Ask Kevin Raye why his chances for winning Maine’s 2nd Congressional District might be better now than when he opposed Democratic incumbent Mike Michaud 10 years ago and the state Senate president will point to the government he helps guide.
Besides the weight that comes with having a Republican, Paul LePage, in the governor’s office, Republicans dominate among the state senators and representatives who live within the 2nd District. Fifteen of the 19 state senators and two-thirds of the 75 state representatives within the district are members of the GOP, Raye noted.
“That tells me that the district has changed since 2002, when Michaud was first elected,” Raye said Thursday.
“The other dynamic that’s different this time is that previously when I ran, Mike was the Senate president just coming off of 22 years there, and I had never been elected to anything,” Raye added, “so there were people who were describing me as inexperienced. I certainly didn’t yet have the legislative experience to demonstrate leadership like I have now.”
Raye won his party’s primary on Tuesday by defeating challenger Blaine Richardson 18,282 votes to 12,297 votes, or 59.8 percent to 40.2 percent, according to unofficial tallies compiled by the Bangor Daily News.
When Michaud and Raye faced each other in 2002, Michaud, then Maine Senate president pro tempore, got 52.6 percent of the vote to 47.4 percent for Raye.
Both candidates already have sparred this time around about the money they had raised before Tuesday’s primary.
Michaud campaign manager Greg Olson doesn’t see much difference in the district now. Nor does he believe that the district, the largest east of the Mississippi River, skews as much to the right as Raye believes.
“Maine voters are not partisans. It can be shown over the years that they split tickets and they vote for the person, not the party,” Olson said Thursday.
Maine voting patterns can be stubbornly individualistic, Olson said. In 2008, despite Barack Obama’s landslide victory for president, Maine voters still re-elected Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins by a healthy margin.
Democrats finished much more strongly in-state than the Republicans in 2006, but U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, for whom Raye was once chief of staff, won her race. And Michaud easily defeated his GOP opponents in 2006, 2008 and 2010, Olson noted.
Raye “is welcome to really wear that partisan label,” Olson said. “I don’t believe that will be to his advantage.”
And Mainers might not be too easily disposed to forget how free trade agreements, which President George W. Bush supported and Michaud opposed, have hurt Maine’s economy, Olson said.
“In 2002 he [Raye] was a strong supporter of Bush-Cheney and I think the Bush-Cheney record speaks for itself,” Olson said. “We have a couple of wars overseas, growing deficits and significant economic problems that date back to that time.”
“Maine is fortunate to have a fierce opponent to the free trade agenda in Mike Michaud,” Olson said.
Raye believes that Michaud is not nearly as strong a candidate as he once might have been. After capturing more than 70 percent of the vote and defeating Scott D’Amboise in 2006, Michaud’s winning percentages steadily have declined, Raye said.
Raye and Olson said both candidates plan to run on their records. Raye, who announced his campaign early last month, likely will try to persuade voters to concentrate on Michaud’s support for President Obama’s agenda, while Michaud will tout his work to bolster Maine’s economy.
“The defining issues will be the fiscal issues, and the issues we have taken on at the state level are conservative issues in terms of being concerned about debt and profligate spending,” Raye said.
Olson indicated that Michaud probably will be more concerned with his congressional responsibilities and save the bulk of his electioneering until after Labor Day, while Raye said he has a few campaign stops planned over the next several days.
The National Republican Congressional Committee boosted the Raye campaign Thursday when it announced Raye as a “Contender” candidate, one of those the national party feels has a strong chance of winning in November.