and Paul, a finance major at Florida State who lives in a house he owns in Tallahassee, according to his mother. They also adopted a boy, Devon, from Jamaica when he was a teenager. He is working on a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Louisiana.


Melanie Stewart Cutler grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from Washburn High School. She majored in philosophy at Smith College, graduating in 1971. Her father, a physician, urged her to study law. She graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1974.


She met Eliot Cutler at Georgetown, in an international law class.


“He (Eliot) tells me he followed me to the law library, where he’d never been before,” she said.


They married in 1973 and tried to move to Maine in 1974, but there were no jobs available for women, she said.


She worked a number of years in New York, but they both ended up in Washington, where she ultimately worked for the U.S. Department of Justice. She eventually became chief of the department’s Energy Section.


“I was one of very few women in the senior executive division, in a management position.”


She said her husband always has been supportive of her career, including her decision to attend the George Washington School of Medicine. She graduated in 1999.


The couple has two children: Abby, who is in medical school at the University of Chicago; and Zack, who is in a postgraduate program at Columbia University, studying psychology and neuroscience.


They also became legal guardian to Katherine Cochran, who came to live with them when she was a teenager, after her mother died, Melanie said. She is now in a graduate program at the University of British Columbia, studying chemistry.


Melanie Cutler said she does not have a lot of time for hobbies, but has many interests.


“I’m a serious cook. I’m a big reader. I’m a very big fan of Colin Woodward and ‘The Lobster Coast,’ which is a wonderful history of Maine.”


Jim Mitchell grew up in Little Rock, Ark., and graduated from Hall High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University in 1964 and taught English in Beirut for a year.


He met Libby in 1963 and married her two years later, about a week before he went on active duty with the Marines. In 1968, he graduated from Yale Law School.


The couple moved to Maine in 1971, and he worked for then-Gov. Kenneth Curtis and was appointed director of the Maine State Housing Authority.


He is a reader and former runner. Now he walks for exercise. “I used to do a bit of hunting, but I haven’t done that for a while,” he said.
They have four grown children: Emily, a lawyer who is running for Maine House of Representatives; Charlie, who runs a bowling alley in Portland; J. Elizabeth, who is executive director of a health-care coalition; and Will, who has a computer mapping business.


Jim Mitchell said the campaign has been overwhelming, exhausting and energizing, all at the same time. “I like it, and Libby does a good job of it. For me, it’s not a burden. Sometimes it’s an extra burden when she gets tired and people say things about her that are not true. You always want to be protective of your spouse.”


All three say their spouses are ready to govern.


“I think people believe in him. Paul will fight for the underdog every single time; and for him, the Maine people are the underdog right now,” Ann LePage said.


Melanie Cutler is confident about her husband’s chances. “I can feel the tide turning and I do believe he’s going to win. I’m very excited about it, and I think it’s going to be great for the state of Maine, and it’s going to be a whole new chapter. I think a huge part of why he’d be a great governor is his heart, and his love for the state of Maine,” she said.


Mitchell said his wife is deserving, too: “I can’t think of anybody better to be governor, and I hope that people recognize she does have a huge amount of support.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

 



Staff photo by David Leaming

Ann LePage, wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, speaks about the campaign on Tuesday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Jim Mitchell, husband of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell, relaxes in their home in Vassalboro as the sun sets after campaigning for his wife in Guilford earlier in the day.



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