Mike Michaud has retreated to his home in East Millinocket after his loss in the governor’s race on Tuesday. Where he goes next is anyone’s guess.
Will he return to Washington, D.C., where he spent 12 years as a Democratic congressman and has plenty of connections? Will he lie low and then plan another run for governor in 2018 when he doesn’t have to face an incumbent? Or will he retire quietly to the Great North Woods?
If Michaud, who was beaten by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, has any plans, he’s not saying anything just yet.
David Farmer, a senior campaign adviser, said Michaud returned to East Millinocket on Wednesday and would not be doing interviews.
“The campaign has been going on for 15 months, and we’re only 10 hours from the results,” Farmer said. “I can tell you that he’s spending the day with family.”
For the first time in his 34-year political career, Michaud found himself on the losing end after an Election Day.
To top it off, the congressional seat he held for 12 years was seized by Bruce Poliquin as part of a Republican wave in Maine and across the country.
Michaud’s loss to LePage is damaging for the Maine Democratic Party, particularly because so much money was invested in the race. Democrats have lost three consecutive statewide elections.
Party leaders in Maine will regroup and look toward 2016, but what about Michaud?
It’s certainly possible that he could run for governor again in 2018, said Michael Franz, an associate professor of government at Bowdoin College.
It’s less likely, Franz said, that the Democrat would turn to the lobbying arena, a popular route for retired or ousted D.C. politicians. Michaud is not as traditionally educated or polished as some of his former colleagues in Congress, he said.
“He has connections in D.C., so I’m sure he might be approached by a veterans group or a union organization,” Franz said. “Or maybe he’ll just retire.”
Michaud has said that his dream is to someday retire in Maine and build a log cabin on 6 acres of land he owns in Medway.
But he has been an elected official for more than three decades; most of his adult life.
A former millworker, Michaud was first elected to the Maine Legislature in 1980 when he was 25. He served seven two-year terms in the House and then moved to the Senate in 1994, where he served four more terms. During his last term in the Senate, he served as president.
After John Baldacci announced that he was running for governor ahead of the 2002 election, Michaud decided to run for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, a seat Baldacci held for eight years. Before she moved to the U.S. Senate, Republican Olympia Snowe represented the 2nd District for 16 years before Baldacci.
Michaud came out as gay last November and was seeking to become the first openly gay candidate to win a gubernatorial election.
Four years after independent Eliot Cutler narrowly lost to LePage, he finished a distant third behind LePage and Michaud on Tuesday. He was noncommittal about his political future and laughed when he was asked late Tuesday whether he had the appetite for another run, saying it was too early. If he did run again in 2018, he would be 72 and would be saddled with the label of two-time loser.
Cutler did say that he would remain an “active citizen,” and that he plans to be heavily involved in the citizen’s initiative to bring ranked-choice voting to Maine.