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SCARBOROUGH — For the first time in at least a decade, voters in the town’s northern corner may soon be represented in the Maine House by a resident of another municipality.
First-term Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, now representing District 129, is seeking re-election to the House in newly-drawn District 27. The race is contested by Gorham resident Tyler Kinney, a Republican who has never before sought elective office.
District 27 includes a triangular sliver of North Scarborough, bounded by Gorham to the west, South Portland and Westbrook to the east, and roughly by Holmes Road to the south. But most of the district lies in the eastern half of Gorham.
Prior to last year’s mandated reconfiguration of electoral districts, the triangle had been part of District 128, which twice has sent Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, to Augusta. Previously, District 128 elected Scarborough residents Peggy Pendleton, a Democrat, and Harold Clough, a Republican, to the House.
Both McLean and Kinney have ties to Gorham’s largest employer, the University of Southern Maine. McLean works as a USM conduct officer, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from USM’s Muskie School of Public Service. Kinney is a student at USM, and hopes to earn a degree in political science.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.
McLean, 29, lives with his husband, Kyle, on Johnson Road, Gorham. In the Statehouse, McLean serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation.
Since winning election in 2012, he feels he has worked diligently to represent constituents.
“From an early age, I was taught the value of hard work,” he said last week. “The work we do (as legislators), and the work we don’t do, matter to people.”
While he hasn’t represented Scarborough residents in his one term, McLean believes they share a concern of their neighbors in Gorham.
“Time after time, the constant refrain I hear is, ‘lower my property taxes,'” he said. “Unfortunately, the state of Maine hasn’t been willing to take on the hard work of tax reform.”
The state’s current tax structure is “regressive,” he claims, and penalizes people who are already struggling financially. At the same time, the state must do more to provide access to health care for those people, he feels.
McLean called refusal to expand eligibility for MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, a “giant failure.” Gov. Paul LePage five times has vetoed attempts by the Legislature to increase eligibility under optional provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, which would offer health insurance to 70,000 low-income Mainers. The federal government would pick up 100 percent of the additional cost for three years, and 90 percent afterward.
“No family in Maine should be without health care,” he said. “No family should have to have to go to an emergency room for a cold. That’s not the place.”
McLean feels another critical need is improving the state’s roads, bridges, airports and other transportation infrastructure. To pay for the upgrades, he proposes a seasonal increase in the gasoline tax, which would reap funds from the influx of tourists who drive Maine’s roads during the summer.
Whether such proposals succeed or fail, McLean believes his youth and bipartisanship will be valuable in the state’s 127th Legislature.
“People have lost a lot of faith in government … it’s important they believe that their elected representatives care about them,” he said. “I’m not stuck in the mud. I’m not an ideologue. I go to Augusta with an open mind.”
Kinney, 23, is single and a resident of Little River Drive, Gorham. Like McLean, he touts his independence.
Legislation, he said in a recent interview, “shouldn’t come down to a Republican or Democrat point of view, but a common-sense point of view.
“We need to do more for the people of Maine. I won’t hesitate to say when (legislation) isn’t working for Maine, whether it’s led by a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent … It’s not about political parties, it’s about doing what your conscience tells you.”
Still, Kinney supports many familiar Republican objectives, such as enacting “right-to-work” legislation and reducing government regulation of business. The workers’ compensation system should be streamlined, he feels. And he backs LePage’s vetoes of Medicaid expansion.
Previous federal support of MaineCare has saddled the state with unexpected costs, “so why trust the feds now?” he asked.
He did not criticize the LePage-led reduction in municipal revenue sharing, which many Maine cities and towns say has had a ripple effect forcing them to choose between increasing property taxes and denying funds to services or schools. But Kinney said the state must fulfill its obligation, mandated by voters in 2004, to fund 55 percent of public education.
“We must abide by those promises. Towns shouldn’t have to raise taxes as a result,” he said.
While some may be skeptical of his youth, Kinney feels that’s something the Statehouse needs.
“I am young, but there needs to be more young people involved,” he said. “There has to be a change … We need more energized legislators.”
SOUTH PORTLAND — Two incumbent representatives are unopposed in seeking election for District 31 and District 32 of the Maine House.
Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, who is currently serving his third term in District 122, is the sole declared candidate for the redrawn District 31.
And Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, the freshman representative of District 123, is hoping for a second term, in the new District 32.
Morrison, 43, of Ocean Street, serves on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Insurance and Financial Affairs and the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. He works as general manager of The Inn at St. John, in Portland.
Hamann, 31, of Thornton Avenue, is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. He owns Hamann Media, a multimedia production company in South Portland.
District 31 comprises the Knightville neighborhood and much of the city’s waterfront. District 32 covers a wide swath of South Portland, from Knightville to U.S. Route 1, and part of Cape Elizabeth.
— William Hall