Hours after U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud declared victory Tuesday, the Democratic incumbent was back to work in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
On Wednesday, Michaud met with constituents in Bangor, Lewiston and Millinocket. Today, he will be in meetings all day at VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus in Augusta with retired Brig. Gen. Allison Hickey, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ undersecretary for benefits.
Next week, Michaud will return to Washington D.C.
“The campaign is over for another two years, and now is the time to govern,” Michaud said in an interview Wednesday.
Michaud is hopeful that the lame-duck Congress can steer clear of the “fiscal cliff” and pass a stalled farm bill. He also hopes to apply continued pressure on the Obama administration in favor of U.S. shoe manufacturers.
He’s also cautiously optimistic for increased cooperation among the political parties.
Michaud defeated his Republican challenger, Kevin Raye, by more than 15 percentage points — a margin that was forecast by most independent polls.
About 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Raye congratulated Michaud in a phone conversation, according to Raye campaign manager Robert Caverly.
Later on Wednesday, Raye — who wasn’t available for comment — thanked supporters and conceded the race in a post on Facebook.
“While the outcome of this election is not what we had hoped, I will always treasure the opportunity to run,” Raye wrote. “Likewise, I am forever grateful for the support that made it possible for me to serve the past eight years in the Maine Senate and the past two years as President of the Senate.”
Michaud is confident that Tuesday’s election can change dynamics in Washington for the better. He recalled when, shortly after President Obama’s election in 2008, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters that his main job was to ensure that Obama wouldn’t be re-elected in 2012.
“Unfortunately, that hampered the ability of working together and trying to solve problems,” Michaud said Wednesday. “But that is behind us now. Obama’s there for four more years, he can’t run again, so hopefully we’ll be able to move forward in a more collaborative effort to do what’s right for this country.”
Michaud’s first priority is to help avert the automatic spending cuts and tax increases known as sequestration or the “fiscal cliff.”
If Congress doesn’t hash out an alternative by the end of this year, sequestration could trigger another recession, he said.
After Tuesday’s election, McConnell said he is willing to compromise if Obama meets Republicans halfway.
“Hopefully, they will move closer to the middle,” Michaud said.
Likewise, Michaud hopes Congress will pass a massive collection of laws that regulates the agriculture industry. The most recent version of the bill, which is renewed every five years, expired at the end of September. It included loan guarantees for farmers, land conservation programs, agricultural research and forestry.
During the campaign, Michaud made a splash in Norridgewock during a tour of a New Balance shoe factory with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, in an effort to draw attention to the importance of tariffs on imported footwear.
If tariffs are removed, it could hurt New Balance, which employs about 900 workers in Norridgewock, Norway and Skowhegan.
Michaud also announced his intention to strengthen the Berry amendment, which requires U.S. military personnel to wear U.S.-made clothing but allows troops to wear foreign-made sneakers.
The shoe issue apparently had traction. In the three towns where New Balance has a presence, Michaud picked up an additional 1,040 votes from the last election — a 27 percent increase.
In Norridgewock in 2010, Michaud edged Jason Levesque by one vote — 620-619. On Tuesday, he scored a resounding victory over Raye, 960-634.
Michaud said he plans to keep pressuring Obama, who can close the loophole without any action by Congress, to take action on the Berry amendment.
Michaud said he has discussed the matter with the newest member of Maine’s congressional delegation — independent Sen.-elect Angus King — and has support from Massachusetts’ House delegation as well.
If the loophole closes, more than 10 shoe companies would vie for a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense, Michaud said.
“It’s my hope that New Balance would get it, because they’re already here, they’re already running and they make great athletic footwear,” he said.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at: