The majority of Mainers counting the days until Gov. Paul LePage’s departure from the Blaine House are worried.

In November, there will be another three-way gubernatorial race. In 2010, many watched poll numbers obsessively, and voted strategically for the candidate they thought had the best chance of beating LePage.

It didn’t work. Moreover, it’s an unsatisfying way to choose your chief executive. This time, we don’t have to do that.

Not that poll numbers are irrelevant. Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is leading, and his numbers are nearly three times those of independent Eliot Cutler, so only Mike can beat Gov. LePage. But this is not why we’re supporting him.

Mike is the strongest candidate because he has demonstrated his character, courage and experience from the factory floor to Maine’s legislative chambers to the halls of Congress.

Both of us have seen Mike in action for years – Janice in the congressional arena, when she worked for Tom Allen, then Maine’s other member of the U.S. House, and Sharon in the State House.

As the then-chair of the U.S. House Veterans Committee, Mike turned that sleepy committee into a rare oasis of activist bipartisan cooperation, which has continued even after control of the House was turned over to the other party. As a result, funding and oversight of the Veterans Administration increased dramatically during his tenure. Maine’s Togus VA Medical Center became a model of excellence, both in the quality of care and satisfaction of the veterans it serves. The VA may have its problems, but it’s not for want of Mike’s efforts, as any Maine veteran will attest.

Sharon’s involvement with Mike goes back even further. In October 1986, a special session of the Maine Legislature took up the problem of unregulated town dumps sprouting across the state. Maine had neither site rules nor standards to keep them from polluting the air and leaching into ground water. With lots of cheap undeveloped land, developers were descending on Maine to make a fast buck burying garbage from cities to our south.

Sharon, just starting her job at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, was not optimistic. Passing strong landfill protections and recycling laws would require the support of industries and legislative leaders, who were still smarting from past disputes with the environmental community. The chairs of the committee overseeing the landfill issue were veteran papermakers, and not likely to favor controls.

But Sharon found that her assumptions about Mike Michaud, then the Maine House Environment Committee chair, were wrong. Instead of an obstacle to progress, she discovered a savvy, smart guy, committed to strong protections, gifted with a natural instinct to lead and make things happen.

They worked together and with others to enact forward-looking recycling and solid waste laws years ahead of the rest of the country, as well as expansion of the returnable bottle laws, stronger dioxin limits in our rivers and the right of workers and communities to eliminate toxins at the very mills Mike worked in for decades.

In other legislative capacities, he brilliantly led the Maine Legislature’s all-important budget-writing Appropriations Committee, and was a successful president of a Senate divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

In contrast, Gov. LePage, after submitting a budget rejected even by his own party in the first session, refused to even participate in writing the supplemental budget this year. He has ignored the Legislature when he isn’t insulting it. His management of the executive branch has been a wasteful disgrace. His outbursts have embarrassed us all. That’s leadership?

On other important issues, we also have ample evidence that Mike shares our values. For example, as women, we are confident that Mike will fight hard to protect our access to health care, including reproductive services, and that he will continue his advocacy for equal pay and family-friendly workplace policies.

Perhaps most important is Mike’s character. He is self-confident without a whiff of egotism, utterly uninterested in proving he is the smartest guy in the room. But do not be misled by his lack of pretensions.

Eliot Cutler is another story. He has never held elective office. On-the-job training or untried policy proposals are no substitute for decades of experience and accomplishment.

At his core, Mike remains the same authentic Mainer who Sharon met in 1986 and Janice in 1999: quiet, effective, moral and pragmatic. He respects and honors the value of each and every one of us and the environment in which we live and work.

If you don’t know how good he is, it’s because he does not brag. He just does the job.

— Special to the Press Herald


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.