U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud's gubernatorial campaign has been getting some help from former Mass. Rep. Barney Frank, a well-known and at-times controversial Democrat.
Frank, who is known for his quick wit and speaking skills, has been counseling and co-hosting events for Michaud.
Frank's involvement in Michaud's campaign was first reported Thursday by the Boston Globe, which wrote a story about Frank returning to Capitol Hill to defend his financial reform bill. Here's the section of the Globe report that's relevant to Maine's gubernatorial campaign:
It’s not uncommon to spot Frank in Maine grabbing breakfast at the Backyard Coffeehouse and Eatery, or heading to a cocktail or dinner party with his husband. He’s been active in Maine politics, cohosting several events for Representative Mike Michaud, who is running for governor and came out last year as gay.
“He’s provided some good advice to the congressman,” said Matt McTighe, manager of the Michaud campaign. “Over the last year since Congressman Michaud came out, he took some time to talk with the congressman and just talk a little bit about what campaign life was like for him and what things to be aware of and look out for.”
So has Frank mellowed?
“I would say yes,” McTighe said. “I attribute that to not being in politics anymore, where you’re always under scrutiny and reacting. Now he’s detached from that, even if he’s keeping one foot in it.”
Frank became the first sitting congressman to voluntarily come out as gay in 1987. Shortly before leaving office in 2012, Frank, at the age of 72, became the first sitting congressman to legally marry a same-sex partner when he tied the knot with the 42-year-old Jim Ready, who lives in Oqunquit.
Michaud campaign spokesperson Lizzy Reinholt said Frank and Ready have "lent their names" to the host committees for campaign events in Oqunquit and Cumberland, with Frank introducing Michaud at the latter. Frank will also be on the host committee for a barbeque in August, she said.
Reinholt said Frank advised Michaud, who came out as gay in November, citing whisper campaigns and push polls discussing his sexual orientation. She said Frank told Michaud, who could be come the first out elected governor in U.S. history, to expect this campaign to receive national attention. And it has. Michaud's initial announcement was national news, and he made national headlines again when he was a grand marshal in Portland's Pride Day parade.
In an 2012 interview with the Washington Post, Frank was asked if he had ever given counsel to his colleagues about coming out as gay. Frank replied that he had never advised a congressman, but has advised a few state lawmakers. Here is what Frank told the Post:
Do it if you're at at stage, because your ability to live as an integrated human personality is more important than anything (and) that the sacrifices you make from being in the closet -- and the denial of your own personal life -- it's a mistake.
My advice is to do it if you feel that strongly, forgetting about the political consequences. Once you do, then your job is, once you're out, if there are people who are deeply prejudiced against you for being who you are, forget 'em, because you can't can't waste your time 'em.
The one thing you can affect -- and I tell this to gay candidates as well -- make it clear to people that this isn't all you're caring about so as to not allow yourself to be pigeon-holed as a single-issue candidate.
Reinholt said she is not aware of any specific plans to have Frank, who also writes occasional columns for the Maine Sunday Telegram, stump either with, or on behalf of, Michaud on the campaign trail.
Frank's help adds to the list of high-profile Democrats who are actively supporting Michaud's gubernatorial campaign.
Govs. Deval Patrick, of Massachusetts, and Peter Shumlin, of Vermont, who is also the head of the Democratic Governors Association, stumped on behalf of Michaud on Monday. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads the Democratic National Committee, will be in Portland on Monday, July 28, for a "Women Take Action 2014" rally. Political strategist James Carville (known as the Ragin' Cajun) will be at the Maine Democrats annual Muskie Lobster Bake in Freeport on Aug. 3, and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who now advocates for "common sense" gun control laws, will appear at a fundraiser for Michaud on Aug. 9 in Kennebunkport.
CORRECTION: This blog post was updated on July 29 to remove incorrect information about the circumstances under which Frank came out as gay. It was a reporter's error.