He's behind the shoe.
Well, it has officially begun. When 2nd District Congressman Mike Michaud announced last week that he was forming a committee to explore running for governor against Paul LePage in 2014, Maine's next gubernatorial showdown started to take shape. Eliot Cutler publicly stated his intent to run earlier this month on the WGAN morning radio show. Three other individuals — Democrat Steve Woods (who ran for Olympia Snowe's US Senate seat in 2012), Green Independent David Slagger, and independent Lee Schultheis — have already registered as candidates.
Michaud, a Democrat from the Penobscot County town of Medway, has served in Congress since 2003; before that, he served in the state legislature for more than 20 years, including a stint as Senate President. He was also a mill worker and supervisor for two decades at Great Northern Paper Company in East Millinocket. While in Congress, his focus has been on veterans' issues, global trade policies and how they affect local economies, and rural job creation. He has always won re-election handily with between 55 and 70 percent of the vote.
In a radio interview with Ethan Strimling, Michaud admitted that the prospect of giving up his safe Congressional seat made making this (non)decision "extremely tough."
"Even though Congress is dysfunctional, I still like the work I'm doing down there," he said, before issuing a LePage-specific barb. "We need a governor who can restore civility in Augusta while treating everyone with dignity and respect," he said.
LePage immediately went on the offensive, in a statement issued by the governor's political advisor, Brent Littlefield.
"Politician Michael Michaud has decided to make a political announcement on a day when his party has finally admitted they were wrong, with the [state] senate passing Governor LePage's plan to pay off Maine's massive welfare hospital debt left behind by their last Democratic governor," the statement reads. "Under Governor LePage the State of Maine is finally paying its overdue bills, jobs are being created, the unemployment rate is dropping and the economy is on the mend." (And his veto of the bipartisan Medicaid-expansion bill ensures we're turning down $690 million in health-care savings, too, but nevermind that.)
"Politician Michael Michaud has been in politics for over three decades," Littlefield's statement continued. "In his three decades as a politician, Michael Michaud has supported tax increases, job killing regulations and helped grow the deficit and debt in Washington to the point where it now reaches nearly 17 trillion dollars."
(Wait, so is Michaud a politician? We can't tell. Is LePage?)
Michaud immediately had a concrete achievement to tout. On the night of his announcement, the US House passed a Michaud-sponsored amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require any footwear provided to members of the Armed Forces be made in America. (See "Maine Sneaker-maker Could Provide Military Footwear," by Deirdre Fulton, September 23, 2011.)
The longstanding Berry Amendment states that the Department of Defense cannot provide clothing items for servicemembers unless they are procured in the United States. For more than a decade, however, the DOD has operated within a loophole, giving new recruits cash to purchase their own athletic training shoes.
New Balance, which employs hundreds of Mainers in Norway, Norridgewock, and Skowhegan, is one of two major domestic athletic footwear brands already prepared to produce Berry-compliant shoes for the military. Maine senators Susan Collins and Angus King have introduced a companion bill in the US Senate.