U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign has been getting some help from former Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a well-known and at times controversial Democrat.
Frank’s involvement in Michaud’s campaign was first reported last week by The Boston Globe: “It’s not uncommon to spot Frank in Maine grabbing breakfast at the Backyard Coffeehouse and Eatery, or heading to a cocktail or dinner party with his husband. He’s been active in Maine politics, co-hosting several events for Representative Mike Michaud, who is running for governor and came out last year as gay.”
Frank became the first sitting congressman to voluntarily come out as gay in 1987, and in 2012, at the age of 72, became the first sitting congressman to legally marry a same-sex partner by tying the knot with the 42-year-old Jim Ready, who lives in Oqunquit.
Michaud campaign spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said Frank and Ready have “lent their names” to the host committees for campaign events in Oqunquit and Cumberland, with Frank introducing Michaud at the latter.
Frank will also be on the host committee for a barbecue in August, she said.
In addition to co-hosting some events, Frank has provided some good advice about campaigning as an openly gay man, said Matt McTighe, manager of the Michaud campaign. “Over the last year since Congressman Michaud came out, he took some time to talk with the congressman and just talk a little bit about what campaign life was like for him and what things to be aware of and look out for,” McTighe said.
Michaud came out as gay in November, citing whisper campaigns and push polls discussing his sexual orientation. For example, staffers say, Frank told Michaud, who could become the first openly gay elected governor in U.S. history, to expect this campaign to receive national attention. And it has. Michaud’s initial announcement was national news, and he made national headlines again when he was a grand marshal in Portland’s Pride Day parade.
Reinholt said she is not aware of any specific plans to have Frank, who also writes a regular column for the Maine Sunday Telegram, formally campaign with Michaud or on his behalf.
– Randy Billings
DEMOCRATS FOR MICHAUD
Barney Frank’s help adds to the list of high-profile Democrats actively supporting Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign.
Govs. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Peter Shumlin of Vermont, who is also the head of the Democratic Governors Association, stumped on behalf of Michaud last week. Political strategist James Carville (known as the Ragin’ Cajun) will be at the Maine Democrats annual Muskie Lobster Bake in Freeport on Aug. 3. And former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who now advocates for “common sense” gun control laws, will appear at a fundraiser for Michaud on Aug. 9 in Kennebunkport.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, will be in Portland for a “Women Take Action 2014” rally to support Michaud and Maine’s Democratic congressional candidates.
Schultz will highlight the party’s candidates as “the clear choice this November for Maine women and working families,” according to a news release from Maine Democrats.
Michaud is facing criticism – particularly from independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler – over his evolution on so-called women’s issues, such as abortion.
Michaud began his three-decade political career as a social conservative who opposed a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. But in recent years he has changed his position and now says he “will unequivocally support and protect a woman’s right to make her own personal private medical decisions.”
Cutler, a supporter of the right to choose an abortion, has actively sought the women’s vote, including by releasing an economic plan for women. A group of about 50 prominent Maine women, representing Republicans and Democrats, have announced their support for Cutler.
Michaud, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL ProChoice America. He has also rolled out policies to help women in the workplace, including closing the wage gap between men and women.
The Women Take Action Rally will take place at 11 a.m. Monday in the Rines Auditorium at the Portland Public Library.
Democratic candidates expected to be in attendance include Michaud, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is being challenged by 25-year-old Republican Isaac Misiuk for the 1st District seat; and Emily Cain, who is facing Republican Bruce Poliquin for the 2nd District seat being vacated by Michaud.
Shenna Bellows, who is looking to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, will be the only Democratic candidate not in attendance. She is currently conducting a 350-mile “Walk Across Maine” from Houlton to Kittery.
– Randy Billings
BELLOWS AD REVISED
The Bellows for Senate campaign has replaced a portion of an advertisement on the “working class” after being criticized for using stock footage of a worker who was not from Maine.
Shenna Bellows released an ad this month calling for raising the minimum wage and increasing the Social Security benefit as part of her campaign against Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins. The ad featured several brief clips of individuals – parents with young children, senior citizens, a hard hat-wearing worker – as Bellows talked about the need to strengthen the middle class.
But debate erupted on Twitter and other social media after some Republican observers – such as Portland Press Herald political contributor Philip Harriman – pointed out that the clip of the worker was apparently stock footage. Harriman argued that “it sure seems inappropriate for her to be running an ad where she says she wants ‘Maine families to get ahead’ while using stock footage of a model/actor who is probably from somewhere else.”
Last week, Republican observers noted that the Bellows campaign had released a new version of the ad, this time showing two different unidentified workers. Both of the workers in the new version are from Maine – one from Westbrook and the other from Bowdoinham.
In an interview last week, Bellows downplayed the original clip, accurately pointing out that campaigns often use stock footage. She called the inclusion an “oversight” amid the bustle to launch both an ad campaign and a 350-mile walk across the state. Bellows said she had seen the ad prior to airing but did not know the worker was not from Maine.
“I think the fact that we are up on television in July is a testament to the strength of the campaign,” Bellows said. “And the fact that Republicans are making a mountain out of a molehill is a testament to the strength of our support.”
Republicans nonetheless tried to capitalize on the incident.
“This is just one more amateur-hour effort by the Bellows campaign,” Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen said in a statement. “When you outsource your campaign to D.C. consultants, this kind of mistake is bound to happen.”
– Kevin Miller
MICHAUD INTERN SUSPENDED
Mike Michaud also took some Republican barbs last week over a series of vulgar tweets by a 21-year-old intern for the Democrat’s campaign.
The intern was suspended indefinitely Tuesday after the controversy erupted in social media.
Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorenson lambasted the Michaud campaign for the tweets of Ben Gagnon, a Wheaton College student from Pownal who volunteered doing data entry for the congressman’s gubernatorial campaign.
Gagnon, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt the Republican criticism, posted an image collage of the tweets in question along with a message: “Sometimes I tweet things that some may find inappropriate. #TripDownMemoryLane #LetsMoveOn.”
The Republican Party redistributed the collage of messages and in a statement demanded that Michaud’s campaign respond and denounce the language and fire the person responsible.
The tweets, posted to Gagnon’s personal Twitter account, include sexual statements, obscenity-laden quotes from TV and movies, and references to illegal drugs and bodily functions. Other content in Gagnon’s feed looked like that of many other people his age, including family photos, messages to friends and links to news stories.
In a statement to the Portland Press Herald announcing Gagnon’s suspension, Michaud’s campaign manager, Matt McTighe, denounced the tweets.
“The language used in this young person’s Tweets cannot be defended and do not represent the view of the campaign,” McTighe wrote. “We will provide increased training for volunteers and interns on the campaign to ensure that they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner whether in person or online.”
– Matt Byrne
COLBERT WEIGHS IN
Opponents of Republican Gov. Paul LePage frequently argue that some of LePage’s comments have focused the national spotlight on Maine for the wrong reasons, and in some cases have made Maine a national punchline.
Last week, those opponents received another arrow in their quiver when comedian Stephen Colbert spoofed LePage’s reaction to discovering that eight unaccompanied minors who were picked up by border agents on the U.S.-Mexican border were placed in Maine without his knowledge.
Colbert devoted the opening segment of his popular “Colbert Report” on Comedy Central to outrage over the federal government’s placement of some of these unaccompanied children with sponsors and family members in states without first informing the governors, including Maine’s.
“Now that the kids are actually here, we don’t even know what parts of America they are destroying first,” Colbert joked. “Folks, nowhere is this problem more pronounced than in Maine – the Plastic Bib State. Because out of the 52,000 in federal custody, Uncle Sam is unfairly saddling Maine with a whopping eight of them.”
After showing a black-and-white photo of a grinning LePage with a quote from his news release Tuesday about Maine not being able to afford undocumented immigrants, Colbert concluded:
“Folks, I never realized Maine was in such dire financial straits. They’re just one Octomom away from bankruptcy.”
– Randy Billings
Campaign Notebook is a compilation of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram political blogs, Open Season and Capitol Ticker. Press Herald/Telegram staff writers Steve Mistler, Randy Billings, Eric Russell, Kevin Miller and Matt Byrne and Kennebec Journal reporter Michael Shepherd contribute to the blogs.