BATH — City Councilor David Sinclair is stepping down after two council terms to challenge District Attorney Geoff Rushlau of Dresden, who has held that office for 21 years.
Rushlau, a Republican, and Sinclair, a Democrat, are vying for the four-year District 6 post, which includes Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties.
Election Day is Nov. 4.
Colorado-born Rushlau, 61, is married and has three children, and moved to Brunswick at the age of 7.
He was appointed district attorney in 1993 by then-Gov. John McKernan, and has been re-elected ever since.
Rushlau has been a prosecutor for 34 years, including time as an assistant district attorney in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties from 1980-1993.
“I think I have more to offer to the people of the district,” Rushlau said of his decision to seek a sixth term. “… I’ve learned a lot. From doing the work, I continue to learn.”
He said he is dedicated to making himself more knowledgeable, pointing out that continuing to try cases gives a him a way to “really get the sense of what the community is looking for in terms of (a) criminal justice system.”
Crimes related to substance abuse are an ever-growing issue, while “the particular concern developing in the last several years is opiate abuse,” he said, explaining that while the issue had surrounded prescription opiates, “that has now evolved into abuse of heroin.
“It’s a devastating drug; it’s lethal, it’s highly addictive, and we’re going to be dealing with the consequences of it a lot, I think.”
The number of deaths by drug overdose in Maine now exceeds those from traffic accidents, Rushlau said, adding that the number of babies born with drug effects has also been growing at an alarming rate.
For most law offenders – excepting those who have committed the most serious crimes and need jail time to protect the public – the criminal justice process is geared toward changing their behavior, Rushlau said. He noted that “we have a lot of different strategies that we use to accomplish that, and a lot of those strategies involve giving them a choice: ‘Change your behavior or something bad’s going to happen to you.'”
Sinclair, 45, is married, has one child and was born in Damariscotta. After 16 years spent running a software development company and serving as a computer consultant he went to law school, graduated in 2010 and has had a private law practice in Bath ever since.
Sinclair has served on the City Council since 2008, including a year as chairman; has been on the boards of the Bath Area Food Bank and Two Bridges Regional Jail Authority, and has done work with the Greater Bath Homelessness Initiative.
Sinclair said he is running because of “an enduring conviction that we can do far better for the people of the community,” specifically the rate of re-offense. “We have a real opportunity, the first time someone commits a criminal offense … to help that individual learn, No. 1, that that was not the right choice, and No. 2, that there are better options out there.”
And third, that if that person commits another crime, “it will go far worse for them the second, third or fourth time around,” Sinclair added. He noted that many people continue to go through the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system, which causes the community harm and costs it money, as well as the “social costs” of having employees or family members behind bars.
If jail or prison cannot be avoided, then an opportunity still exists after release to help the individual re-enter the community, and more programs to that end should be created, Sinclair said.
“If we can reduce the rate of crime, then we will have done a real service for the community, instead of just focusing on the rate of conviction,” he said.
Sinclair said work he has done “has exposed me to a number of the different concerns that the community has relative to crime, relative to policing, and relative to how we handle offenders.”
He said some people simply have a criminal mindset, and “strong and swift prosecution” of those people for their offenses is important.
“But if we can turn down … the number of petty crimes that the judicial system is dealing with,” he said, “then we’ll be making much better use of our prosecutorial resources.”
Jane Scease of Topsham is running unopposed for a second four-year term as Sagadahoc County treasurer. Her bid for a third term on the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors is also uncontested.
Now retired, Scease spent nearly 30 years as a medical social worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Maine, Texas and Washington.
She moved to Topsham in 1998, serving on its Board of Selectmen from 2001-2007.