Maine’s gubernatorial campaign made national news on Wednesday despite the fact that neither major party candidate faced a primary challenge.
NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director Chuck Todd invited the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, to be a guest on MSNBC’s “The Daily Run Down with Chuck Todd.”
The appearance underscores national interest in what is expected to be a tight three-way race between a fiery Tea Party incumbent in Gov. Paul LePage, independent Eliot Cutler, who nearly beat LePage in 2010 but is considered a spoiler this time around, and Michaud, who could become the first openly gay candidate elected governor.
During the nearly four minute interview, Todd, who said he would be following the race closely, focused mainly on dynamics of another three-way race. He asked Michaud, who was in Washington, D.C. for the on-camera interview, how he would unite the “left of center coalition” and what he would tell a voter who doesn’t like LePage, but has also become disenfranchised by the current two-party system.
Michaud gave familiars answers. He noted his support in the rural 2nd Congressional District, where polling shows he is still trailing LePage, and endorsements he has received from police and firefighters. “I feel really good about the enthusiasm out there, not only among Democrats and independents, but also moderate Republicans. (It) has been just fantastic.”
He also highlighted his one year term as president of the Maine Senate in 2001. At the time, there were 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and 1 independent. “A lot of people thought that would be a nightmare, but it worked well because I brought Democrats and Republicans into my office every morning in an informal way to go over the calendar. It built up trust and an open line of communication,” Michaud said.
Michaud used the national interview to note his leadership in getting a two-tier increase in the minimum wage to pass the Senate unanimously. Raising the minimum wage is a big issue for Democrats this year. “We put aside partisan politics and were able to get things done. So I’m the only candidate that does have that proven track record,” Michaud said.
The six-term congressman, however, wanted nothing to do with Todd’s question about whether his experience in Washington, D.C. was an asset or a liability. Republicans are tying Michaud to President Obama on a range of issues, from Obamacare to the scandal involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A political action committee supporting Cutler recently ran a TV ad saying the independent is “not part of the corruption in Washington or the gridlock in Augusta.”
Instead, Michaud talked about punching a time clock for 29 years as a mill worker, and that he returns to his home state almost every weekend. “The people of Maine known me,” he said.
Todd asked Michaud about “an odd comment” made by LePage, in which the governor described Michaud’s achievements as “modest.”
“Actually I have a lot of achievements,” Michaud insisted. “I got a national award for my efforts, a lifetime achievement award, for economic development. If you look at what I’ve been able to do in Maine, as far as veterans issues, with building new facilities for access for our veterans. I have a lot of achievements not only here as a member of congress but also in Maine and I will definitely be touting where I want to lead the state.”