Cain’s in, Fredette’s out of 2014 2nd District congressional race

The expected stampede of candidates to run in Maine’s 2nd U.S. House District triggered by Rep. Mike Michaud’s announcement Thursday that he’s exploring a foray into the 2014 gubernatorial race began Friday, when state Sen. Emily Cain formally declared her intent to seek the congressional seat.

One legislator who won’t join the 2nd District scramble is House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport, who announced Friday that he will not seek the GOP nomination.

Shortly after singing the National Anthem to open Friday’s session of the Maine House, Cain, a Democrat from Orono, released a statement detailing her plans to run for Michaud’s seat. She has filed as a candidate with the Federal Elections Commission.

“During my nine years in the Legislature I have fought to protect and create jobs, make college more affordable, increase accountability in government, and support Maine workers and their families,” she said. “I will take those same priorities with me when I go to Washington.”

Cain served eight years in the Maine House, including as the minority leader in 2011-12, before successfully winning a Senate seat in November 2012. That experience, plus her tenure on the influential budget-writing Appropriations Committee, have elevated her prominence in the State House.

She briefly flirted with a run for the 2nd District seat in 2012, when Michaud contemplated campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat that opened when Sen. Olympia Snowe abruptly announced her plans to retire. Cain’s congressional aspirations again hinge on Michaud’s decision to seek another office although she seems quite certain his “exploratory” gubernatorial campaign will become a full-blown quest for the Blaine House. Her congressional candidacy announcement states that she decided to run for Congress “following news that Congressman Mike Michaud is running for governor.”

Another influential State House Democrat, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, is apparently close to adding his name to the list of Democratic primary competitors. Before Michaud publicly dipped his toes into the gubernatorial race, Jackson said he’d seek to become the Senate majority leader after that position’s current occupant, Sen. Seth Goodall of Richmond, resigns to take a job heading the U.S. Small Business Administration’s northeast regional operations.

During this legislative session, with Democrats back in the majority after two years of Republican control, Cain and Jackson have offered contrasting styles. Jackson has been an outspoken and frequent critic of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, while Cain worked largely behind the scenes to forge delicate compromises that resulted in the Appropriations Committee’s unanimous support for a $6.3 billion biennial budget the Legislature sent Thursday night to LePage.

Cain and Jackson are among many Maine political figures seeking to seize the rare opportunity to run for an open congressional seat. Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, brother of the former 2nd District congressman and Gov. John Baldacci, told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday that he’s likely to run.

Other Democrats whose names are floating around include Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan and former legislator and current Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Prominent Republicans who quickly expressed interest in the 2nd District seat include former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, state Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton and former House Republican Leader Josh Tardy of Newport.

Blaine Richardson, a tea party adherent who lost to Kevin Raye in the 2012 GOP primary, is considered a likely representative of the libertarian wing of the party.

Topping off a frenetic week, Fredette spiked rumors that he would join the 2nd District field. Serving his second term in the Maine House, he gained some national notoriety earlier this week when he used references from the 1992 relationship guide, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” during a floor speech to explain why his “man brain” thinking led him to oppose a plan to have Maine expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed by the federal Affordable Care Act. Fredette subsequently apologized.

He has frequently criticized the political climate in Washington, including during a House floor speech Thursday in which he voiced support for a compromise state budget, emphasizing that “this is not Washington.” Those references, and the spotlight he’s gained as House Republican leader, led many to speculate that Fredette aspires to seek federal office. That won’t be the case in 2014.

“With a daughter starting her first year of college, a son starting his freshman year of high school in the fall, and a wife dedicated to teaching her first grade class here in Maine, now is not the time for me to run for Congress,” he said in a prepared statement. “I will instead focus on my family, my law practice, my district, and the important matters before the Maine Legislature.”

In 2002, the last time the 2nd District race lacked an incumbent, six Democrats and four Republicans competed in primaries for the seat that Michaud eventually won in a general election contest against Kevin Raye, whom he defeated in a 2012 rematch.

– Robert Long