Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s 34-year run in elective office will end when Congress adjourns in a couple of weeks, and the veteran politician says he has no idea what he’s going to do next.

But Michaud, who finished behind Republican Paul LePage and ahead of independent Eliot Cutler in this year’s gubernatorial race, had some critical things to say about his opponents – particularly Cutler, whom Democrats portrayed as a spoiler.

In a phone interview Tuesday from his home in East Millinocket, Michaud said he was surprised that he was attacked so much by Cutler, a Cape Elizabeth attorney, as the campaign unfolded. He recalled a meeting he had with Cutler in January 2013. The two candidates agreed that their priority was to prevent a second term for LePage.

Michaud specifically referenced a campaign forum held in Lewiston. LePage did not attend, leaving Cutler and Michaud on the stage together.

“During that whole (Lewiston) debate he kept attacking me,” Michaud said. “At the end he made it very clear that he’d rather have four more years of LePage than a Michaud administration. It really showed his true colors.”

Cutler, reached by telephone Tuesday night, declined to comment on Michaud’s remarks.


The Democrat also was critical of LePage, saying the governor stoked fears over the Ebola virus during the final days of the campaign by engaging in a conflict with nurse Kaci Hickox that attracted national media attention. Michaud said the governor played the issue “like a fiddle.”

“The nurse came out after the election and made it very clear that the governor and (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) used her as a political pawn for re-election efforts,” he said.

Michaud said the governor also exploits his own reputation as the straight-talking anti-politician.

“When he was first elected, I was hoping that he’d do well,” Michaud said. “I even made the comment that he says it the way it is. Well, he doesn’t. He just says it whether it’s true or not.”

A LePage spokesman did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday night.

Michaud, a Medway native, doesn’t believe his Nov. 4 loss to LePage came about because of his announcement in 2013 that he’s gay, or because of his campaign platform, which tacked to the left of the more conservative Democrat position he had established during his 12 years in Congress. Instead, he said, he was undone by a combination of factors: the relentless attacks from Cutler, LePage’s exploitation of controversial issues that resonate with Mainers, and a news media distracted by the political conflict of the day.


“The governor is an excellent politician,” Michaud said. “He knows the issues that resonate with Maine voters and he hits those issues, whether they’re true or not.”

Michaud added, “He also knows that’s what the press will focus on. He makes some of those outlandish remarks because he knows the press will pay attention to it and not what could move the state forward in a positive direction.”

LePage defeated Michaud on Election Day with more than 48 percent of the vote. Michaud finished with 43 percent, and Cutler had 8 percent. The campaign was the most expensive in Maine history for outside groups attempting to influence the outcome. Political action committees spent over $11.5 million on the race, while the individual campaigns spent another $7.9 million. Michaud’s campaign spent more than $3 million.

If he’d won, Michaud would have been the first openly gay governor elected in the country.

Some political observers have speculated about whether Michaud’s sexual orientation contributed to his loss, particularly in the mostly rural 2nd Congressional District. Michaud doesn’t think so.

“If it (was a factor), it was below the radar screen,” he said. “Quite frankly, for every one of those that voted against me because of that issue, I probably got some people who voted for me because of it. I think it was a wash. I never really heard it come up once the campaign got rolling.”


Michaud was critical of the news media, which he said was pulled into the horse race early. He was not critical of his campaign, which played a role in shaping the news coverage in its attempts to portray Cutler, the runner-up to LePage in 2010, as a nonviable candidate.

The campaign and the Maine Democratic Party consistently described Michaud as the front-runner and frequently referred to “Michaud momentum” during the release of early polling. The attempt to portray the race as a two-way contest was a strategy designed to avoid a repeat of 2010, when Cutler and Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell split progressive voters.

It worked – partially. Cutler never gained traction and faded even further behind during the final two weeks of the contest. Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome LePage, who finished with the most votes for governor in Maine history.

LePage’s victory has prompted questions about whether Michaud, a member of the conservative Blue Dog caucus in Congress, ran further left than he should have.

Again, Michaud, a former mill worker, didn’t buy the speculation. He had no problems with his campaign’s decision to unveil his economic development plan at an organic grocery store in Portland.

“If you look at our policy of making Maine the food basket of New England, that’s something that resonates throughout the whole state,” he said. “It builds upon some of the stuff I’ve done at the national level.”


He contended that the media was uninterested in exploring the policy differences between the candidates.

“Some press did better than others,” he said, citing one example when a television reporter asked him when he was going to release an economic plan when the campaign had already done so.

“They were invited, but they never attended,” Michaud said. “They were more interested in some of the issues such as debating the debates and this and that. When you look at my campaign, we had to constantly focus on (attacks) from both of my opponents.”

Michaud said some operatives with the Maine Republican Party made “outrageous” claims. He singled out one false claim, in particular: That he personally had made lewd comments about U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, when they were in fact made by a local rap artist. The one-day controversy prompted Michaud to personally call Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett to complain.

Michaud and Bennett shared power when the two served in the Maine Senate in 2001-2002. Before the campaign, both described their relationship as a friendship. Michaud said he hasn’t spoken to Bennett since he called him about the Collins dust-up.

“I can wake up in the morning and look myself in the mirror and know that I had nothing to do with that,” he said.

As for what’s next, Michaud, who will turn 60 in January, is uncertain. But he doesn’t fault the Maine Democratic Party for pressuring him to leave a safe seat in Congress to run for governor.

“Clearly they wanted me to run, but I made that decision on my own,” he said. “Like I said, it was tough, but only because I liked what I was doing in Congress. I have no regrets.”

 This story was updated at 8:54 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 24 to correct the number of years Michaud spent in elective office.

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