North to Augusta: Michaud: ‘Call me, ‘Mike”

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My name is Michael

What’s in a name? That’s the question some political observers are asking as opponents of Democratic candidate for governor, Congressman Mike Michaud, have taken to calling him Michael Michaud.

Unlike the character in the 1970s hit song “Playground in my Mind” by Clint Holmes, Michaud is decidedly a “Mike” and not a “Michael.”

The lyrics of Holmes’ ditty include the lines: “My name is Michael, I got a nickel, I got a nickel, shiny and new, I’m gonna buy me all kinds of candy, That’s what I’m gonna do … “

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Several television advertisements supporting Republican Gov. Paul LePage, including those from the Republican Governors Association, have been using Michaud’s full and formal first name, but the four-term U.S. congressman and former president of the Maine Senate has never really been known as Michael.

“I don’t know why they are doing that,” Michaud told the Sun Journal recently. “There are very few people who call me Michael.”

Even Michaud’s official congressional webpage uses his shortened handle of Congressman Mike Michaud. Michaud said most people call him simply Mike or Congressman Michaud.

Some have suggested the use of the more-formal Michael is an attempt to defamiliarize the longtime Maine politician and an attempt to undermine Michaud’s campaign theme of, “I like Mike.” After all what rhymes with Michael?

Alex Willette of the LePage camp said he thought the use of Michael was more an effort to “be as respectful as possible,” but Michaud’s campaign spokeswoman, Lizzy Reinholt, said that was a weak answer. “If they really wanted to be respectful, they would call him ‘Congressman Michaud.'” 

If elected, Michaud said Thursday he wouldn’t object to being called “Gov. Mike.”

No L/A governors’ debate in 2014

He was in, then he was out, then he was in again, except when he’s out. But it now appears that Republican Gov. Paul LePage will join his challengers, including Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, in at least five debates. But not the debate before the members of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Oct. 10.

LePage said in September said he wouldn’t debate Michaud, in protest to a television advertisement sponsored by a third-party political action committee, that suggests LePage called Medicare and Social Security “welfare.”

LePage said he doesn’t believe that and Michaud knows it and should denounce the ad. Michaud has not.

According to Alex Willette, the LePage campaign bowed out of the chamber event in September when it wrote to the chamber’s representative, Patti Gagne, saying they could not commit to the debate.

Gagne, a Republican, is running for one of Lewiston’s state Senate seats against Democratic state Rep. Nate Libby. 

Chip Morrison, the chamber’s executive director, said he recently hand-delivered a letter to LePage’s office, imploring the governor to attend, but so far he has not heard back.  

“It’s very disappointing to me that any candidate would not come,” Morrison said. “They are not holding a debate or a forum here where people can attend and I think that’s wrong, this is the second-largest area in the state.”

Morrison said a committee at the chamber has been working for two months to develop questions for the candidates. “Some of them probably will be asked no place else,” Morrison said.

LePage participated in the chamber’s debate in 2010, Morrison said. He said the chamber has held gubernatorial debates every four years for the past two decades and they are one of the organization’s most popular. About 400 chamber members are expected to attend. 

Willette, LePage’s campaign spokesman, confirmed Friday that LePage would not be there. “The governor received numerous requests for debates all across the state and, unfortunately, with the time commitment of being governor along with a very rigorous campaign schedule, we were not able to accommodate every request,” Willette said.

He said the campaign was looking forward to the five debates they have agreed to. They are: Oct. 8 before the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce; Oct. 9 before the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, Oct. 15 before the Maine Chamber of Commerce at the Augusta Civic Center, and televised debates on WGME on Oct. 20 and WMTW and WABI on Oct. 21.

The campaigns of Michaud and Cutler said they intend to participate in the Lewiston event.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

Sun Journal State Politics Editor Scott Thistle offers beyond-the-news observations on Maine politics.
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