Rep. Michael Michaud (D)
Maine 2nd District
The 2nd District of Maine is heavily forested, rough-hewn, and enormous. It covers the northern three-quarters of the state, and is the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River, larger than the states of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts combined. The population is not evenly distributed. The district dips south to include the heavily Democratic mill town of Lewiston and also includes Eastport. At Belfast on Penobscot Bay, art galleries and boutiques have replaced fish-processing plants. There are several different Maines represented here: The bays of coastal Maine, with their small fishing towns; the potato fields of far northern Aroostook County (6,543 square miles in size); and the mill towns on the fast-running streams of western Maine. Some valleys have more moose than people. This was one of America’s frontiers in the 1850s, when Bangor, on the Penobscot River, was the lumber capital of the world. Today, tiny Bangor is the second-largest city in the district after Lewiston.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This part of Maine has had its economic troubles, losing 22,000 jobs to neighboring Canada and other foreign markets after the 1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Potato production is only half of what it was in 1980. A once-thriving sardine-canning business is virtually gone. Logging, long the largest industry in Maine, has suffered job cutbacks as big paper companies sell off acreage and shut down mills. A movement to set aside yet more acerage in a proposed North Maine Woods National Park, which would be larger than the Yellowstone and Yosemite parks combined, has sparked protests. Bumper stickers around the state read: “If you don’t like cutting trees, try using plastic toilet paper.” From 1998 to 2007, the Bangor area lost 3,700 manufacturing jobs. But there are also signs of life. Loring Air Force Base was closed in 1994, but new businesses, from aircraft repair to telemarketing, have replaced its civilian jobs and then some. And some long-standing industries are still humming. Washington County’s sandy soil plains produce more than 90% of the nation’s wild blueberry crop. The forest-products industry has explored new paper products and new ideas, such as turning sawdust into wood pellets for home heating. Politically, the district is iconoclastic and permanently enamored of neither major political party. This was Ross Perot’s strongest congressional district in the United States in 1992 and 1996. Al Gore narrowly carried the 2nd in 2000 and John Kerry did only slightly better in 2004. Barack Obama won here, but by a closer margin than in Maine’s other district, the 1st.
Rep. Michael Michaud (D)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Jan. 18, 1955, Millinocket .
Home: East Millinocket.
Education: Schenck H.S., 1973.
Elected office: ME House, 1980-94; ME Senate, 1994-2001, Pres., 2001.
Professional Career: Mill worker, Great Northern Paper, 1973-2002.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Mike Michaud (mee-SHOO), a Democrat first elected in 2002. Michaud grew up in East Millinocket in the North Woods; he comes from a blue-collar family and is one of the few members of Congress who did not attend college. For 29 years, he was a mill worker and union member at Great Northern Paper. (The dominant employer in this economically depressed area, the company closed the plant a month after his election.) “I know what it’s like to work the day shift, the midnight shift. I’ve been on strike. I know what it’s like to worry about whether you will have a job or not,” Michaud says. In 1980, he was elected to the state House and in 1994 to the state Senate, where he chaired the Appropriations Committee and became Senate president. Michaud has an eclectic mix of political views, which seem to be a throwback to earlier Democratic days. He is staunchly pro-labor, but opposes abortion rights. He opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but strongly supports gun ownership.
|Michael Michaud (D)||226,274||(67%)||($569,114)|
|John Frary (R)||109,268||(33%)||($311,470)|
|Michael Michaud (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (58%), 2002 (52%)
When Democrat John Baldacci left his 2nd District seat to run for governor in 2002, six Democrats lined up for the primary. Michaud’s chief opponent was state Sen. Susan Longley of Lewiston, the daughter of former independent Gov. James Longley and sister of the 1st District’s former Republican congressman, James Longley Jr. She emphasized her support for abortion rights. With strong support from organized labor, Michaud got 31% to Longley’s 28%. It was a regional contest: Michaud carried the five most rural counties, and won 66% of the vote in Aroostook. Longley carried six counties chiefly in the southern part of the district, and won 59% in trendy coastal Waldo County. In the general election, Michaud faced Kevin Raye, the veteran chief of staff to Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. Michaud attempted to turn Raye’s experience into a liability. His campaign slogan was, “I’m One of Us, Working for Us”—an attempt to contrast his blue-collar background and union membership with Raye’s white-collar Washington experience. Hoping to appeal to feminists despite his opposition to abortion, Michaud set out a 10-point “women’s equity agenda,” including support for family planning, increased child care aid, breast cancer research, and equal pay for equal work. Raye had the support of abortion-rights groups. Michaud defeated Raye 52%-48%. He ran better than most Democrats in rural areas, winning 53% in the seven northern counties, where unions conducted a voter-turnout drive in the mill towns.
In the House, Michaud’s voting record has been moderate for a Democrat. He has worked to create a caucus to unite workers and environmentalists on trade and other issues. Michaud co-founded the House Trade Working Group, whose members are highly skeptical of trade agreements. With Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, he sponsored a bill in June 2008 calling for a review of all existing trade agreements and for halting new ones. In June 2004, he welcomed the reopening of the Great Northern mill under new ownership, but with significantly fewer employees.
On the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Michaud advocated more funding for the Togus Veteran Administration Medical Center and sponsored a bill to improve health care for rural veterans. As chairman of the panel’s Health Subcommittee, he has taken an interest in the health needs of military personnel in Iraq. In May 2007, the House passed his bill to expand treatment of traumatic brain injuries.
After Democrats won the House majority in 2006, Michaud vied to become committee chairman, securing the support of retiring Illinois Rep. Lane Evans, the panel’s top Democrat. Rep. Bob Filner had more seniority, but he worried some Democrats with occasional displays of bad temper, including an incident in which he shouted obscenities at VA employees after revelations that a stolen laptop had put the personal data of millions of veterans at risk. To boost his bid, Michaud had donated liberally to other House Democrats. He lost the election for chairman by a 24-20 vote in the Democratic Steering Committee; the result was close enough to force a vote in the full Democratic Caucus, which Filner won 112-69.
In 2004, Michaud faced Brian Hamel, a Republican with a record of job creation as the president of the Loring Development Authority. National Republicans took an early interest in the race. But Hamel, who had never held elected office, had trouble getting noticed in this sprawling district, especially with a presidential election and two controversial referenda on the ballot. Michaud was re-elected 58%-39%. With continued strong support from organized labor, he expanded his margin in 2006 and defeated Republican eye-care technician Laurence D’Amboise 71%-29%.