Thursday morning, Senate President Kevin Raye filed the necessary paperwork to run for Maine’s Second Congressional District seat.
This follows Raye’s exploratory phase, in which he signaled his interest in running for the seat, but wanted to travel the district to see what kind of reaction to his potential candidacy there was.
In the world of politics, exploratory committees are viewed as little more than public relations mechanisms that allow the candidate to dip their feet slowly into the waters of a political race, and draw out more speculation and coverage than they would get if they simply announced. Indeed you may recall I broke the story of Raye’s potential candidacy some time ago.
Yet, when I spoke with Raye last month, he said that he was – at the time – truly undecided about whether to run, though he admitted that he was starting to come around to the idea after being initially skeptical. Running a race against Michaud, even in the best environment, is going to be very difficult, he has a business to take care of, and there were a number of other considerations which gave him pause about the race.
So, definitive as my reporting was in July, and correct as it may have ended up, those things left him with a lot to think about, and I believe he was genuine about taking his time in the exploratory phase to weigh the pros and cons, and that it was not a foregone conclusion that he would indeed run.
That said, he has made his decision, today he filed his paperwork and is now an official candidate.
I predicted last week that the race for the second district would be a particularly hard fought campaign, and that in the end Raye would emerge as the victor by a very thin margin.
While Michaud is undoubtedly a stronger candidate than he was when he faced off with Raye in 2002 – he is the incumbent after all – I believe it is in fact Raye who has gained the most since then.
At the time, he was viewed as little more than an acolyte of Senator Olympia Snowe with no record to run on, a mirror of her positions and persona, and had no name recognition to speak of. Today he has shed all of those problems, spearheading the Republican majority in the Legislature and becoming well known across the state.
If I were drawing up the campaign plan for Raye’s race against Michaud, I would frame the contest as “Mr. Irrelevant in Congress” vs. “The Guy Who Can Get Stuff Done”. As I explained in my recent top 25 ranking of influence in Maine politics, Michaud is invisible in Washington, fails to stand out on any specific issue, isn’t a moderate dealmaker, and for all his hard work and good intentions, wastes more potential influence than anyone else on the list.
Raye has a record to be proud of not only getting conservative things done, but doing so by working with Democrats and Republicans together. Unlike Michaud, he doesn’t have a tendency to fade into the background, but rather seems to roll up his sleeves and involve himself in legislative acts.
Raye is likely thinking along similar lines for his campaign. In his press release, he issued the following quote:
“Maine needs a strong voice in Congress, and Washington needs a dose of Maine common sense, where we are able to talk with each other and debate the issues in a way that encourages mutual respect and allows us to gets things done,” said Raye. “My background and proven track record of leadership has prepared me to be that voice and to carry that message.”
Michaud is known for one significant bill, his protectionist trade legislation, which went nowhere in a Democratic Congress and has continued to go nowhere in a Republican one. That isn’t exactly the record of legislative accomplishment a supposedly centrist Democrat from the northeast should have after ten years in Washington.
Michaud should have a lot to worry about. He is in a much weaker position financially now than he was against then-tenderfoot Jason Levesque, and he now has a much more well known and politically threatening opponent in Raye. If the Senate President can effectively make the case that Michaud is a nice guy, but is out of his element in Congress (which he is), and that he would not be, than he will win.
If he gets lost in identity politics and can’t successfully make that argument, he will lose.
Only time will tell, but were I Congressman Michaud, I would be pretty worried.