PORTLAND – The two candidates in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District appeared before MaineToday Media’s endorsement board this week, offering strikingly different views of issues facing the state and the country.

Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, met with the board Thursday and Republican Jason Levesque met with the board Wednesday. They each spent about an hour fielding questions.

Levesque blasted recent federal legislation — the economic stimulus, health care overhaul and cap-and-trade — saying Congress and Michaud made the economy worse, dangerously expanded the power of the government and went against the wishes of ordinary citizens.

“I believe in the individual,” Levesque said. Michaud “believes in government solutions. I believe in a local solution.”

Michaud defended his record and highlighted his membership in the moderate Blue Dog caucus and his outreach to Republicans.

“If we work in a bipartisan manner, we can have better legislation,” he said. “It’s easy for me to work in a nonpartisan manner.”

Michaud, 55, is seeking his fifth two-year term in Congress. Levesque, 36, is a businessman from Auburn who owns the Argo Marketing Group.

Recent polls have shown Michaud leading Levesque by double digits, but a large chunk of voters surveyed have remained undecided.

Levesque said the economic stimulus was sold as $787 billion bill for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent.

“Obviously that’s failed,” he said. “I do believe in smaller stimulus — true infrastructure investment.”

What’s most concerning is the growing federal deficit, Levesque said. He said he would use $250 billion in unspent stimulus money to pay down debt.

Levesque said he supports extending all of the so-called Bush tax cuts, even those on incomes above $250,000 a year, because small businesses will be hurt otherwise.

Levesque said it’s key to stop abuse and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, and to repeal the health care overhaul. He said he favors medical malpractice reform, allowing insurance shopping across state lines and allowing small businesses to pool insurance coverage.

Michaud disagreed with Levesque’s assessment of legislation he’s supported.

The economic stimulus has worked, he said, generating millions of dollars of projects for Maine. Overall, it has created or saved more than 14,000 jobs in Maine, he said.

Michaud said the stimulus, of which 39 percent included tax cuts, should have been geared more toward infrastructure spending. He has proposed legislation to use the unspent stimulus money on such projects, because they are proven to create the most jobs, he said.

Unemployment would have been much higher without the stimulus money, he said.

The stimulus “has worked, but not to the extent it should have,” Michaud said.

Michaud said he shares many of the concerns of the tea party movement, on debt, trade policies and more. But the country’s skyrocketing debt was created largely under the Bush administration, through unfunded wars, tax cuts, a prescription drug bill and bank bailouts, he said.

The health care overhaul — while its legislative process “was terrible” — is still a good bill that addresses big problems such as the prescription drug “doughnut hole” for seniors, eliminates coverage discrimination for pre-existing conditions, and offers tax credits to small businesses that offer insurance.

The bill also supplies more funding for federally qualified health clinics, which is important to the many rural areas of Maine’s 2nd District, where large hospitals are not available, Michaud said.

Michaud said “the bill is paid for,” pointing to congressional estimates that it will save $143 billion during the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion during the next 20 years.

Michaud said he’s pushing for repeal of a provision of the bill that places more of a paperwork burden on businesses.