U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud talks to a reporter Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Portland, Maine, about his public announcement that he is gay. (Clarke Canfield/AP)

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who is running for governor of Maine in 2014, announced Monday that he is gay.

In an op-ed article published in two Maine newspapers, Michaud said decided to come out publicly after his opponents launched a “whisper campaign” about his sexuality.

“They want people to question whether I am gay,” Michaud wrote in the article, published by the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald. “Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: ‘Yes, I am. But why should it matter?’ ”

Michaud faces Gov. Paul Le­Page (R) and independent candidate Eliot Cutler in the governor’s race. LePage is considered among the most vulnerable governors in the country.

Michaud becomes the seventh openly gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the eighth in either chamber of Congress. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) became the first openly gay senator after she won her seat last year.

If elected, Michaud would be the first openly gay person to win a governor’s race. Jim McGreevey (D) of New Jersey became the first openly gay governor in 2004, but he didn’t come out until he was in office.

Michaud wrote in the article that he doesn’t consider his sexual orientation to be a big deal but added that he decided to make it public in order to show that he’s not ashamed.

“And 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.

Michaud, 58, worked at a paper company for decades before being elected to Congress in 2003. A moderate Democrat, he represents the state’s more rural district, which stretches up into the northeastern corner of the United States.

He previously served in the state Senate.