Incumbent Michael Michaud won his fourth straight term as Maine’s 2nd Congressional District representative on Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger John Frary by a wide margin.
The 53-year-old East Millinocket Democrat was ahead 146,636 to 70664 votes — or 67.5 percent to 32.5 percent — as of 1:30 a.m. If the margin held, it would almost equal the largest electoral margin by which Michaud has ever won.
Frary conceded his loss at about 11:05 p.m.
“I am conceding. … It went about as you would expect for a challenger against an incumbent in a bad year for Republicans,” Frary said at his campaign headquarters at the Trevor Mansion Inn in Guilford. “The respect of people whose respect is worth having is the best reward for any campaign. I believe I have that.”
Michaud was grateful earlier in the evening as he neared victory.
“I think primarily I have gotten to know a lot of people in 2nd District and they have gotten to know me. My seat has not been on the target list,” Michaud said Tuesday evening of the tally kept by both parties of candidates who are vulnerable to defeat. “The first two races, it was. This time around they [Republicans] have had a lot of other areas where they are running into problems protecting their incumbents.”
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.
Frary, meanwhile, was well-satisfied with his performance.
“I have received about what Republican challengers are getting this year across the board,” Frary said Tuesday night. “This is not a great year for Republicans.
“I said things that had to be said, and, hopefully, people will remember them now when they look at the Congress two years from now,” Frary added. “Eventually, they will make a connection between the Congress they despise and the candidates they keep re-electing.”
From the outset, the 67-year-old Farmington selectman, a conservative political columnist and retired college history professor, ran his race as an underdog, putting into it more than $300,000, mostly his own money.
He felt he was slighted by the state Republican Party at least twice but ran on a platform mostly in line with the GOP.
He listed among his priorities improving medical facilities for veterans, especially in the district’s remote areas; improving efficiency at state universities and colleges; cutting government spending; and, though he regarded it with many misgivings, bailing Wall Street out of the present financial crisis.
But with his trademark cane and hat and pithy asides, plus his advocating for the legalization of marijuana, Frary never seemed to strike the same chord with voters as did Michaud, a former paper mill worker.
Michaud, meanwhile, ran the least expensive race in his congressional history, spending $700,000 and hiring only one aide to handle campaign work. His previous races cost as much as $2 million, Michaud said.
Now that he is re-elected, Michaud counts among his priorities the establishment of a bipartisan congressional caucus that will focus on the paper industry nationwide. It will, he said, look into energy solutions for state mills and better answers to international competition.
“If we are giving huge tax breaks to some companies and they are using them to invest overseas, I have a problem with that,” Michaud said. “Also part of that is looking at the cost of transportation of goods and products to where they have to go.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.