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Michaud, Michael H. ("Mike") (b. 1955)  
 
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Michael H. Michaud has had a long career as a legislator, having served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in his native state of Maine, as well as in the United States House of Representatives. In the summer of 2013 he announced his intention to run for the governorship of Maine. In November of that year Michaud made the decision to come out publicly as a gay man.

Michaud is a lifelong resident of northern Maine. His experiences in his early years were fairly typical for a young man from the area--if not necessarily for a future member of the United States Congress. A Franco-American Roman Catholic, Michaud comes from a large family. The second of the six children of James and Lottie Michaud, he was born on January 18, 1955, in the town of Millinocket and grew up in the nearby community of Medway.

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While attending Schenck High School in East Millinocket, Michaud considered going to college to pursue a degree in criminal justice in order to become a state trooper. Upon graduation in 1973, however, he opted for the security of the good wages and benefits of a manufacturing job and, like his father and grandfather, went to work at the Great Northern Paper Mill.

Michaud started off in the "paper room"--where pulp is processed--and, over the course of the next twenty-nine years, worked at a variety of other jobs at the mill, including ones in the finishing and shipping departments.

At the mill Michaud became a member of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union. He remains a strong supporter of organized labor.

It was concern for the environment that led Michaud to make his first bid for public office in 1980. At the time, he stated to Grace Murphy of the Portland Press Herald, the Penobscot River was "so polluted, you could practically walk across it. . . . Rather than sit back and complain about it, I decided to run for the [Maine] Legislature. I knew there had to be a balance between jobs and the environment."

Michaud won the election, and his constituents returned him to the Maine House of Representatives six more times. During his service there, he rose to the chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In 1994 Michaud ran for a seat in the Maine Senate and handily defeated a well-funded incumbent opponent. He was re-elected three times, always by wide margins.

In the Senate Michaud became the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, where he made funding for education a priority. He was also concerned with healthcare, and he co-sponsored a bill to establish the "Maine Rx" program to make prescription medications more affordable.

Michaud became the president of the Maine Senate in 2000.

Throughout his tenure in the Maine legislature Michaud kept his job at the paper mill, working when the bodies were not in session and taking unpaid leave or working nights and weekends when they were. He resigned from the mill only after he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2002.

Michaud bested five other candidates in the Democratic primary that year and went on to face Kevin Raye, former chief of staff for Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, in the general election. Michaud then stressed his blue-collar roots. One of his campaign ads showed him at work at the mill, driving a forklift.

Paradoxically, some of Michaud's conservative views may have worked to his advantage against his Republican opponent. Raye had declared himself pro-choice, whereas, at the time, Michaud--influenced by the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church--felt that abortion should only be an option when necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Michaud eked out a narrow victory over Raye. Upon taking his seat in the House of Representatives, he was appointed to the committees on transportation and veterans' affairs. Championing the welfare of veterans would become a hallmark of his work in Congress.

When Michaud ran for re-election in 2004, the Republican National Congressional Committee viewed him as a potentially vulnerable incumbent and undertook a campaign to label him as a candidate with "San Francisco values" because he had cast votes that matched those of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California in a number of instances, including one against a constitutional amendment to bar marriage equality. (Michaud at the time drew a fine line by voting against the amendment but not expressing affirmative support for marriage equality.) Given Michaud's well-established reputation as a longtime working man and union member, and his high visibility among the constituents in his district--to which he returned on most weekends--the ploy failed, and Michaud won an easy victory over his Republican challenger, Brian Hamel.

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