PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said Monday that part of the reason he waited until late Sunday to tell the world he is gay is that he sees no connection between his sexual orientation and his more than 30 years of public service.

“I haven’t changed. I’m Mike,” said Michaud, speaking with the Bangor Daily News in his first media interview since his announcement. “I am the same person I was last week.”

Michaud said he wasn’t sure whether he actually would come out until Sunday, at which point he confirmed to his mother and sister for the first time that he is gay. Both were supportive, he said.

He said the timing of his decision was driven by the fact that rumors about his sexuality were mounting and that he had heard it discussed on talk radio and in newspaper comments sections. While he declined to go into detail about what he said in a column on Sunday was a “whisper campaign” designed to out him, he said he wanted to get ahead of the news.

“My personal life has never factored into how I do my job and it’s not going to factor into how I do my job as governor,” he said. “Let’s move forward and talk about the issues that matter to Maine.”

Michaud, who served 11 terms in the Maine Legislature and is in his sixth term in Congress, announced his sexual orientation late Sunday in a column he submitted to the Bangor Daily News and other media organizations. He represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which is more conservative than the southern 1st District. He said he doesn’t expect his sexual orientation to be a major factor for most voters.

“The voters in the 2nd District have voted for me in the past for my beliefs and what I have been able to do for the people in the 2nd District,” said Michaud. “The only thing that has changed is the fact that there is this rumor out there and I figured I’d face it up front with an honest answer.”

Asked if he has a romantic partner now or has had one in the past, Michaud said “no.”

Michaud announced earlier this year that he would seek the Democratic Party nomination for governor in 2014. He said part of the reason for revealing his sexual orientation was that his campaign suspected that his political opponents had launched “whisper campaigns” in an effort to shift political debate from issues to questions about whether he was gay. Michaud responded to the question of his sexuality with words that may become a gay rights touchstone for years to come, regardless of the outcome of next year’s gubernatorial election.

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

Michaud said society and its shifting attitude toward gay rights is ready for politicians like him.

“It’s not only myself that has evolved around this issue but the people here in the state of Maine have,” he said. “I think that’s a great thing. If you look at society, if we’re ever going to move forward, we have to evolve. You can’t just be stuck in the past, looking at past problems with past solutions.”

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.