Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud says it’s too early to campaign for the November election despite Republicans picking a winner in their primary this week. There’s too much work to be done in Washington, he says.

On Tuesday, the race for Maine’s 2nd District hit a milestone when state Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry won the Republican primary with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Raye will face Michaud in November.

It is the second time in 10 years that the two politicians have fought for the seat, and this year’s contest could be closer. In 2002, Michaud edged out Raye by only 4 percentage points, and Raye contends the shifting demographics in the district favor Republicans in 2012.

Michaud, of East Millinocket, said he looks forward to the rematch, but he won’t begin his campaign in earnest until after Labor Day.

For now, Michaud said, he’s focused on reforms in the Veterans Affairs system; an effort to strengthen a law to require American-made materials in highway projects; and a plan to strengthen a military policy that could bring more business to a footwear manufacturer in Maine.

“The Berry Amendment requires our men and women in the military to be fully clothed with American-made clothing,” Michaud said. “The Department of Defense has been circumventing the law by giving an allowance for athletic footwear. That affects three facilities in the 2nd Congressional District — New Balance facilities. That’s going to be extremely important to help New Balance stay viable here in the state of Maine.”

The question is whether those efforts will earn the attention of district voters. In the 10 years since Michaud last campaigned against Raye, the total number of registered Democratic voters has decreased by more than 2,000, while Republican voters have bolstered their ranks by more than 1,000, according to state data from November.

While Michaud has represented heavily Democratic Waterville since it was added to his district in 2004, the city, as well as Winslow, were moved back to the 1st District for this election. Eleven smaller communities — Albion, Belgrade, Gardiner, Monmouth, Mount Vernon, Randolph, Rome, Sidney, Unity Township, Vienna and West Gardiner — were moved to the 1st District.

Registered Democratic voters are still in the majority in the 2nd District by more than 7,000, but Raye said Tuesday that a majority of state senators who reside in the district are Republican — 15 out of 19.

Michaud said he’s not concerned.

“If you look at Mainers, they’re very independent,” he said. “There’s a lot of crossover when you look at the voting history throughout Maine, and that’s something I really appreciate — the independent thought of the Maine voter.”

Michaud said he has tried to embody the same independent spirit in Washington. “I’ve always focused on what’s right for Maine, and not necessarily any given political party,” he said.

When the campaign shifts into high gear, Michaud said he plans to focus on issues such as improving seniors’ access to health care in Maine. Doctors in the state receive relatively low Medicare reimbursements for services, compared to other New England states, he said. If doctors were reimbursed at the same rate as those in the Boston area, it would ensure that seniors living in rural areas would have access to quality services.

Health care could be an issue in the race. Raye said he opposes the Affordable Care Act, and he supported sweeping changes to state welfare. Michaud is an ardent supporter of the health care act, which is the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case.

Michaud said support for the Affordable Care Act and welfare changes isn’t an either-or proposition.

He said the health care law is capable of cutting costs and weeding out fraud.

Michaud cited a recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that shows the government recovered nearly $4.1 billion in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims in fiscal year 2011. The report says the new health care law will play a role in future savings.

“The recently enacted Affordable Care Act provides additional tools and resources to help fight fraud … including enhanced screenings and enrollment requirements, increased data sharing across government, expanded overpayment recovery efforts and greater oversight of private insurance abuses,” according to the report.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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