It’s official: Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, will challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, for the 2nd Congressional District seat in November.

Last month, Raye announced he was forming an exploratory committee. On Thursday, he announced he had filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. 

“I am encouraged by the excellent response and expressions of support I’ve received across the district, from Waldo County to the St. John Valley, and from Fryeburg to Eastport,” Raye said in a statement. “I look forward to running an issue-oriented campaign focused on making Congress work better for the American people, encouraging job creation and getting federal spending and debt under control.”

Raye vowed to run an “issue-based” campaign that steered clear of “personal attacks.”

“Maine needs a strong voice in Congress, and Washington needs a dose of Maine common sense, where we are able to talk with each other and debate the issues in a way that encourages mutual respect and allows us to gets things done,” he said.

Political watchers are expecting Raye to present a tough test for Michaud, who narrowly beat Raye when the two were vying for an open seat in the 2nd District in 2002.

And, the Senate president has elevated his profile during the first year of the Republican-controlled state Legislature. 

Greg Olson, Michaud’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement that the congressman “takes all elections seriously and this one will be no different.”

“Mike’s as frustrated with Congress as many Mainers are right now,” Olson said. “To make Congress at least get their basic work accomplished, he’s pushing a bill to make sure members of Congress don’t get paid unless they pass a budget and appropriations bills on time.”

Olson highlighted Michaud’s other initiatives, including a funding boost for small businesses.

“Come the fall, we believe that Mike’s record of delivering results for veterans, investing in Maine’s economy and opposing unfair trade deals will resonate with Mainers,” Olson said.  

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Democrats highlight Raye’s work for national lobbying group

The Maine Democratic Party has been preparing its opposition to Maine Senate President Kevin Raye’s candidacy, which likely will pose a stern challenge for U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.

Party Chairman Ben Grant on Wednesday called on Raye to disclose more information about his work with the K Street lobbying organization AdvaMed. The Sun Journal recently reported that in 2009 and 2010 Raye was paid as a consultant by AdvaMed, an organization that spent nearly $16 million in the first six months of 2009 alone lobbying against the Affordable Care Act. 

According to Raye’s 2009 and 2010 income disclosures, the Senate president ran a consulting service called Down East Strategies LLC. The disclosures did not indicate how much Raye was paid, nor are they required to.

In 2009 and 2010, Raye’s Down East Strategies was employed by AdvaMed, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that represents some of the largest medical equipment manufacturers in the world, such as 3M, Siemens and Johnson & Johnson.

AdvaMed is among the medical instrument industry’s heavy hitters in Beltway lobbying. In 2009, the same year Raye did the bulk of the AdvaMed consulting work, the group spent $1.6 million lobbying Congress against a proposed $40 billion tax on medical equipment.

The fee was designed to finance the federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act. However, AdvaMed and similar trade groups lobbied hard against the tax, arguing that it would hurt consumers and industry research-and-development efforts.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, medical supply companies spent $15.7 million lobbying against the bill during the first six months of 2009. 

The money was divided between Democrats and Republicans. The industry also targeted lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee, the panel that did the heavy lifting on the medical equipment tax proposal. 

According to Raye, AdvaMed paid him to do public outreach about the tax proposal. 

“It was basically contacting Maine businesses and making them aware that the tax would hurt them,” Raye recently told the Sun Journal.

Raye said the work did not include lobbying U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. Snowe served on the Senate Finance Committee in 2009 and still does today. Raye was Snowe’s chief of staff for more than six years, until 2001.

Even though Raye filed statements showing income from AdvaMed in 2010, he said the bulk of his work was done during the tax debate in 2009. The last check from AdvaMed, he said, came in 2010, which is why he reported it last year.

AdvaMed’s membership is vast. Some of the companies it represents have lobbied the Maine Legislature. Some bills, including at least three in a long list lobbied between 2009 and 2010 by Johnson & Johnson, have been supported by Raye.

Raye says his work was exclusive to AdvaMed’s opposition to the federal tax.

“All the work occurred off session in 2009,” he said. “It was just another source of income.”

The Maine Democrats are attempting to exploit Raye’s involvement with AdvaMed. Grant, the party chairman, said Wednesday that “Mainers deserve to know more about Kevin Raye’s lobbying career.”

Grant said Raye should have disclosed how much he was paid by AdvaMed “and the full scope of his work for the organizations.”

The state’s disclosure law does not require lawmakers to report exactly how much money they earned. Maine legislators are required to report certain gifts and sources of income that exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of their annual income. Raye’s work for AdvaMed fell under the latter category.