BANGOR, Maine — Mike Michaud sees himself as an answer to Washington gridlock, a fighter for Maine’s people, with a long list of congressional accomplishments and more work yet to do.
Jason Levesque sees himself as the answer to Mike Michaud, someone who will do a better job of listening to Mainers and who will steadfastly oppose the major policy initiatives of the Obama administration.
Both 2nd Congressional District candidates presented themselves to the Maine Association of Broadcasters 2010 Convention on Saturday as northern Maine’s next congressman.
“We have issues that are not on the agendas of either political party,” Michaud, a Democrat from East Millinocket, said during the association’s candidates forum. “All too often, Maine is left behind in all too many areas.”
A Republican telemarketing entrepreneur from Auburn, Levesque said he would work to repeal President Barack Obama’s massive reform of the U.S. health care system and cap-and-trade bill, and called the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act a failure.
All were supported by Michaud against the wishes of the people of his district, he said, resulting in a recent poll that showed Michaud with an approval rating of less than 50 percent — big trouble for a multiterm incumbent.
“The people have already fired him,” Levesque said. “They are just looking now for his successor.”
Michaud touted his having helped establish a regional trade commission that will draw $30 million in federal economic development funds annually to Maine; four new medical access points for veterans; federal laws allowing trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds on Interstate 95 north of Augusta; and tariffs on Chinese and Indonesian paper imports that will greatly aid the state’s forest products industry, particularly mills in Rumford, Skowhegan and Westbrook.
His efforts have laid the groundwork for a major east-west highway from Calais to Watertown, N.Y., he said, making Eastport a viable transshipment port for cattle and U.S. Army vehicles.
“I think we have a great opportunity to work with the military” and establish Eastport as a transshipment point for Humvees, Michaud said.
Levesque said he supports tort reform that would improve American health care; less restrictive environmental regulation of business; keeping the Bush administration’s tax cuts; and lowering the federal government’s debt ceiling.
“We cannot afford to raise taxes on anyone,” Levesque said. “If anything, we need to reduce regulations and really look at reducing taxes.”
Levesque neither endorsed nor disparaged the tea party movement, calling its members “a group of people who come from all walks of life, believe in the Constitution and think something is broken in government.”
“I am not sure if they understand everything they are rallying around,” he added.
He and Michaud described themselves as conciliators.
“I am not one for labels,” Levesque said. “If [an idea] is smart and it’s good, I will listen to it.”
Michaud touted helping pass 22 bills dealing with veterans issues as a sign of his ability to negotiate around ideological differences.
“The biggest disappointment in [dealing with] Washington is that it’s so partisan. The leaders in both parties do not sit down and talk to each other about the issues,” Michaud said, “but I have always worked very well with Republicans on veterans issues … That [bipartisanship] is what’s missing in Washington.”