Whether Democrats retake the House, as national polls are concluding, or not, Maine needs strong representation on issues such as the war in Iraq, Medicare and Social Security reform, the $8.5 trillion debt and international trade pacts. It needs funding for transportation and environmental protection and a firm hand on federal education rules that affect local school districts.
Both Reps. Mike Michaud in Maine’s 2nd District and Tom Allen in the 1st have worked for Maine’s interests in these areas as well as the nation’s and both deserve re-election.
Barring some major disruption in the two House races, both are almost assured victories. We hope to hear even more from them in the coming two years on how the country will address these pressing issues. Their races this fall indicate where each is likely to focus.
Mike Michaud for 2nd District
During his two terms in Washington, Rep. Michaud has developed a solid understanding of the issues and politics that are important to Maine. He has worked tirelessly for legislation to assist economic development, especially in the rural parts of the state, to allow veterans to more easily get the health care treatment they need and to secure funds for transportation projects in the 2nd District.
Like 1st District Rep. Tom Allen, Mr. Michaud does not face strong competition from a Republican challenger. His opponent, L. Scott D’Amboise, of Lisbon Falls, is a political newcomer, highlighting the failure of the Republican Party to groom the next generation of candidates for the state’s federal offices.
Mr. D’Amboise says he would “work to promote economic development” and to “bring businesses to rural areas.” Rep. Michaud has already written legislation, drafted co-sponsors and secured hearings on legislation to create a Northeast Regional Economic Development Commission, which would enable the region to seek $40 million a year in funding for economic development projects like the development of armored tents at the University of Maine and an Auburn company’s work on using paper mill sludge as a source of hydrogen, an alternative energy source.
Likewise, on veterans’ issues, Rep. Michaud has sponsored legislation that would allow veterans to use local providers for some of their health care needs. This would save veterans from having to travel hundreds of miles for treatment and will boost rural hospitals that need more patients.
Rep. Michaud’s focus on trade as the reason for Maine’s manufacturing job loss and other economic woes is a bit one-dimensional. Trade brings lower-cost goods into the country, allowing average citizens to buy electronics, clothing and other goods they may not otherwise be able to afford, and affords Maine companies new markets for their products. With Maine’s average income at a 50-year high, in terms of both dollars and as a percentage of the national average, things may not be as bad as Rep. Michaud (and Mr. D’Amboise, who stresses how difficult it is to live in Maine) portrays them.
Rep. Michaud has opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. He now believes the United States should make it clear to the Iraqi government that our troops will be leaving, based on a timetable set by U.S. generals.
These policy directions fit well with the 2nd district’s needs and priorities.
Tom Allen for 1st District
Rep. Allen began his congressional career advocating for lower prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients. Now that Medicare’s Part D has provided drug coverage with ineffectual price negotiation, the need for Rep. Allen’s proposal is more apparent than ever. To that issue he has added legislation to create guaranteed, discounted insurance coverage for small businesses (50 or fewer employees) that meet state requirements and provide participating insurers with reinsurance coverage.
Rep. Allen would concede that this is not comprehensive reform, but given the appalling lack of progress on health care at the federal level, it is a significant step forward, perhaps as much as can be expected in a highly partisan House. It also adds to another health-related bill he introduced and got included in the Medicare Modernization Act. It would fund studies on the comparative effectiveness of prescription drugs. In addition, he sponsored the Medicare Beneficiary Skilled Nursing Protection Act with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to restore funding to health care facilities, prompting the American Health Care Association to call them “two of long-term care’s real champions in the House of Representatives.”
In areas such as ethics reform for members of Congress and for lobbyists, on environmental issues and economic development, Rep. Allen has worked with colleagues on sensible legislation. As a member of the minority, his work is more likely to end up as part of a larger bill than standing on its own, but the important thing is that it is included.
On Iraq, Allen was doubtful of the reasons for going to war but in favor of funding it once the troops were sent, understandably concerned that the absence of armored vehicles and personal armor would be made worse under budget cuts. He wants to see three goals achieved in the next year: work with the Iraqi government to withdraw U.S. troops; include neighboring countries such as Syria and Iran in a regional solution; seek more reconstruction support from Western Europe.
The Republican opponent in this race is two-term state Rep. Darlene Curley of Scarborough, who may be the strongest challenger in any Maine race this year. She is articulate and thoughtful, with a record in the State House that shows she knows how to work across the aisle to get results. Her interests in some ways mirror Rep. Allen’s in areas such as health care (she is a registered nurse) and energy.
Independent Dexter Kamilewicz of Orrs Island is said to be the anti-war candidate in this race but that underestimates him. He is anti-war, but he is also pro-passion; a man who is clearly frustrated by the mincing steps of both major parties and determined to stake out bold positions on the war, on health care, education, the environment, the budget.
Not surprisingly, after a decade in office, Rep. Allen is sharper on details of his proposals and has a deeper understanding of the possibilities than his competition. Like Rep. Michaud, he has served the state well in crucial areas of legislation and has demonstrated that he has the energy and drive to continue his work in Congress.