|2nd District Campaign is Anything But Black & White|
Sept. 22, 2002 -- In a sprawling congressional district that runs through central and northern Maine, both national parties are pinning their hopes on a pair of candidates with unlikely campaign strategies. The race between state Senate President Michael Michaud, a pro-life, pro-union Democrat, and Kevin Raye, a pro-choice, pro-business Republican, is running neck and neck.
"Maine is one of those very difficult states to categorize politically, and these two candidates are equally difficult to categorize," the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter told The Boston Globe. "In a world, especially in politics, where we like to have a black and white way of looking at things, Maine and this race just don't fit that mold."
John Baldacci, a moderate Democrat who has represented the district since 1995, is running for governor, leaving the race open. Before Baldacci, two moderate Republicans had held the seat, Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a legacy that is feeding GOP hopes they may win back the district.
U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia and head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, visited the region in late August, offering moral -- and some $70,000 of financial -- support.
"It's a fascinating race," Davis told the Portland Press Herald. "We're going to make sure Kevin has the resources to win, but you don't win these races from Washington... This race will be won or lost in Maine by Maine voters, and I don't think either candidate will be hurting for resources."
Most expect the candidates the spend some $1 million dollars before Election Day.
But what makes this race so competitive and so tough to call is the unusual alliances that have backed each candidate.
Michaud, a paper mill worker, has focused his campaign on his blue-collar life outside his work as a state senator.
"I've been working in the mill for over 28 years," Michaud said. "I know what it's like to work the day shift, the midnight shift. I've been on strike. I know what it's like to worry about whether you will have a job or not."
But it is his backing by the National Rifle Association and tobacco giant Phillip Morris and his stance on abortion that have made headlines. Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League have both contributed to the Raye campaign.
A poll published Sept. 13, found more women supporting Raye -- an unusual statistic since nationally women tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
"You have what I would call a reverse gender gap," Amy Fried, a professor at the University of Maine in Orono, told Maine Public Radio. "Twice the percentage of women cited that [abortion rights] as an important issue as opposed to men. So it may end up being an issue."
Raye has worked for more than 17 years for Sen. Snowe. He makes no apologies for the fact he has worked in the nation's capital and has even embraced it in his campaign motto: "Ready on Day One."
"I do have some experience that would be helpful to Maine," Raye said. "My experience under Snowe will allow me to hit the ground running."
Michaud has countered with his own slogan - "I'm One of Us, Working for Us" - saying he has stronger roots in the state.
"He [Raye] wants support from other Washington insiders, that's fine," Michaud said at an early Sept. editorial board meeting at the Bangor Daily News. "I'll win support from Maine businesses and Maine people."
But both candidates have focused on health care and the economy as the leading issues.
In early September, the Maine Chamber of Commerce endorsed Raye, saying they believed his policies would better serve the district.
"The central issue facing Maine's Second District is the economy," Raye said of the endorsement. "We can take positive steps to create new jobs and increase job security for all"
Michaud, who is backed by almost every major union, stresses the need for better trade policies and more worker rights. In particular, he criticized Congress for granting President Bush fast-track authority to negotiate new trade pacts.
"Anyone who has watched their neighbors who have lost their jobs, load up a U-Haul and move their families out of Maine as I have done, knows when it comes to trade our congressman must insist ... that the rules of the game must be fair," Michaud said at a Chamber of Commerce forum Sept. 4.