Mere 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 during three meetings in Bangor, Lewiston and Millinocket. Today, he’ll 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 returns 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 the lame-duck Congress can steer clear of the so-called fiscal cliff, pass a stalled farm bill and more. He also hopes to apply continued pressure to the Obama administration in favor of U.S. shoe manufacturers.
He’s also cautiously optimistic for increased cooperation among the political parties.
Election results were still trickling in mid-afternoon Wednesday, but with 86 percent of precincts reporting, it was clear Michaud had bested Republican challenger Kevin Raye by more than 15 percentage points — a margin that was forecast by most independent polls.
At about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Raye congratulated Michaud for his win during 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 said Wednesday he is optimistic about prospects for the 113th Congress.
The current Congress, which has been in power since 2010, has been divided, but Michaud is confident Tuesday’s election may have changed dynamics in Washington for the better. He recalled when, shortly after President Barack Obama’s 2008 win, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters 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 resolve 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 the year, sequestration could trigger another national economic recession, he said.
After Tuesday’s election, McConnell said he was willing to compromise if Obama meets Republicans halfway.
“Hopefully, they will move closer to the middle,” Michaud said.
Likewise, Michaud hopes Congress will pass the so-called Farm Bill — a massive collection of laws that regulate 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, forestry and much more.
The bill also paid for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, which comprises 80 percent of the total cost of the Farm Bill that will come from tax money. Not surprisingly, SNAP is at the center of the partisan squabbles.
“I know there are some members of the Republican party that just want to gut the food stamp program. I think that’s very unfortunate,” Michaud said.
If the shoe fits
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, the action could have a negative impact on New Balance, which employs about 900 workers in Norridgewock, Norway and Skowhegan. Michaud also announced his intention to strengthen the Berry amendment — a provision that 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 cycle — a 27 percent increase. In Norridgewock, for instance, Michaud edged his 2010 opponent Jason Levesque by one vote — 620-619. On Tuesday, he scored a resounding victory over Raye, 960-634.
Michaud said he plans to continue pressuring Obama, who can close the loophole without any actions 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 senator-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.
Regarding trade negotiations, Michaud said he can study the recent campaigns of other House members to identify who might be sympathetic to the cause. From there, a coalition could be formed to apply pressure on negotiations with Asian countries.
Ben McCanna — 861-9239