LEWISTON — Congressman Mike Michaud, the Democrat seeking to be Maine’s next governor, gained the support of two high-profile Republicans as he rolled out a multipoint plan for better serving the state’s veterans Monday.
During an appearance at Lewiston’s Veterans Memorial Park at 2 Main St, Anthony Principi, a former secretary of the Veterans Administration and an appointee of Republican Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, heralded Michaud’s efforts in Washington to help the nation’s veterans.
Michaud is in a race against Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, a Cape Elizabeth businessman and attorney.
Principi praised Michaud’s ability to craft bipartisan compromise and credited him helping save some of Maine’s military installations and bringing in new outpatient clinics for veterans in Maine.
“I’m here as a lifelong Republican because I believe in Mike Michaud,” Principi said. “He is a decent, hard-working, humble man. He is not looking for the limelight. It was not about Congressman Michaud. It was, ‘How can I help the veterans of this nation? How can I help the people of Maine?”
Principi, who is a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran and Naval Academy graduate, said efforts to improve the lot of U.S. veterans need to be bipartisan. Approximately 30 veterans from the Lewiston-Auburn area joined in the news conference Monday, chanting, “Vets like Mike” and cheering alternately for Michaud.
“When all of us here don the uniform of our country and went off to war, we didn’t have a D or an R after our name,” Principi said. “We just went over as young Americans to fight for a cause, and we fought as a team to come together so we could accomplish our mission.”
Joining Principi on Monday in endorsing Michaud was former U.S. Congressman Steve Buyer, R-Ind. Buyer said he worked with Michaud on the Veterans Affairs Committee in Congress. He touted Michaud’s ability to study the facts and put aside partisan rhetoric in crafting solutions for veterans and their families.
Buyer called Michaud “a man of prudence.”
“He understands that prudence is a parent to success,” Buyer said, noting Michaud was smart in not asking for too much all at once for the possibility of getting nothing. “He’s very thoughtful and very methodical about how he approaches a particular issue. He doesn’t allow the chaos of the moment to really disturb him. He has a great balance about him and he will actually dive into the facts and is eager to allow those facts to define how we can best proceed.”
Buyer also said Michaud had a sense of “civility, kindness and politeness.”
“He knows those three virtues that cost nothing are worth plenty,” Buyer said. “He also knows that adversity has no friends and I think it actually drives Mike Michaud.”
In his multipoint plan, Michaud said as governor he would ensure that every state department work to better inform veterans about state and federal programs and services.
Also joining Principi and Buyer was retired Brig. Gen. Don McCormack. McCormack, a Republican who served as a political appointee in LePage’s administration and is a former assistant adjutant general for Air for the Maine National Guard.
Like LePage, McCormack is a Lewiston native. He endorsed Michaud first in September.
“I saw firsthand what our governor defines as leadership,” McCormack said of LePage. “To me, fear, intimidation and disrespect for your employees are not effective leadership. They are not effective leadership.”
McCormack said Michaud understood how to work together with others to solve problems. He said Michaud’s even temperament would serve him well as a leader of the state.
LePage’s campaign was quick to dismiss the importance of Principi’s and Buyer’s appearance and sought to discredit both by noting Buyer resigned from Congress in the midst of an ethics probe and Principi left government service to become a lobbyist in Washington.
A news release issued by LePage’s campaign also suggested Michaud and Buyer were both trying to distance themselves from ongoing controversies over the mistreatment of veterans at Veterans Administration hospitals.
“Michaud is campaigning with people who let down our nation’s veterans when they should have acted,” Alex Willette, a spokesman for LePage’s campaign said in a prepared statement. “Michaud is circling the wagons to avoid individual scrutiny but it’s time for Congressman Michaud to stop trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes and accept responsibility to his part in the VA disaster.”
Michaud said he wanted to “shine a spotlight” on four key veterans’ issues, including mental health services, rural access, veterans’ services for women and improving and maximizing the state’s relationship with the federal Veterans Administration.
He promised to “modernize” Maine’s Bureau of Veterans Services to focus on four key areas — access to information for veterans, community integration for veterans returning home to Maine after service, education and employment.
“I will demand efficiency and effective government,” Michaud said. “This will ensure every taxpayer dollar will be spent on supporting Maine’s veterans, not on ineffective programs and red tape. I will not allow the bureaucracy to stand in the way of progress.”
Michaud said just making sure veterans were aware of the services available to them would be a key focus.
“The bottom line will be no veteran in the state of Maine will be left behind because of a lack of information,” Michaud said.