In the 2002 congressional campaign to replace outgoing Congressman John Baldacci, then-Maine Senate President Michael Michaud defeated Kevin Raye to win the seat. We supported Michaud in that race based on his political experience, his connection to working people and his folksy, friendly nature.
It is now time for a change.
During the past decade, Michaud has adopted a low-key profile on everything but veterans issues, and is comfortably part of an increasingly listless Congress.
We can’t afford listless.
Maine has only two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and we need someone in the 2nd District seat who is aggressive about jobs, the economy, cost-cutting and responsible spending.
Maine’s current Senate president, Kevin Raye, is that person.
A Maine native who runs a successful small family business, Raye is among the state’s largest employer groups: small business owners.
He understands the struggles and rewards of making his own way, and the tough personal decisions and sacrifices that have to be made along that path.
He also knows Washington, having worked for Sen. Olympia Snowe there for 17 years, including more than six years as her chief-of-staff, a fact that she has publicly said makes Raye well equipped for Congress himself.
Raye lives in Perry — a town of fewer than 1,000 residents — and represents Washington County, and parts of Hancock and Penobscot counties. So, naturally, his focus while serving in the state Senate has been to address the inequities faced by rural Mainers. This is vital experience to bring to Washington, where he will be needed to fight that fight on a much larger scale.
A Republican who represents his party proudly, Raye — like Snowe — is not hanging on the right wing. He’s a guy of balance between funding programs and responsible spending, of examining need against revenue and making solid financial decisions that serve society.
Isn’t that what we want in our congressman? Thoughtful balance?
As we noted in 2010 when endorsing Jason Levesque for the 2nd District seat, Michaud is one of Washington’s so-called Blue Dogs, a gently right-leaning Democrat. Even with his lean, though, he’s a loyalist to his party. And, since everyone outside the Beltway recognizes that partisanship is killing this country’s unity, Maine can’t afford a representative who is comfortably following the party.
We need a leader who is, as Raye has demonstrated, a consensus builder and a doer.
Michaud defends his low-profile — which is so low he has twice been included in Roll Call’s so-called Obscure Caucus of the non-influential — by saying he’s not a show horse. He’s a workhorse.
He’s become a power lifter on veterans issues, and his skills and passion to help veterans has been his signature work in Congress.
According to the Maine Department of Labor, we have the fourth highest percent of veterans among our population, a fact that demonstrates a proud streak of volunteerism and patriotism. However, on average, the rate of disability among veterans is higher than among non-veterans, pushing up treatment costs in Maine and contributing to under-employability rates here.
That’s expensive, and it’s a problem that must be addressed.
Being a congressman is more than a one-issue job, though, and Michaud’s experience and passion would be put to better use inside the Veterans Administration where he can bring the changes instituted in Maine to the rest of the country, for the benefit of all veterans.
Although dismayed by what he calls the hyper-partisanship and polarization of Washington, Raye is determined to battle the current and rigid “take no prisoners” approach currently residing within the Capitol’s walls.
One step in that direction, he believes, is working to repair the damage of the Citizens United decision that now shields the source of big money in political campaigns. It won’t be an easy fix, he said, but he thinks it’s worth the effort to bring the vote back to the people.
That's not party line. That's representing Maine people.
And that's who we need in Washington: Kevin Raye.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.