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One of the leading candidates to become Maine’s governor came out as gay on Monday, taking aim at critics who have tried to inject rumors about his sexuality into the campaign.

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) could become the first openly gay governor in the U.S. if he wins in 2014. But he said that voters should not judge him based on his sexual orientation.

Some of Michaud’s opponents have used “whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls” to question his personal background, the congressman wrote in an op-ed that appeared in Maine newspapers today. Michaud told voters, “Yes I am gay. But why does it matter?”

“For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation millworker or a lifelong Mainer,” he added. “One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine.”

Michaud holds a narrow lead over Republican incumbent Paul LePage and independent candidate Eliot Cutler, according to an October opinion poll.

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The congressman wrote that he does not plan to make his personal life or those of his opponents an issue in the campaign. But he does hope that he could serve as a role model for future openly gay office seekers.

“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,” he wrote.

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.