PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - In the wake of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation Friday, the opponents of Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud attacked his role on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, saying he failed to do enough to fix the troubled department.
Michaud and independent challenger Eliot Cutler are both trying to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage in November. Michaud countered the criticism by saying LePage was playing politics and defending his record on veteran's issues throughout his six terms in Congress.
Shinseki resigned Friday following revelations about VA health care system failures.
LePage said in a statement that Michaud, as the ranking member of the committee, should have known about the VA's troubles for years. LePage accused him of taking "little to no action about this scandal" until an election year.
Cutler also said Michaud should be held accountable for the department's failings.
"How much responsibility does he think he bears?" Cutler said. "He owes Maine people and veterans all over the country answers."
Michaud rebutted LePage's claim and said it was outrageous that the governor would "choose this very serious moment to play such blatant politics." He also trumpeted his work on veterans' issues in the House, including sponsoring or co-sponsoring more than 500 bills pertaining to veterans.
"We deliver the best results for our veterans when we work together toward our common goals," Michaud said.
Michaud joined several members of Congress on Thursday in calling for Shinseki to step down. After he did so, Michaud said it was a sad day and that Shinseki's resignation was honorable.
"Right or wrong, he was becoming the focal point of this issue - to the extent that it was distracting us from addressing the very serious problems within the VA system," he said in a statement.
Maine's other representative, Chellie Pingree, also said in a statement that "cover-ups of outrageously long wait times at VA hospitals" necessitated change.