November 7, 2012

Michaud beats Raye


MILLINOCKET -- The rematch is over.

After several months of tough campaigning in Maine's 2nd Congressional District and more than $1.5 million in campaign spending, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud bested Republican Kevin Raye for a second time Tuesday.

Election results were still trickling in late Tuesday night, but shortly after 11 p.m., Michaud declared victory during a speech in East Millinocket. Michaud said he looks forward to serving the district over the next two years in Washington D.C. He also called for more cooperation among politicians.

"Hopefully we'll have a Congress that's willing to put aside partisan politics and focus on issues," he said. "Thank you very much and God bless."

About the same time, Raye acknowledged the election was becoming an uphill battle, but he didn't outright concede late Tuesday.

"As we look at the returns, it's difficult for me to see a path to victory," Raye said. "I wanted to come down and let you know that, and I wanted to thank you."

Suddenly, Raye's wife, Karen, exclaimed, "But it's not over until it's over!"

Ten years ago, Michaud edged Raye by a mere 4 percentage points for an open seat in Washington. Since then, Raye has become an influential state legislator and a successful small-business owner, which led many to speculate this would be the toughest fight of Michaud's career.

Michaud, 57, was fashionably late to his own election night party. The event was held at Grassroots Catering restaurant on Main Street -- within sight of Great Northern Paper mill where Michaud was employed for nearly three decades. There, about 40 friends, family members and supporters rose to their feet and applauded when the silver-haired Democrat strolled in at 9:15 p.m., wearing a blue v-neck sweater, a collared shirt and khakis.

Michaud 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.

Meanwhile, Republican challenger Kevin Raye, 51, held court in Bangor with supporters -- including Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Gov. John McKernan -- in the Sheraton Four Points hotel. A pyramid of Raye's mustard, specially branded with "Kevin Raye for Congress" stickers, sat outside the room next to mustard-colored Raye for Congress shirts.

Snowe gushed support for Raye to an appreciative audience.

"It is an honor for me to be here, to stand with Kevin," Snowe said. "We're truly grateful for the approach that he took in the Senate. The approach of being constructive, and respectful, and proactive, and using one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent history. And certainly with Republican control he understood the magnitude of that obligation. And so that's why he understands what direction to take this state and this country."

Throughout the campaign, Raye touted himself as the business-friendly candidate with the energy and political chops to untangle partisan gridlock in Washington. Michaud positioned himself as a defender of U.S. manufacturing and a staunch advocate for veterans.

However, the opponents were often more notable for their similarities than their differences. Both are considered moderates within their parties. They support abortion choice, a balanced budget amendment, a reduction of U.S. military bases on foreign soil and a range of domestic energy sources -- from fossil fuels to wind, solar and tidal power. Both also oppose a proposal by landowner Roxanne Quimby to create a national park in the Maine North Woods.

The greatest contrast between the candidates was apparent in discussions on the Affordable Care Act. Michaud has consistently voted in favor of the sweeping legislation, saying it's "not perfect," but it's a good start. Raye said he would vote to repeal so-called Obamacare, and his campaign claimed Michaud has had plenty of opportunities to tweak the law, if he was truly interested.

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