Michaud leaves Congress uncertain of his future


AUGUSTA (AP) — After losing his bid for governor and saying farewell to Congress, Mike Michaud has only two things on his agenda: spending time with his dog and finally getting to sleep at his northern Maine home.

What comes after that, however, is less clear.

The Democrat, who lost to incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage in a three-way race last month, said he won’t rule out anything — even seeking public office again — but had given little thought so far to his next move.

“There will be plenty of time to focus on that in January,” the 59-year-old said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from his house in East Millinocket.

He called leaving Washington last week after 12 years “bittersweet” but said he had no regrets about giving up his 2nd Congressional District seat to run for the Blaine House.

“The fact that this governor has led the state down the wrong path for the last four years, that’s why I decided to run,” Michaud said.

The former mill worker who never attended college was first elected in 1980 to the Maine Legislature, where he served seven terms in the state House and four terms in the Senate. He was elected to Congress in 2003.

Once there, he joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus made up of fiscally conservative Democrats, and dedicated his time to veterans’ issues, becoming a ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Michaud said he was proud of what he helped accomplish for veterans, such as bringing outpatient clinics to Lewiston and Bangor and creating a program in Aroostook County where veterans can get specialty care instead of having to drive to the VA Medical Center in Augusta.

But he also kept a low profile in Washington, which Republicans used against him on the campaign trail, accusing him of not getting anything done.

In November 2013, Michaud announced he is gay amid what he called a “whisper campaign.” If he had won the 2014 election, he would have been the first openly gay candidate elected governor. Michaud said he was encouraged that his decision to come out did not play a big role in the governor’s race.

“I probably lost some votes but probably gained some votes as well,” he said. “I think it shows as a state that we have come a long ways.”

As Michaud unpacks the final boxes from his Washington office, Republican Bruce Poliquin, a former state treasurer who knocked off Democrat Emily Cain in November, is getting ready to take his seat.

Michaud said he encourages Poliquin to “keep an open mind” in Congress.

“I know there will be a lot of pressure for him to follow the party line,” he said. “But just focus on what’s best for the people in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.”