Republican Kevin L. Raye, believed by some to be the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination in Maine’s Second Congressional District, is a veteran state lawmaker and congressional candidate. The 52-year-old native of Washington County brings to the table a wealth of political, legislative and business experience. At the national level, Raye spent 17 years working for former U.S. Rep. and Sen. Olympia Snowe, including 6 1/2 years serving as her chief of staff. Locally, Raye owns and operates Raye’s Mustard, a four-generation family tradition that produces delicious award-winning mustard.
Raye took his first stab at electoral politics in 2002. After narrowly winning a four-candidate GOP primary, Raye went on to challenge long-time state Democratic lawmaker Mike Michaud to replace then-U.S. Rep. John Baldacci, who had vacated the seat to run for governor. Raye lost to Michaud by just over 9,000 votes, but was able to channel the campaign experience and notoriety he gained into future successful bids for state office.
In 2004 Raye won election to Senate District 29, representing Washington County and parts of Hancock. In his fourth and final term, Raye served as President of the Senate, presiding over a rare Republican majority, where he helped the administration of Gov. Paul LePage pass seminal legislation, including welfare reform, pension reform, charter school legislation and historic tax reductions. In 2012, Raye made a second bid for federal office. After besting libertarian Blaine Richardson, whom he will oppose again in 2014, Raye came up short in the general election against incumbent Michaud, who won every county in the 2nd CD except Raye’s home county of Washington, which he lost by 3,505 votes.
Taking a break from grinding mustard seeds, Raye talked with me about why he is running for Congress and the priorities he would bring to Washington, D.C.:
Why do you want to be a Congressman?
“Washington is broken, and I want to help make it work so we can put America on a path to long-term prosperity. That means fighting for policies to encourage private sector investment, job creation and economic growth. It will require fiscal discipline, a Balanced Budget Amendment, and putting a stop to the over-reach of the federal government. It will also require the ability to work across party lines to get things done. That’s what I did as Senate President, working with Speaker Bob Nutting to instill a tone of civility and mutual respect in the Maine Legislature that resulted in bipartisan enactment of major Republican priorities.
“The federal government has failed in each of these areas as jobs and the economy have taken a back seat to the Obama Administration’s relentless zeal for growing and expanding the federal government in ways that our forefathers could never have imagined. ObamaCare was rammed through in a crassly partisan way that left Washington broken, polarized and dysfunctional. Now this poorly-conceived and unworkable law threatens the livelihood of countless American families.
“Now, more than ever, Maine needs a strong and tested voice in Congress who knows how to bring people together to solve problems — just as I did in the Maine Senate.”
What do you bring to the table that the other GOP candidates do not?
“My unique background has prepared me to hit the ground running for the Second District. As a small family business owner providing jobs and producing a quality Maine product at Raye’s Mustard Mill in Eastport, I understand the day-to-day challenges faced by Maine’s small businesses during a tough economy. I won election to the Maine Senate four times, where my record of effective leadership and constructive problem-solving won the confidence of my colleagues who elected me as Senate Republican Leader. Two years later, I was unanimously elected as President of the Senate, where I led the Senate to passage of reforms including the largest tax cut in Maine history, $1.7 billion in debt reduction, and regulatory reform to encourage job creation. Combined with my prior experience on Capitol Hill as Chief of Staff to Senator Snowe, I bring a well-rounded and proven record of leadership bringing people together to stand up for working families, small businesses, veterans and seniors – and fighting for the best possible education for our children.”
What do you think are the most serious challenges facing Maine and the United States?
“America’s most serious challenge is Washington’s failure to focus on encouraging private sector job creation, economic growth and fiscal responsibility, as the Obama Administration instead pursues unwise policies expanding the reach of the federal government into the lives of ordinary Americans.”
What makes you the best person to take on a Democrat in the general election?
“In 2002, the last time this seat was open, I ran as a former Congressional staffer who had never held elective office. In that race, I won 48% of the vote against the former Senate President, which still stands as the highest percentage of any Republican 2nd District candidate in the past ten elections. In 2012, I took on an uphill battle against an entrenched five-term incumbent Congressman. In the face of the Democratic wave that swept Maine and New England, I won the highest number of votes of any 2nd District GOP candidate in the past ten elections. In a banner Democratic year, we held Mike Michaud to 58% of the vote – a far cry from the stratospheric margins enjoyed by John Baldacci, Olympia Snowe and Bill Cohen when they held the Second District seat.
“This year, it is a far different race. We have a rare open seat, and this time I am running as the former Senate President — a more seasoned and well-known campaigner with a strong base of support and a record of achievement from my years in business and in the Maine Senate. My message of making Washington work, focusing on the economy and promoting fiscal responsibility resonates not only with Republicans, but with independents and Democrats who are disillusioned with Washington.”
This article is the first of an On the Record series featuring the Republican candidates for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
Maine Wire Reporter