CUMBERLAND — In his bid for a second term representing House District 45, Rep. Dale Denno, D-Cumberland, faces a challenge from Republican Tamsin Thomas, a political newcomer.
Now retired, Sandy Point Lane resident Thomas has taught French, and while in California was a secretary at Warner Bros. and a manager at Walt Disney Productions. She moved to Cumberland two years ago.
Denno, of Main Street, has lived in Cumberland for 34 years. He retired in 2013 from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, where he was director of the Office for Family Independence and worked with the Legislature for more than two years.
Denno has been chairman of Cumberland’s Aging in Place Committee and an adjunct professor of business law at Saint Joseph’s College. He has volunteered at Preble Street in Portland and the Cumberland Food Pantry.
Denno in August announced he has lung cancer, but pledged that the treatments would not hinder his ability to serve in Augusta.
A Clean Election candidate, Denno has raised more than $14,000 toward his campaign. Thomas, a traditionally financed candidate, has raised no funds, according to the Maine Ethics Commission.
House District 45 covers Cumberland and a southern section of Gray.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Speaking to the divisiveness between Republicans and Democrats in Augusta, Thomas said being a legislator “takes a great deal of diplomacy, and not just reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. Asking people questions, getting their point of view, and looking for the truth and the reality in what they’re saying.”
“Certainly not name-calling,” she added. “There’s way too much of that.”
Denno said “politicians like to talk happy and positive, and say things are going great. My observation is that we are not in a good state, either nationally or in Maine, in terms of working collaboratively.”
The state Senate has members from both parties working well together regularly to forge better laws,” he noted. In contrast, “in the Maine House we have had very little bipartisan cooperation. So we have a long way to go.”
Denno said he hears regularly from voters that they want their representatives “to sit down and try to solve problems, and stop the partisan stuff.”
He said he hopes to return “to a place where we respect each other’s points of view, (and) we are not ashamed of compromise.”
Denno serves on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, where opioid-related bills are introduced. Hospitals last year presented a “hub-and-spoke” opioid addiction treatment model, which failed to pass, he said.
The administration instead insisted on a “Health Homes” model, “which turned out not to work,” Denno noted.
The state adopted the “hub-and-spoke” approach a year later, and MaineHealth and Eastern Maine hospitals are all participating in “a proven model for how to work with opiate addiction,” he said.
In Maine alone, one life a day is lost on average to opiate abuse, Denno said, adding that “if you look at the obits, you see all these young people; it just breaks your heart.”
Thomas said she finds the opioid abuse issue “absolutely overwhelming,” and “appalling.”
“There needs to be more education; I think we need to stop the drugs more at the border,” she said.
Thomas also said she needed to learn more about the specifics surrounding the issue.
Five ballot questions go before Maine voters Nov. 6. The first would create a 3.8 percent payroll tax, as well as a non-wage income tax, to pay for a home care program for seniors and the disabled. Questions 2-5 would issue the following in bonds: $30 million for wastewater infrastructure, $106 million for transportation infrastructure, $49 million for the University of Maine System, and $15 million for Maine’s seven community colleges.
Thomas said she plans to vote against all five measures. She called the first “unfair and discriminatory” due its taxation of people with higher incomes, and said that while the bond issues “are worthy, the question is how do we pay for them.”
Denno supports all four bond questions, but is opposed to the payroll tax measure.
“It’s a very legitimate issue,” he said, but “I don’t think the way we ought to write tax law is through a referendum. … You can’t touch one piece of the machinery without it affecting other pieces of the machinery. You have to be extremely careful and thoughtful in crafting a tax system.”
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Wife, two sons, two granddaughters
Education: Syracuse University, Cornell Law School
Political/Civic Experience: School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors, 1991-97 (chairman 1995-96); Director of Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office for Family Independence, 2011-13; Chairman, Cumberland Aging in Place Committee, 2014-16
Party Affiliation: Republican
Family: Single, no children
Education: University of Maine Orono, Boston University
Political/Civic Experience: None
Website/Social Media: None