Jason Levesque has visited northern Penobscot County many times, but the Republican nominee kicked his campaign against U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud up a notch Wednesday by criticizing the 2nd District Democrat for the Katahdin region’s 16.5 percent unemployment rate.
Visiting a Republican campaign office soon to open in Lincoln and opening another in Millinocket, the 35-year-old Auburn businessman said the unemployment rate results from failed energy policies and by state and federal officials’ failure to protect Maine’s traditional industries.
Pointing to the Lincoln Paper & Tissue LLC smokestacks as he stood on Main Street in Lincoln, Levesque said the mill thrives despite energy costs that must decrease if the state economy is to rebound.
“It is very difficult to do business in the state of Maine. Energy costs are simply too high,” Levesque said Wednesday. “We can’t be supporting [alternative energy] businesses that are pushing out energy at 21 cents a kilowatt-hour.”
A spokesman for Michaud did not immediately return telephone and e-mail messages Wednesday.
Levesque said he would support siting a nuclear power plant in Maine for the benefits cheaper power would bring to Maine’s industries, especially the paper industry. A marketing executive, he said his experience as a business owner would help him improve Maine’s business environment.
Levesque brought his populist GOP message to downtown Lincoln, walking Main Street after hosting a meet-and-greet at Pit Road Concessions on West Broadway before meeting with local Republicans at the campaign office in Millinocket and attending a fundraiser at Millinocket’s Hillcrest Golf Club.
State Rep. Jeffery Gifford, R-Lincoln, and Maine Refounders-Tea Party candidate Traci Gauthier, who is running as the Republican candidate in Senate District 30, accompanied Levesque in Lincoln.
For Levesque, the walk-through is part of a six-day sweep through northern Maine. Wednesday’s visits were a chance to practice more of what he has been doing since he started his campaign a year ago — shaking hands, trading quips and biographical asides, and asking a lot of questions. At Smart’s True Value Hardware store in Lincoln, he introduced himself to owner Larry Smart.
“This is a third-generation business, is that right?” Levesque said. “You have a fourth generation here?”
“Yeah, I do, but they’re not coming in to the business,” Smart said.
“I have a 4-year-old you can have. We can trade him in,” Levesque joked.
Smart told him he thought that the federal stimulus package Congress passed last year has failed to get enough money into people’s hands. They agreed that despite the stimulus program and bank bailouts, financial institutions have failed to lend enough money to help local businesses expand.
Smart was glad for the face time with Levesque.
“It’s good to get him out and about,” Smart said.
Levesque will take a downtown walk through Presque Isle at 10 a.m. today and attend opening ceremonies of the Acadian Festival in Madawaska at 6 p.m. The candidate will hold meet-and-greets in Presque Isle, Stockholm and Madawaska on Saturday.