Polls are closed and election night parties are in full swing for the candidates in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
Democratic incumbent Rep. Mike Michaud is scheduled to arrive at his own soire in a small restaurant in East Millinocket at 9 p.m. – about an hour after polls close throughout the state.
Meanwhile, Republican challenger Kevin Raye addressed his supporters in the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Bangor. A pyramid of Raye’s mustard, specially branded with “Kevin Raye for Congress” stickers, sits outside the room next to mustard-colored Raye for Congress shirts.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Michaud campaign manager Greg Olsen reported to a jubilant crowd that 19 locations have reported in and Michaud is leading Raye 62 percent to 38 percent.
At 9:15 p.m., the front door opened and the silver-haired Democrat entered to a standing ovation. Michaud, wearing a blue v-neck sweater, a collared shirt and khakis, made the rounds — hugging small children and shaking hands with adults. As the applause subsided, Michaud continued speaking to every person while the room hushed to a seemingly reverent silence.
Afterward, Michaud greeted his campaign staff, then stood over Olsen’s shoulder and watched incoming poll results on a laptop, smiling.
Olsen later reported that Norridgewock went for Michaud 60 percent to 40 percent. In 2010, Michaud lost the town to Republicanchallenger Jason Levesque. In this campaign, Olsen credits Michaud’s work on behalf of New Balance for changing voter’s minds.
In September, Michaud helped orchestrate a media frenzy in Norridgewock, when he and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk toured a New Balance shoe factory. Michaud has been an outspoken supporter of maintaining tariffs on imported sneakers, which could help preserve about 900 manufacturing jobs in Maine.
That same month, Michaud introduced the American Shoes for American Servicemembers Act to Congress.
Earlier this evening, Raye was greeted with applause when he entered the room. Many supporters held up signs and chanted.
“It’s just incredible, it’s beyond words what it means to me to know the friendship and the kindness and the generosity of so many people in this room and across the second district, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Raye said. “The polls are now closed. The decision has been made, we just don’t know what it is yet.”
Farther north, about 40 of Michaud’s friends, family members and supporters are gathered in the tightly packed Grassroots Catering restaurant on Main Street – within sight of Great Northern Paper mill where Michaud was employed for nearly three decades.
East Millinocket resident Katherine Page is one of Michaud’s friends. She has known him for 28 years and feels confident about his chances in tonight’s election.
“If we ever need Mike, he has been here for us 100 percent,” she said.
Zach Connerty-Marin contributed reporting from Bangor.