AUBURN, Maine — In a tag-team appearance Thursday, two of the top Democratic candidates in Maine’s fall elections accepted a pair of boxing gloves from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare for their efforts to protect those programs for senior citizens and others.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and a candidate for governor, appeared with state Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono. Cain is seeking to replace Michaud in Congress. She faces Republican Bruce Poliquin and independent Blaine Richardson.

Michaud is running against Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, a businessman from Cape Elizabeth.

During a stop at Schooner Estates, a senior living facility in Auburn, Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, touted Michaud’s efforts in Washington to help defeat proposed cost-of-living reductions for Social Security recipients. Richtman also praised Michaud for supporting an expansion of MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

LePage has vetoed legislation five times that would have expanded MaineCare under the federal Affordable Care Act, while drawing down federal funds to pay for most of the expansion.

Maine is one of only a handful of states that has not expanded its Medicaid programs under the ACA. Richtman noted that 70 percent of those receiving Medicaid benefits are senior citizens, so the expansion would help low-income seniors as well as others who are unable to afford health insurance.

Cutler has said he would support an expansion of MaineCare under the ACA.

Alex Willette, a spokesman for LePage’s campaign, dismissed the endorsement and suggested the committee was a partisan group because it appears to have only endorsed Democratic candidates.

“Gov. LePage has made seniors a top priority as governor,” Willette said. “He’s reformed the tax on their pensions, saving seniors millions of dollars each year, with the goal of eliminating the tax on pension completely in his second term.”

Willette said he was at first surprised the group would endorse Michaud because he once voted to tax Social Security when he was in the state Legislature. “But after digging a little bit deeper, I realized they only endorse Democratic candidates and this really wasn’t a nonpartisan group like some of the others out there.”

Richtman said Michaud’s efforts to protect fair cost-of-living increases for Social Security was just one example of the many votes Michaud has taken to protect the federal programs that many senior citizens depend on.

“We are very grateful for what your congressman did in that battle — but not just that battle,” Richtman said. He said Michaud has steadily received the group’s top rating, 100 percent, for every term he’s been in Washington.

“Every time Congressman Michaud voted on issues important to seniors, he voted the right way,” Richtman said.

Richtman said his organization, which includes about 15,000 members in Maine, usually only endorses candidates for Congress and doesn’t venture into gubernatorial races. He said the group was supporting Michaud’s candidacy for governor because of his support for expanding Medicaid.

He said Cain was his group’s choice in the 2nd Congressional District race. Cain, he said, interviewed with his organization and was by far the candidate seniors could trust to protect Social Security and Medicare.

He said Cain would carry on Michaud’s legacy of protecting seniors in Washington.

“Nobody has answered the questions as firmly on the side of seniors for Medicaid, for Social Security, as Emily Cain has,” Richtman said. He said Thursday’s dual endorsements were a first for his group.

Richtman presented Cain and Michaud with a pair of boxing gloves and urged them to keep fighting for senior citizens.

Michaud said he was very appreciative of the endorsement because it was so unusual for the group to endorse in a governor’s race.

“Social Security and Medicare were created based upon the American values that those who work hard and play by the rules should be able to live in dignity and respect when they get older,” Michaud said. “These incredible programs have provided a secure retirement to thousands upon thousands of hardworking men and women who have earned them one paycheck at a time.”

Cain said she too was pleased with the endorsement and promised she would continue to fight for senior citizens.

“As a member of Congress, I will be a voice for people who too often go unheard,” Cain said. “I promise you, every day I’m in Congress, just like every day I was in Augusta, I will be there for you — at the table to get things done.”

Richtman said his group’s political action committee would be involved in the races in Maine. He said it had a variety of options, including sending postcards to members and making independent expenditures on behalf of the candidates, but he did not offer any details.

Poliquin said later Thursday he, too, has been committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare as well.

“As I said in my very first speech following the primary election, one of my No. 1 goals as our next congressman is to protect and preserve Social Security and Medicare,” Poliquin said in a statement released by his campaign.


Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.