September 26, 2010

2nd District: Michaud facing challenge from Levesque

There are indications that the congressman may be in for his toughest political fight since he succeeded John Baldacci.

By SCOTT MONROE Morning Sentinel

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud says he won't start actively campaigning until next month in his race for re-election against Republican challenger Jason Levesque. But you wouldn't know that by looking at his September schedule.

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Mike Michaud

File photo

Jason Levesque

Michaud has headed home from Washington every weekend this month to make whirlwind rounds of appearances in Maine's 2nd Congressional District: veterans events in Windsor and Orono; tours of industrial and medical facilities in Bangor, Houlton and Millinocket; a firefighters convention in Presque Isle; a forum on benefits for female veterans in South Paris; a Central Maine Labor Council event in Waterville; a 100th birthday party for World War II veteran Carl Cuthbert in Dexter ....

Michaud says he's just doing what he always does -- working hard and meeting with the people he serves. The 55-year-old incumbent Democrat is seeking a fifth two-year term and says he's no more concerned about his re-election prospects this time around than in previous campaigns. But there are indications he may be in for the toughest political fight he has faced since succeeding fellow Democrat John Baldacci as 2nd District congressman eight years ago.

"Am I going to please every voter? No, I'm not," Michaud says. "But I take the time to listen to what my constituents say. And I'm trying to move us forward and make Maine and the country a better place."

Levesque, 36, has his own ideas about making the state and country better, and the Auburn Republican is hoping to capitalize on a nationwide surge of anti-incumbent sentiment to help fuel his effort to unseat Michaud on Nov. 2. Republicans in Maine and elsewhere are hoping that voters' anger about the economy and discontent over policies backed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress will enable the GOP to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Polls measuring voter sentiment in the 2nd Congressional District race have offered mixed signals.

A poll commissioned by MaineToday Media, released Sept. 19, showed Michaud with a 20-point advantage over Levesque, 48-28, but also showed that a substantial 24 percent of respondents were undecided.

Among the undecided voters, 63 percent said they were not leaning toward a particular candidate and 28 percent said they "didn't know." The remaining 9 percent consisted of five respondents -- three leaning toward Michaud and two toward Levesque.

A survey released Sept. 9 by Public Policy Polling showed Michaud with a much narrower, seven-point lead among likely voters, 45-38, and suggested that Michaud was "vastly under-performing" compared with previous elections.

Christian Potholm, a government professor at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, thinks a combination of factors will ultimately favor Michaud.

"Michaud works hard, has solid blue-collar support and has a great deal of support among those who hunt and fish," he said, "so any challenger has a hard time getting any traction."

For Levesque, the election is essentially a referendum on what he views as Michaud's support of failed economic policies.

"He has done absolutely the opposite of what's needed to be done to grow employment here in Maine," Levesque said in a recent interview. "I see the race very locally, though it happens to be that the issues are also those concerning the rest of the nation. It's imperative that we stop this cycle of continual economic decay."

Michaud stands by his legislative votes during the past two years.

"These are very difficult times and there are no easy solutions," he said. "What's disappointing to me is some members of Congress now, and candidates who are running, are more concerned about parties and not about doing the right thing."

BLUE-COLLAR CANDIDATE

Michaud, who has never been married, grew up in a working-class, Catholic family in Medway, one of six children, attended Schenck High School in East Millinocket and graduated in 1973. He then worked at the Great Northern Paper Co. mill in East Millinocket, as did his father and grandfather.

(Continued on page 2)

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