BANGOR, Maine — Despite the release Wednesday of poll figures that include him in a hypothetical three-way race for governor in 2014, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said he has yet to decide if he will make a run for the Blaine House.
Asked during an appearance at the offices of the Maine People’s Alliance whether he intends to run, Michaud said that he continues to give the idea his consideration.
“Actually since an article came out about a month ago, I’m really impressed and heartened by the encouragement I have received from a lot of different people here in the state of Maine, from both political parties as well,” he said, referring to a Bangor Daily News article published March 4 that reported he was considering a run for governor.
“So I definitely will be looking at it but right now my focus is to do what I was elected to do as a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. That’s where my primary focus is today,” he said.
Michaud declined to offer his reaction to two conflicting sets of survey results released on Wednesday.
The Normington Petts internal poll of 800 Mainers, which has a 3.5 percent margin of error, shows Michaud at 33 percent, Republican Gov. Paul LePage at 36 percent and Eliot Cutler, an independent, trailing at 20 percent in a hypothetical three-way gubernatorial race.
That survey, which has 4.9 percent margin of error, indicated that LePage would lead any three-way gubernatorial race that pitted him against Cutler or any other likely Democratic challenger. Michaud would finish third in a race against LePage and Cutler, according to the SMS poll.
Michaud was in Bangor on Wednesday to speak with Mainers affected by the impasse over expanding MaineCare coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Among those who turned out to meet with Michaud were a woman battling breast cancer whose access to painkillers has significantly been reduced; a recent college graduate who has no insurance coverage because she is still looking for work; and a former health insurance company employee who lost her job — along with her health insurance — after developing a serious heart condition.
During the discussion, organized by the Maine People’s Alliance, five Maine residents told Michaud why they believe the state should accept the millions of dollars in federal funds made available to Maine through the federal health care law, which Michaud supported.
Michaud noted that if MaineCare was expanded in Maine, an additional 69,500 residents would have coverage.
“It’s the right thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do. It’s the economic thing to do,” he said.
Maine’s Republican governor is among several in the United States who adamantly oppose the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s health care reform law.
Some of the law’s loudest gubernatorial critics recently have softened their opposition and endorsed the reform law’s major expansion of Medicaid. Thus far, LePage is not among them. Although he has given no official indication that he plans to change his mind and allow Maine’s Medicaid program to grow, he is discussing a potential expansion with federal officials.
Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew last month requested that the federal government cover 100 percent of Maine’s expansion costs for a decade — rather than the three years prescribed in federal law — as a condition for Maine to participate in the expansion.
In a strongly worded statement issued Wednesday in response to Michaud’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, LePage said the federal reimbursement rate for Mainecare has significantly decreased over the past three years.
“The decrease in rates has created massive financial hardship for Maine. We have yet to receive any guarantee from the federal government that it can fully fund Medicaid expansion,” he said.
LePage said Maine is facing significant budget problems as a result of the last Medicaid expansion, which he said was financed temporarily by federal stimulus money and neglected to pay Maine’s 39 hospitals, resulting in a half-billion dollar debt.
LePage also noted that the federal debt has more than doubled since Michaud has been in Congress.
“Unlike the career politicians in Washington, D.C, the Maine governor has to balance the budget,” he said. “Congressman Michaud, what is your plan to balance the federal budget, which already has a deficit of $17 trillion, and create a sustainable Medicaid program for our country? Where does the money come from? You can’t govern a state on empty promises from the federal government.”