A U.S. congressman who’s also running for governor of Maine has come out as gay.

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) made the announcement Monday morning in an op-ed published in both the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald, saying that his opponents had begun making insinuations about him after he jumped to an early lead in the polls.

“I wasn’t surprised to learn about the whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls some of the people opposed to my candidacy have been using to raise questions about my personal life. They want people to question whether I am gay,” Michaud wrote.

“Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: ‘Yes, I am. But why should it matter?’”

Michaud, who’s served in elected office since 1980, said his sexuality was simply “part of who I am” and has never interfered with his work as a public official or during his 29-year career at Great Northern Paper Co.

The 58-year-old Michaud has represented Maine’s massive, predominantly rural 2nd congressional district since 2003 after serving in the state’s House of Representatives and as the state Senate president.

If elected next year as governor, Michaud would become the first openly gay candidate to become governor of any state.

A recent poll found Michaud running about even against Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who’s seeking a second term.

The poll, conducted in late September, found 33 percent of voters would cast their ballot for Michaud if the election were held the following day, with 30 percent favoring LePage. Another 24 percent said they’d vote for independent Eliot Cutler.

A new survey shows Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud about even with Republican Gov. Paul LePage among Maine voters in the race for governor.

Michaud said he chose to make the announcement about his personal life to let his opponents and their backers know that he’s not ashamed of himself, and he hopes the disclosure might help others who are struggling with their sexuality.

“If seeing someone from my background, in my position, openly acknowledge the fact that he’s gay makes it a little bit easier for future generations to live their lives openly and without fear, all the better,” Michaud wrote.

[Image via Wikipedia Commons]