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BAR HARBOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- In this election year, we are often talking with the candidates about the hot-button issues of the moment. But how do they think? What do they believe about the role of government and the job of a governor? So NEWS CENTER asked Paul LePage, Mike Michaud and Eliot Cutler to each take us to a place that helped shape their philosophy about politics and government, and the beliefs that guide them today.

Independent Eliot Cutler took us to Acadia National Park.

"I've hiked just about every one of these mountains many times," Cutler told us, as he stood on the rocky shore of Jordan Pond. "I've hiked this park every summer for at least the past sixty years."

Cutler says that when he was 16, he spent the summer working in the park for a local construction company, helping build the road from Cadillac Mountain to Jordan Pond. "It taught me the meaning of hard work," he said. And then said it also taught him about the other company workers, the ones who depended on those paychecks to support their families. And he says Acadia helped convince him Maine can do much more with tourism, and to expand the "Maine Brand" to attract more tourists and new residents, and create urgently needed jobs.

Cutler says Maine needs a coherent, long term plan to grow jobs, rebuild roads and bridges and improve education. He says the state has lacked such a plan for a long time, and that has brought about "11 years of economic decline." As for the role of government, Cutler says government should stay out of people's lives as much as possible, but that government is needed to do those things people can't do for themselves, particularly roads and education.

Cutler worked as a young man for former Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie, and then for President Jimmy Carter as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. He was a Democrat for most of his adult life, but says he left the Maine party because he was unhappy with some budget steps taken by former Governor John Baldacci. Cutler now describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate or progressive, and says, "Most Maine people are like that."

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Don Carrigan spent time with each gubernatorial candidate to get to know them, trying to find out how the three men think, and what drives them to want such a difficult job.

Governor Paul LePage's preview can be found here.

Mike Michaud's preview can be found here.

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