October 7, 2012

Parallels striking in 2nd District race

Two 'pretty independent' men with reputations for working across the aisle square off for the second time in a decade. Their histories, however, define their politics.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Kevin Raye is congratulated by a supporter as he wins the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District. Raye got his start in politics through a letter he wrote to Olympia Snowe when he was 16.

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Millinocket Selectman Mark Marston, left, listens in April 2011 as Rep. Mike Michaud discusses his view of the situation with the closed Katahdin Paper Mill in East Millinocket, his hometown.

Gordon Chibroski

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"One of the things I learned from John: When I sought out his advice he said, 'Learn the rules,'" Michaud recalls. "I think that's one of the things a lot of legislators don't do, to learn the rules to figure out how you can get things done. I also have a lot of respect for John because of the fact that he would work with Republicans as well."

Michaud kept his vow to clean up the rivers, helping to push through a major reclassification of their water quality ratings. He was elected to the state Senate in 1994 and was named Senate chair of the powerful appropriations committee two years later. From 2000-2002 he was president of the Senate when the body was evenly split between the parties.

"Mike was known as a sort of natural leader in his role as Senate president," says Palmer, who notes that Raye held the same position a decade later. "It takes a certain stature to hold that job because it's the number two position behind the governor of Maine. Senators take pains to elect someone to that office who can not only run the Senate, but the state as a whole if it came to that."

Michaud generally sided with Democrats on labor and economic issues, but often took a more conservative stance on guns and abortion. Other legislators have described him as a workaholic who put in long hours. Former state Senate President Rick Bennett, R-Norway, has said Michaud usually arrived at the State House before anyone else and often left later, too.

"In the Legislature that often makes a great deal of difference," Bennett -- who didn't respond to interview requests -- said in 2004. "You can sort of outlast people."

After grueling hours in Augusta, Michaud would often drive to East Millinocket to begin weekend overnight shifts at the paper mill, where he worked full time driving forklifts when the Legislature was out of session and had once served as union vice president.

"That was pretty much all my time, spent in the mill or in Augusta, and it does wear on you," he says. "Ultimately I transferred out to the finishing shop which was a daytime job, which made it a little easier to deal with."

Michaud is a lifelong bachelor. "I'm married to politics," he told the Press Herald in 2000. "I really put my heart and soul into it."

Over the years, however, he saw the forces of globalization undermine the way of life of the people of the Katahdin region, exposing paper workers and other manufacturing and resource extraction industries to what he holds are unfair trading practices and unsound trade agreements. "That's the reason I ran for Congress," he says.

Michaud made his first bid for federal office in 2002. His Republican opponent was none other than Kevin Raye.


Raye had spent the previous 17 years working for Snowe. His first job at her district office in Bangor was helping World War II veterans apply for federal benefits.

"To see that this guy went over and fought and got wounded and everything else and now he's having a hard time getting disability and going to Togus -- it was a very broadening thing to do," he says. "For a young conservative it made me realize the legitimate role of government. I still don't like government to be too intrusive. I have that libertarian streak, or at least I call it that, because I don't think government should meddle in your life about pretty much anything unless you are harming someone else."

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Additional Photos

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Left: U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud gets a hug from his mother, Jean, on Election Day in 2010. Michaud is undefeated in the 16 elections he’s faced. Right: As Maine Senate president, Kevin Raye is generally credited with trying to foster bipartisan cooperation. Every Thursday, he had dinner with his Democratic peers.


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