Maine’s Democratic nominee for governor and current congressman Mike Michaud delivered a brief speech and fielded questions from students in Helmreich House on October 5.

Michaud stuck to the stump speech he has delivered around the state, telling the story of his early political career—when he split time between the Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket and the state legislature—and describing what he accomplished during a 12-year tenure representing Maine’s second district in Washington, D.C.

Recent polls have showed a tight three-way gubernatorial race between Michaud, Republican incumbent Paul LePage and Eliot Cutler, an independent. Two polls were published last week—one giving Michaud a 42-36 lead over LePage and another showing LePage winning 41-40. Cutler had the support of 16 percent of voters in each poll.

With polls showing Cutler in a distant third, Michaud focused his criticisms on LePage, citing the current governor’s “failed policies” as his reason for entering the governor’s race.
“Our biggest liability as a state is our governor,” Michaud said.

Michaud highlighted some of his policy proposals, including investing in renewable energy, his Maine Made jobs plan, and expanding Maine’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

Medicaid expansion is one of the issues that separates Michaud and LePage most clearly. In April, LePage vetoed a bill that would have expanded Medicaid to over 60,000 low-income Maine residents.

“The expansion offered through Obamacare would have a disastrous impact on Maine’s budget, as well as those truly needy individuals—our disabled and elderly—who rely today on the scarce resources in our program,” LePage wrote at the time.

Michaud told students at Helmreich that there is a “moral responsibility” to expand Maine’s Medicaid program. When one student pushed back, citing LePage’s concern that expansion would be too expensive, Michaud argued that it would actually save money by reducing the number of uninsured patients seeking uncompensated care in emergency rooms.

The federal government would cover 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion through 2016, a figure that would decrease to 90 percent by 2022.

Michaud also addressed the closure of the Verso mill, which was announced on October 1. He said that the closure was unfortunate, particularly since each mill job is tied to five to seven other jobs in the state, and said he would find new areas for job growth as governor.

“There definitely are a lot of new opportunities,” he said. “The Maine Technology Institute said if you look at job growth in the state of Maine, it’s actually in the clean, renewable energy sector and they’re good paying jobs.”

The LePage campaign blamed Michaud for the closure, saying that Michaud had stalled the expansion of natural gas pipelines capacity in the state, which drove up energy costs for mills.

In 2013, Michaud voted against H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, which sought to streamline the process for permitting natural gas projects. Michaud, acting in his capacity as a congressman and not a gubernatorial candidate, explained his vote in a letter he sent to LePage on September 29.

“Ultimately, H.R. 1900 is misguided legislation and would be detrimental to expanding our natural gas infrastructure in a safe and responsible manner, to say nothing of the serious long-term impact the legislation could have on our environment,” Michaud wrote.

At Helmreich, Michaud said that expanding natural gas pipeline capacity was an issue on which Maine’s governor would have to work with other New England governors, and faulted LePage for failing to do so on issues ranging from energy to substance abuse.

“When the New England governors wanted to meet to deal with the drug addiction problem [LePage] refused to meet, said it was just a photo op,” Michaud said. “Well if you take that attitude how do you expect other New England governors to work with you when you need something?”