EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- You don't really understand Mike Michaud until you see him in East Millinocket. That's where Michaud took us for our ongoing series of reports with Maine's top candidates for Governor. It was in this once-prosperous town that an 18-year old Mike Michaud started working at Great Northern Paper.
"Things were great when I started in the mill," said Michaud.
He describes good paying jobs, a community of people earning good money, with an employer that would even lend out equipment to homeowners who needed help.
That's all changed. Starting in 1985, said Michaud, the mills began to pay people off. Then a series of sales and management changes led to the current crisis. The two mills employed 4500 people in 1985 , he says.
Now, mill employment is zero.
"It just tears me up to see what's happened here," said Michaud.
As a member of Congress for the last 12 years of the decline, Michaud said he puts a lot of blame on bad foreign trade deals and currency inequities that favor other countries and hurt the U.S. industry. Michaud said that's one of the big reasons he ran for Congress in the first place. And while he said he has opposed President Obama on those issues, the situating for the mills and the town hasn't changed.
Michaud said the lessons learned in the mill – working together, respecting the knowledge of the employees –have helped shape his view of government and politics. But surprisingly, perhaps, he also talks about the need for government to not keep changing the rules for business, and provide consistency in regulations and policies.
Michaud is critical of Republican Gov. Paul LePage on just about everything. And though he is a dedicated democrat, Michaud said if he is elected he won't be a "rubber stamp" for democrats in the legislature. He argues that he has always been able to work across party lines and will continue to do so.
Don Carrigan spent time with each gubernatorial candidate to get to know them, trying to find out how the three men think, and what drives them to want such a difficult job.
Eliot Cutler's preview can be found here.
Governor Paul LePage's preview can be found here.