|Maine House Race Stays Close Down To Wire|
Oct. 31, 2002 -- In Southern Maine's Second Congressional District the race between two very different, but highly experienced candidates is playing out beneath the national news radar, even as control of the House of Representatives may hang in the balance.
In the one corner stands Senate President Michael Michaud, a pro-life, pro-union Democrat; in the other, Kevin Raye, a pro-choice, pro-business Republican.
Despite visits by national Democratic leaders and President George Bush, neither man has been able to pull away in recent polls. One survey released this week reported Michaud with 37 percent of the vote to Raye's 36 percent.
Even though the race has grabbed little of the national media's attention, national party attention and money has poured into the region.
Michaud has garnered the support of several critical national and state Democrats, including former Senate Majority Leader and Maine Senator George Mitchell.
"Michaud's record of working to improve Maine's economy, to protect the rights of sportsmen and women, and to improve educational opportunities make him the perfect person to represent Maine values in Washington," Mitchell wrote in an Oct. 31 op-ed in the Portland Press-Herald.
"Michaud has the experience, is right on the issues, has the proven integrity to represent Maine and has earned the support of the people of Maine's Second District," Mitchell added.
In addition to a visit by President Bush to his district, Raye has lined up several critical newspaper endorsements in recent days.
"Through a series of crucial debates, Mr. Raye showed himself able to answer the range of questions on health care and terrorism, education and the environment and a dozen other topics with calm, well-reasoned replies that indicate both that he has given careful consideration to these issues and that he is a moderate in the tradition of successful Maine Republicans before him," The Bangor News editorialized on Oct. 28.
The Portland Press Herald also endorsed Raye. Both editorials stressed the experience of both candidates, but the Press Herald added in its Oct. 24 editorial, "Although Michaud has compiled a strong record during his career in the State House and would serve the entire 2nd District well, Raye has made a strong case that his tenure as Sen. Olympia Snowe's chief of staff has indeed prepared him to serve on 'Day One.'"
Despite the media endorsements for Raye, many voters have responded to Michaud's blue-collar roots and pro-union stance.
"With manufacturing jobs, including those in paper mills, vanishing at an astonishing rate, Michaud knows that is not the way it will be. That's why he has been a strong supporter of education. Michaud is proud of his working-class roots. Proud of being a blue collar guy. Proud of his support of organized labor. Proud to be from rural Maine," Joe Rankin wrote in the Oct. 30 central Maine Morning Sentinel.
On the trail, issues have largely focused on job creation and sweeping health care reform. Both Michaud and Raye have endorsed massive expansions in prescription drug coverage and other health matters while opposing a nationalized system like that in neighboring Canada.