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Reps. Pingree, Michaud win re-election in Maine

By David Sharp
Associated Press / November 2, 2010

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PORTLAND, Maine—Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree of Maine both won re-election on Tuesday, turning back challenges by their Republican opponents in an election in which voters were angry and tea partiers were raising their voices in Maine and across the nation.

In the 1st District, Pingree beat Republican Dean Scontras of Eliot, who sought to portray her as Maine's version of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Michaud turned back a challenge by Republican Jason Levesque, an Auburn businessman who described Michaud as out of touch with conservative voters in the 2nd District.

"It's going to be a great honor, no matter who controls Congress, to work with people on both sides of the aisle to move this country forward, to move this state forward," Pingree said Tuesday night as Republicans appeared to be poised to gain control of the U.S. House.

Going into Election Day, Pingree faced criticism over flights she took on her fiance's corporate jet after having decried such congressional perks in years past. She quelled the furor by producing a letter from the House Ethics Committee saying the flights were acceptable since the jet was owned by her fiance, S. Donald Sussman.

"People didn't want to be distracted by nasty campaigning," Pingree told The Associated Press. "They wanted to have a real campaign on the issues."

Both Republicans mounted feisty challenges despite being outgunned in the fundraising department.

In the 2nd District, Levesque hammered away for 18 months at Michaud, saying he was out of step with the more conservative of Maine's two districts by voting for the federal stimulus bill, the president's health care reform and cap-and-trade carbon emission regulations.

Michaud, who won a fifth term, touted his efforts to improve health care for veterans while promoting himself as an independent-minded blue dog Democrat despite criticism from Levesque that he voted with Pelosi 96 percent of the time. Levesque said veterans needed jobs, not just health care.

"We've got a lot of work to do. It's my hope that the people who're sent back and the one's who're being elected for the first time will do right by the country and put aside partisan politics," Michaud said.

A former mill worker, Michaud of East Millinocket is the first recognized Franco-American from Maine to be elected to Congress. Levesque, an Army veteran from Auburn, is owner of Argo Marketing Group.

Scontras, a native of Kittery, runs an alternative energy company in York County and entered politics in 2008 with a 1st District primary loss to Charlie Summers.

Pingree, who was born in Minneapolis and lives on North Haven island, served in the Maine Senate before joining Common Cause as president and CEO after an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid. Two years ago, she became the first Democratic woman elected to serve Maine in the U.S. House.