EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Anti-incumbent sentiment that appeared to be giving Republicans control of the House of Representatives didn’t keep Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud from winning re-election in convincing fashion Tuesday in the 2nd Congressional District.
As of 11:40 p.m., Michaud had 62,066 votes, or 56.7 percent, to GOP challenger Jason Levesque’s 47,400 votes, or 43.3 percent, in unofficial returns compiled by the Bangor Daily News. The win was the 55-year-old East Millinocket resident’s fifth since replacing John Baldacci eight years ago.
“I understand that my opponent has conceded,” Michaud said during a short victory speech at Grassroots Catering of East Millinocket at about 10:50 p.m. “I want to thank people for sending me back to Washington. We have a lot of work to do. We need to get the economy moving again.”
But when contacted by a reporter Tuesday night, Angela Levesque, a relative of the Republican candidate, said that as far as the Republican could tell, only about 30 percent of the votes were in and Levesque had not yet conceded. She said he would make a statement shortly.
Michaud said he believed he would win because he ran a positive campaign and showed that he understands and fights to answer Maine’s needs, which was one of the themes he ran on.
“Maine has unique issues,” Michaud said. “My opponent was using a lot of talking points that the GOP used at the federal level.”
As an example, Michaud cited Levesque’s criticism of his vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act even though Republican U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted for it as well.
The setup at Michaud’s election night headquarters was casual: Campaign manager Greg Olson toted the results as they came in over a laptop computer on a dry erase board, with Michaud’s totals in blue and Levesque’s in red. The atmosphere was convivial, as the tote board results never showed Michaud having fallen behind.
Michaud opened Tuesday with a narrowing lead over Levesque in the latest poll. Michaud had 44 percent to Levesque’s 40 percent, according to the poll, commissioned by MaineToday Media and released Sunday.
Levesque spent much of the day campaigning with Snowe in and around his hometown of Auburn. They visited Happy Days Diner in Auburn and Governor’s Restaurant in Lewiston before Levesque went to Fairview Elementary School in Auburn to vote.
Michaud spent most of Tuesday afternoon in Bangor shaking hands with voters at the civic center. He said he felt good about his chances against Levesque and was especially proud that he was able to run what he termed a very positive campaign.
“There is definitely anti-incumbent sentiment out there,” Michaud said. “But people are more concerned about jobs and the economy and that’s what I’ve been talking about.”
That sentiment was only intermittently apparent in Lincoln at the Mat-tanawcook Academy polls. Michael Farrell said he had voted a straight Republican ticket, including for Levesque.
“I liked a lot of his ideas and I kind of think it is time for a change,” Farrell said. “I think with a lot of people, the economy is down, jobs are down, and people want change.”
During the campaign, both candidates focused on the economy, with Levesque attacking Michaud’s votes for the health care reform bill and the stimulus legislation.
Levesque attempted to capitalize on voter frustration with the economy and big government when he characterized Michaud as an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who long ago had stopped listening to Mainers and their concerns.
For his part, Michaud tried to walk a thin line between acknowledging his votes for health care reform and the stimulus package but also portraying himself as an independent thinker, ready to fight for Mainers and take on elements of his own party.
BDN writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.