BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud portrayed himself as an experienced battler of Beltway gridlock who wants voters to return him to his 2nd Congressional District seat to build upon his many successes.
Kevin Raye etched himself as a Washington outsider, a conciliator in the mold of his political mentor, Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, whose election would send an authentic Maine small businessman to Washington, D.C.
The East Millinocket Democrat and Republican state Senate president from Perry debated Tuesday for the first time since their first matchup almost a decade ago as part of a candidates’ forum at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel. The Bangor Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.
The candidates displayed differing debate styles. Raye discussed his political philosophies at some length, and in personal terms. Michaud spoke more in lists of accomplishment and details. Both agreed that improving Maine’s economy is job No. 1 for whoever wins the election on Nov. 6.
Michaud said he has worked hard to make the federal government work for Maine. He touted his role in helping to create the Northern Border Trade Commission, save the New Balance shoe factory in Skowhegan, and increase truck weight limits on federal roads to aid northern Maine businesses.
Raye doubted that federal government can solve the challenges it faces.
“Washington is broken. That is a simple fact,” Raye said. He called the nation’s capitol a scene of “bitter partisanship and polarization” that drove Snowe, for whom Raye had served as a chief of staff, from office.
“There is a lack of respect and civility in Washington that is like a cancer on this nation’s [government]. People don’t talk to each other,” Raye said. “We are poised to fall off a fiscal cliff and leave this country worse off than when we found it.”
Raye worked across party lines to pass five state budgets, reduce government debt by $5.1 billion, and met weekly with state Democratic House and Senate leaders to keep bipartisanship strong, he said. Raye promised he would do the same in Washington if elected.
The federal government has an “addiction to spending and debt,” Raye said. “The economic crisis we face is as a result of debt. It is at the heart of the problems our country faces.”
Michaud said his influence helped improve veterans’ access to health care statewide, is propelling federal laws that will keep U.S. soldiers clad only in American-made clothing and supported regulations that increased loans to small businesses and lessened IRS pressure on them.
“There was a lot we were able to do to help small businesses grow that had not been done,” Michaud said.
The candidates agreed on closing U.S. military bases overseas to save money and protecting Medicare and Social Security. Michaud opposed Medicare vouchers; Raye indicated he would consider any reasonable option to guarantee that Medicare and Social Security continue.
Noting that 99 percent of Maine’s business community is small businesses, Raye said he would work to free businesses from overtaxation and overregulation. His experience of running a mustard factory with his wife gave him a great understanding of what small businesses face.
“I come from a community where fishing is a way of life. I understand the importance of saving not only the species in the ocean, but the fisherman as well,” Raye said.
The candidates will next appear on WABI-TV 5 in Bangor on Thursday, with forums scheduled for Oct. 25 and Oct. 30 on Maine Public Broadcasting Network and radio station and on a simulcast on WCSH and WLBZ in Portland and Bangor.