House District 66: Incumbent Brunswick rep faces 2 challengers
BRUNSWICK — Voters have three candidates to choose from for the House District 66 representative, who serves a part of Brunswick.
Jonathan Crimmins, a Republican, and K. Frederick Horch, a Green Independent, are challenging first-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx.
This is Crimmins' second try at winning the District 66 seat. Crimmins, 35, and his wife Vicki have two elementary school-age children and reside at 86 Jordan Ave. Crimmins is employed at Spring Harbor Hospital as a psychiatric technician; he earned a bachelor's degree in history from Plymouth State College.
Crimmins said he was disappointed about his defeat in the last election, but eager to try again.
"I think I am a lot better prepared to take on the challenges of the 125th Legislature because I have a lot better grasp on the issues," he said. "I've done a year's worth of research."
He said the issues of greatest concern are affordable health care, job creation, education funding and the state budget, and responsibility for the recently passed national health-care bill will fall on the shoulders of the next Legislature. Maine, he said, is unique in that its population is aging, more so than the rest of the nation, and older citizens need more health care and prescription medications.
"The question we need to ask is how does the Legislature continue providing these benefits?," he said.
Crimmins said health and human services and education funding eat up a huge portion of the state budget and finding a solution is more complicated than just saying Augusta needs more fiscal responsibility.
On education funding he said rather than impose a new mandatory tax, "a better idea would be to allow people to continue paying income taxes at the level they are now, but give them the choice to voluntarily pay more, earmarking an extra 1 percent or 2 percent of these monies for a specific purpose like education." Crimmins said he envisions the program as being completely voluntary.
Another problem he said he sees is the out-migration of jobs and young people. He said Maine doesn't have an environment conducive to encouraging either individual entrepreneurship or corporate investment, with workers compensation rates and health costs among the highest in the nation.
"Reducing the cost of doing business means we attract more business, new businesses, and more business expansion means more jobs," he said.
Crimmins said he has mixed feelings on how the conversion of Brunswick Naval Air Station to civilian use is progressing. He said great strides have been made, but a lot more needs doing. He said tourism should be figured into the the base conversion, and he likes the idea of establishing a convention center there and utilizing the golf course.
"We attract millions of people to Maine every year, why not capitalize on that?," he said. He also favors the establishment of a community college, but thinks the University of Maine system is lacking in not offering a degree program related to the tourism industry.
"The base with a convention center would be an ideal place to launch a tourism degree program," Crimmins said.
Alex Cornell du Houx
Cornell duHoux, 27, is single and lives at 15 Page St. He grew up in Solon in Somerset County. He attended Bowdoin College as a Mitchell Scholar and has a degree in government and legal studies. Cornell du Houx served in the Marine Reserves and did a tour of duty in Iraq.
He currently works as an outreach director for the Truman National Security Project, promoting national security through clean energies. In the Legislature he served on the Legal and Veterans Committee. He is chairman of the Veterans Caucus and vice chairman of the National Council of State Legislatures, serves on the task force on substance abuse and is a member of the National Council of Environmental Legislatures and Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now.
"The challenge the next Legislature will face is how do we come up with the means to balance the budget responsibly," he said, adding the two biggest issues are health and human services, and education funding.
Cornell de Houx referred to education as the "economic engine," saying one of the first things an employer looks for is an educated workforce. One of the goals of the BNAS closure committee is to attract better paying employers to Brunswick Landing, jobs that would pay salaries in the range of $40,000 per year. He said many of the 4,000-plus base jobs which are being phased out are service sector ones which pay half that amount.
He compared the loss of state funding this coming year to "falling off a cliff."
"If I'm re-elected I will introduce legislation to exempt the base from the state's education formula, which (if approved) should preserve Brunswick's education funding," he said.
Cornell du Houx said other revenue sources will need to be explored as well, and he remains open to the idea of local-option taxes that would tap visitors as a way of reducing the burden on local property owners. He described the state's current tax system as "outdated and unrealistic."
"We have one of the narrowest sales taxes in the nation that relies on car sales and construction for most of the revenue," he said. "When the economy does poorly the state can't provide help or opportunities for those who most need it."
Cornell du Houx sponsored several bills that passed, including addressing the needs of Maine's homeless veterans, and one waiving tuition fees for vets from anywhere in the country to attend the University of Maine or the community college system.
Horch wants to be Brunswick's first Green Independent in the House. Although this is his first try at elected office, he said he likes his chances.
Horch said name recognition won't be a problem for him as he is the founder, owner and operator of F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods & Supplies on Maine Street since 2006. He and his wife Hadley, a professor at Bowdoin College, have three children who attend Brunswick schools.
A former corporate attorney, Horch likes to joke that at age 40 he is the oldest of the three candidates.
"I think my biggest challenge is people taking me seriously. As a Green Independent, people assume that makes me unrealistic and impractical," he said. To get over that hurdle he sponsored three public forums where voters could meet him and his rivals and talk about the issues.
He said redevelopment of BNAS, education funding, harnessing clean energy, sustaining local agriculture and public transportation are all important issues.
Horch called the base closure a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." He said the initial focus on aviation and composites shouldn't overshadow a whole range of other new business opportunities.
"Redeveloping the base as a center for sustainable technologies will provide enormous economic and social benefits to the region and state," he said.
Horch said he is encouraged by plans for developing a community college at Brunswick Landing and supports the concept of creating the Brunswick Park and Garden that would provide both jobs and attract tourists.
"The Brunswick Park and Garden is one of many excellent ideas that need more effective advocacy at the state level to become a reality," he said. "There's been talk about attracting a renewable energy service there and I certainly have expertise in that area."
Horch also hopes to establish what he calls "food security." Because 96 percent of the food Mainers buy comes from someplace else, he asks why not develop an educational resource at the base to educate people on the benefits of buying locally grown foods.
As federal and state dollars get more scarce, Horch said Brunswick will be faced with solving its own fiscal problems. Rather than new taxes, he said he favors a "progressive tax" based on income. The choices, he said, won't be easy for the 125th Legislature and may come down to reductions of services or raising taxes.