Michael Michaud just returned from Iraq and meetings in Washington, D.C., and his biggest event next week is likely to be a candidates debate.
Sandwiched around that are meetings with veterans groups and officials in Bangor, Lewiston and Waterville, reviews of electricity wind farms in Aroostook and Washington counties, and a visit to the University of Maine in Orono.
As representative to the geographically largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River, Michael Michaud is busy.
“When I first got into Congress, just out of curiosity, I used to keep track of the number of times I got to go home,” Michaud, 53, of East Millinocket said Friday. “In my first year, I had 22 nights in my own bed, 26 the second year. It’s gotten a little better since then.”
The 2nd District congressman expects to keep busy in his race against Republican challenger John Frary of Farmington, even though most political handicappers — and Frary himself — see Frary as a decided underdog.
Since being elected to Congress with 52 percent of the vote in 2002, Michaud’s electoral margins have increased dramatically. In 2004, he was re-elected with 58 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Brian Hamel. He won 71 percent of the vote in 2006, easily defeating Republican Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon.
”But you don’t take anything for granted in this,” Michaud said.
To Michaud, this election’s biggest issues are intertwined. They include the country’s energy and financial crises, its conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and its treatment of veterans.
He advocates pulling most U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, shifting some of that war’s cost — which some estimates place at $300 million a day — to domestic issues, such as the creation of more energy with wind, geothermal and tidal power and of more veterans health centers in his district.
“We have to let the Iraqi government know that the U.S. is not going to be there forever,” Michaud said. “We also have to ensure that this is not the end of our responsibilities there and particularly with our soldiers.
“We have to ensure that we continue to care for veterans when they return. They are concerned that once the war is done that they will be forgotten, and that’s one thing that we should never do.”
As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee and a ranking member on the benefits subcommittee, Michaud helped secure funding for veterans health care facilities in Lincoln and Houlton and one to be built in the Lewiston-Auburn area.
He is also excited about the possibility of creating a cluster of veterans housing and health care facilities in Bangor and working with Husson University to see how U.S. Veterans Affairs could help establish a pharmacy school there.
On the subject of energy, Maine’s offshore coastal areas represent a huge electricity generating potential as wind power sites that should be developed, Michaud said.
Michaud also helped the federal Department of Transportation make funding an east-west interstate highway to be built from Calais to Watertown, N.Y., a priority, he said.
He is on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Small Business.
Michaud said he considers Congress’ support of President Bush’s $700 billion Wall Street bailout, which he voted against, its biggest failure during his third term.
He accused the Bush administration and U.S. Treasury officials of essentially browbeating Congress into supporting the bill.
“They basically said, ‘We have to pass this legislation or we will have meltdown.’ Well, we know that that by itself would cause a panic and that’s exactly what happened,” Michaud said. “That became the focal point of the debate.
“Instead, they should have stepped back and addressed the credit problem itself,” he said. “That’s something that we are going to have to do in the next session.”
BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Maine’s 2nd District U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud (from left) and Gov. John Baldacci visit workers in the control room of Katahdin Paper Co. LLC, including Stu Kallgren, in May after the mill announced it would close its Millinocket operation. Michaud, who worked at the Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket for 30 years before being elected to Congress, is seeking his fourth term.