BENTON — With just nine weeks until the election, incumbent Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud has continued his soft-sell approach to campaigning.
“I really haven’t had much focus on it,” Michaud said Wednesday about the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat.
Michaud, who is in his fifth term, is facing Republican state Senate President Kevin Raye, who earned an endorsement Wednesday from the National Federation of Independent Business. Although Raye has been on the campaign trail visiting several Maine businesses every weekend since the primary, Michaud said in June he would defer his campaign until September to focus on congressional work, which, for the past month, also has included visits to businesses throughout the state.
This week, for instance, Michaud is conducting a four-day tour of Maine manufacturers, but it isn’t necessarily campaigning, said Michaud’s Intergovernmental Liaison Rosemary Winslow.
“It’s our way of learning what small and medium businesses are doing in our district,” she said.
On Wednesday — the second day of the tour — Michaud spent an hour at B&B Precise Products Inc. on Neck Road. It was an opportunity to hear firsthand about any federal issues that face the aeronautical parts manufacturer, but it was also an opportunity to speak to the reporters who were invited to attend.
On the lips of voters
Congress has been out of session since early August, but Michaud has remained busy.
“I’ve only been home two nights,” he said. “I’ve been really busy zooming around the district, talking to companies, talking to constituents about what’s going on.”
During those conversations, a common thread has emerged, he said.
“People are frustrated by the dysfunctional Congress. They don’t see progress, and I agree 100 percent,” he said.
Michaud contends the problem lies in the Senate, where individual senators have the power to delay bills through “hold” rules.
Michaud is also concerned about Congress’ seeming inability to pass a budget on time. He is co-sponsoring a bill called “No Budget, No Pay.” If it passes, members of Congress would not be paid for any time while a budget is past due.
Additionally, Michaud has co-sponsored two bills that would amend the constitution to require balanced budgets.
Michaud’s pet project is to expand manufacturing of athletic footwear in Maine. The first step, he said, is to shore up the Berry Amendment.
“Under current law, our (service) men and women are supposed to be clothed from head to toe with American-made clothing, but they are exempt on athletic footwear,” he said. “They’re getting around the law.”
If the exemption is closed, Michaud said, he hopes New Balance facilities in Maine would get the contract, but it’s not guaranteed. Fourteen domestic shoe companies would be in the running.
The second step is to maintain tariffs on shoes imported from Vietnam and other countries with low-wage workers, Michaud said. Currently, a multination trade agreement, called the Transpacific Partnership, is under negotiation.
“We’re keeping a very close eye on that,” Michaud said.
On Sept. 13, U.S Trade Representative Ron Kirk is scheduled to visit New Balance workers in Maine and Michaud hopes the trip affects Kirk.
“He can see firsthand the craftsmanship it takes to make sneakers, but also be able to talk to the employees,” Michaud said. “Hopefully it will give him a new perspective on what I’ve been talking about for so long.”
Business group endorses Raye
During events Wednesday in Auburn and Bangor, Raye announced his endorsement by a national small business association.
The National Federation of Independent Business is a nonprofit organization that represents the consensus views of its members, according to its website. The Tennessee-based group, founded in 1943, strives to “promote and protect the right of our members to own, operate and grow their businesses.”
“Kevin Raye is the clear choice for small businesses in Maine,” Lisa Goeas, a federation vice president, said in a news release. “He’s a small business owner, a long-time NFIB member and one of the most consistent supporters of small businesses in the state Legislature.”
Raye scored 100 percent on the most recent federation voting record, while Michaud’s record has been less favorable, according to the release.
“(Michaud) has voted against NFIB’s position on every key bill,” the release states.
Raye and his wife own and operate the Eastport-based Raye’s Mustard, which has made him “keenly aware of the challenges that small business owners face in dealing with higher taxes and costly regulations imposed by the federal government,” the release states.
Raye’s campaign manager, Robert Caverly, said Wednesday that the endorsement dovetails with Republican’s key issue — job creation.
“Small business is the lifeblood of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, and we believe that Kevin knows how government can help grow small businesses in Maine,” Caverly said. “Small business in Maine is about 99 percent of job creation in the state, so it’s very important that we foster small businesses to help keep unemployment down.”