WATERVILLE — A month into his campaign for governor of Maine, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, tuned up his campaign rhetoric during an appearance this evening at Waterville’s Universalist Unitarian Church.
Michaud defended himself against criticism from Eliot Cutler, an independent who formally announced his candidacy for governor earlier in the day.
In his announcement, Cutler said he respects both Michaud and incumbent Paul LePage but that neither “has offered to Maine voters the kind of plan that Maine needs.”
Michaud, who said repeatedly during the night that he is running a positive campaign, said he viewed it as running for something, governor, not against the other candidates.
“We’ll let other candidates talk about their own campaign, which I’m sure they will be,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the debates.”
In Cutler’s announcement, he characterized Michaud as a creation of party politics.
“I like Mike, too,” he said, “but he is a product of 30 years in Augusta and Washington, and that is not what Maine needs today. His party’s policies didn’t work before, and they won’t move Maine forward now.”
Michaud said his experience, which includes time on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, is an asset, not a detriment.
“I’m very familiar with the budgetary process, and I know some of the pitfalls to watch out for,” he said.
Without naming Cutler, Michaud said his own experience distinguishes him as a candidate.
“People can talk about what they’d like to do, but I do have the experience,” he said.
In addition to positivity and experience, Michaud spoke often about the work he did to secure better reimbursement rates for Medicaid and MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, in the federal Affordable Care Act.
“When you look at the expansion of Mainecare, not only will it cover an additional 70,000 people, but it will also save the state of Maine over $600 million over a 10-year time frame,” he said.
Michaud spent about 90 minutes circulating slowly around the church’s basement, cup of coffee in hand, engaging in conversations with everyone in the crowd, which numbered about 45 people at any given time.
He fielded questions about manufacturing in Maine, his own campaign’s strategy, his relationship with U.S. Sen. Angus King and expanding passenger rail travel in the state.
Among the attendees were Colby College seniors Philip Hussey and Ben Wexler-Waite.
Wexler-Waite, president of the college’s student Democrat organization, said he was impressed with Michaud’s message and planned to campaign for him.
Hussey said he was taking advantage of the opportunity to meet all of the candidates in the race.
“That’s one of the best parts of Maine politics. You come down, shake hands and talk about the issues,” Hussey said.
He said that with the election 14 months away, it was too early for him to have made a decision about who to vote for.
Jim Easton, president of the church’s board of trustees, said Cutler and LePage have also been invited to the church to meet area residents. Cutler is scheduled to visit in October, and LePage has not responded to the invitation, he said.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287