A true David and Goliath story is unfolding in Maine’s First Congressional District. This fall, a relatively unknown young Republican will challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who has held the seat since 2008.
Isaac J. Misiuk, 25, of Gorham was born in Beverly, Mass., and grew up in South Portland. A second year political science major at the University of Southern Maine, Misiuk is the Vice-Chair of the Cumberland County Young Republicans with a private sector background in retail sales and management. He is running for a congressional seat not held by a Republican since James B. Longley, Jr., won election in 1995.
For Misiuk, the election is about giving his generation a chance to reclaim a future increasingly constrained by spendthrift politicians in Washington, D.C.
“There’s a real issue facing my generation. The national debt continues to grow. Congress refuses to negotiate a balanced budget,” Misiuk said during a recent interview. “That’s really hitting my generation hard.”
“It’s apparent as students my age graduate,” he said. “The lack of jobs – it’s just sad.”
Misiuk sees entitlement reform and foreign aid as areas where federal spending should be trimmed. “I think we’re sending a lot of money to countries that are known to harbor terrorism, countries that hate us,” he said. “I think we really have to look at what’s going to benefit this country.”
As for entitlement reforms, Misiuk says he would immediately introduce a bill to halt all borrowing from the Social Security trust – an accounting trick he believes has eroded the solvency of the program and fueled fiscal profligacy. “We’re stealing from people that have paid into the system,” he said.
On other redistributive programs, Misiuk supports the adoption of tiered benefit systems. Such systems would gradually reduce transfer payments to needy individuals as their personal incomes rise, thus avoiding the so-called benefit cliffs that discourage many from seeking or keeping jobs.
“We need to help create personal responsibility and get individuals to the point that they can sustain themselves,” he said.
Misiuk says the biggest difference between he and his opponent this fall comes down to perspective.
“I am a middle class Mainer,” he said. “A recent study done by Forbes listed [Pingree] as the 12th wealthiest member of Congress — she’s the 1 percent of Congress.”
“In my opinion, she doesn’t represent the people,” he said. “She’s not going through the struggles that I’m going through, that my friends are going through, families that I know, having to live paycheck to paycheck, having to pay off student loans and work that minimum wage job.”
Policywise, Misiuk agrees with Pingree’s decision to vote against the controversial Farm Bill, but sees her as complicit in the nation’s overspending problem by virtue of her position of the House Appropriations Committee. “She has sat quietly on the Appropriations Committee and helped build this debt,” he said.
Many people Misiuk encounters on the campaign trail ask him if he’s crazy – crazy for daring to challenge a power incumbent.
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, a major donor to Maine Democrats and majority owner the Portland Press Herald.
Misiuk will have the full support of the Maine Republican Party as he heads into the campaign this summer. On April 16 the party will formally endorse his candidacy and begin lending a hand with fundraising efforts.
Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said Misiuk’s youth will be his advantage. “We’re very excited to support Isaac as he challenges Congresswoman Pingree, and as one of the Republican candidates who are most involved in the #Gen207 movement, we know there will be a lot of young energy behind his campaign,” he said.
“Isaac has a great opportunity to build momentum against Congresswoman Pingree, especially given her votes against Maine jobs and her rubber-stamp support of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, including Obamacare,” said Savage.
Misiuk acknowledges the long-odds of taking down such an entrenched politician with a war chest to spend, but is undaunted.
“We’re in an uphill battle, and we knew that from the get go,” he said. “But money doesn’t win races. Money doesn’t vote. The newspaper doesn’t vote. It’s the people that vote.”
“Our goal is to reach everyone in the district,” he said. “Everyone can agree that Washington is broken. And we’re in this situation because of career politicians. I’m not a career politician.”
“It’s time for my generation to have a voice.”