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

(Continued from page 3)

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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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He married Karen Howard while in Bangor. She would later serve as Maine's Republican National Commiteewoman and is currently a Perry selectman.

The Rayes followed Snowe to Washington, D.C., in 1994 when she was elected to the Senate, and Kevin Raye served as her chief of staff. It was an exciting time -- Republicans had just won control of both houses -- but seven years later Raye turned 40 and had an existential moment.

"I thought I'd work two years for Olympia and I'd been there 17 years," he recalls. "I was like: am I going to stay in Washington? I felt like I wanted to come home, and not just back to Maine, but to go all the way home."

His wife agreed, and in June 2001 they moved from the center of federal power to tiny Perry. They both did political consulting while Raye prepared for a run for the U.S. House. In the first poll he did, Raye had 4 percent name recognition, but he campaigned hard, lived off savings, and won a four-way Republican primary by a few hundred votes.

In the 2002 general election -- of which this year's contest is a rematch -- Michaud defeated Raye, 52 percent to 48 percent.

MICHAUD IN CONGRESS

In Washington, Michaud encountered an environment far more partisan than Augusta had been. As a vulnerable first-term congressman, Michaud says, he quickly learned Republicans had received orders not to pass anything he sponsored. Instead, he worked closely with the chair of the veterans affairs committee, Chris Smith, R-N.J., to get laws enacted. "I didn't care if it had my name on it or not, as long as we got it passed and made a difference for veterans," Michaud says.

"When Democrats took control, it was the same thing," he adds, recalling being questioned by more senior Democrats as to why he was hearing Republican-sponsored bills while chair of the health care subcommittee on veterans.

"I said: well, because they might have a good idea," he says. "I don't care whose bill it is, I want to move things forward."

Michaud has championed veterans issues and efforts to clamp down on unfair trade practices, including alleged currency manipulation by China and South Korea.

MUSTARD, STATE HOUSE, CONGRESSIONAL REMATCH

Since the 2002 race, Raye has served four terms representing Washington and eastern Hancock counties in the state Senate.

In 2005, he and his wife became manufacturers, taking over the family's mustard mill, Raye's Mustard, allegedly the last traditional stone-grinding mustard operation in the country.

"I'm really concerned -- for Maine and the whole country -- about the loss of manufacturing," he says. "Because if you lose the ability to manufacture stuff, I don't know how you can continue to be one of the most powerful countries in the world. Who's going to build the next generation of planes or to create the widgets we need? It's a national security issue."

Raye was unanimously elected president of the state Senate in 2010, and is generally credited with trying to foster bipartisan cooperation. He and House Speaker Bob Nutting had dinner every Thursday with their Democratic counterparts, Sen. Barry Hobbins and Rep. Emily Cain.

"It's harder to launch into a partisan attack on somebody if you're going to break bread with them on Thursday night," Raye says. "I got to know them. I care about them as people. I like them. And whether or not we agree or disagree on something, that's just one facet of things that's missing in Washington."

"I have to say we've had a good working relationship and it was fostered with communication and with individual relationships," says Hobbins, who served with both Raye and Michaud in the Legislature. "I think Mike and Kevin share a commonality in that they really respect the institutions they serve in."

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be

contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

 

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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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