As he campaigns to get elected to a third term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud says that the issues his constituents are concerned about remain the same, but that anger and concern about the war in Iraq are on the rise.
“People are very upset about the war,” Michaud said. “They feel they’ve been lied to by the administration and there’s no plan.”
The war was brought up in individual conversations by a few students talking to Michaud at a recent University of Maine rally against sexual violence.
Michaud said he feels there should be a redeployment of U.S. troops and a strategic drawdown of military forces in Iraq.
“In Congress, in the four years I’ve been there, we have never been able to openly discuss [the war],” he said.
All attempts to develop a resolution about the conflict have been squashed by Republican leaders, Michaud said.
“They don’t want that debate,” he said, adding that President Bush’s entrance into Iraq against U.S. allies’ wishes has diverted all attention from Osama bin Laden and terrorism issues.
“It’s divided this nation up as well,” Michaud said.
Jobs and the economy are the other major issues Michaud said his constituents are interested in talking about.
He explained that Maine has lost 25 percent of its manufacturing base in the last five years because of unfair trade agreements.
“When we look at trade agreements, we have to make sure they’re fair,” he said.
Michaud has submitted legislation to go beyond looking at individual agreements and look at the cumulative effect of all trade deals.
“You’ve got to get at the basis of it,” he said.
Michaud, who first was elected to represent the 2nd District in 2002, has run as a blue-collar candidate in all of his campaigns. His endorsements are from numerous labor organizations, including teachers, steelworkers, nurses, paper mill groups, and sportsmen.
In this year’s race Michaud is running against another candidate who identifies himself as blue-collar. That opponent, Republican L. Scott D’Amboise has even countered that Michaud is a career politician, not a blue-collar candidate.
“I grew up in a large family with six kids,” Michaud said in disagreement. “Every one of us, with the exception of mom, worked in the mill.”
Michaud, who grew up in Medway and attended Schenck High School in East Millinocket, said he’s all too familiar with poverty in Maine after working with people living from paycheck to paycheck.
“I worked side by side with people who struggled every day to make ends meet,” he said.
In an attempt to improve the region’s economy, Michaud introduced a bill to create a Northeast Regional Economic Development Commission to invest $40 million per year in the Northeast.
“It’s got real strong support,” he said, noting that the bill has the backing of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.
On the health care front, Michaud admits there’s “no simple solution.”
“The federal government should negotiate low-cost prescriptions,” he said. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t negotiate this way.
“You also have to look at some of the long-term costs of health care,” Michaud said, citing diabetes and cancer as specific examples.
“That’s why I’m a strong supporter of stem cell research,” he said.
Maine also has one of the largest veteran populations in the country, and Michaud believes military vets should be able to receive care locally, rather than having to travel to the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta.
In addition, he hopes to continue his efforts to earmark more one-time capital health care expenditures for Maine.
“As a 28-year millworker, I bring a unique perspective to Congress. I know how difficult it can be for Maine’s working families,” Michaud said. “If elected to a third term in Congress I will continue to fight for trade agreements that continue to protect all workers and our environment. I will also continue to fight for lower health care costs, including lowering the price of prescription drugs. Finally, I want to help revitalize the Maine economy by finishing the work on my regional economic development bill.”