CUMBERLAND — Republican Mike Timmons and Democrat Dale Denno are vying to replace state Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland, who is not seeking a second term in the state House of Representatives.
Timmons and Denno are running the redistricted House District 45, which includes Cumberland and a southern section of Gray. Moriarty represented District 108, which also included a portion of North Yarmouth, as well as Chebeague Island and Long Island.
Denno, 64, is married and has two children and two grandchildren. He has lived in Cumberland for about 30 years, served on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors from 1991-1997, and was its chairman in 1995-1996.
The Main Street resident retired in December 2013 from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, where he was director of the Office for Family Independence. He worked directly with the Legislature for more than two years in that capacity.
Denno said Moriarty approached him about running. “I think we share a lot of the same values,” he said, “and a lot of the same interests.”
Timmons, 72, is married and has one daughter and one grandson. The former Windham resident now lives on Bruce Hill Road at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, where he has been president for six years.
His 47 years in education included time as a school principal, assistant superintendent, special education director and teacher. He retired two years ago.
Timmons also served five years on the Windham Town Council, including a year as its chairman. He additionally spent time on the town’s Board of Assessment Review.
Timmons has taken part in fundraisers for Camp Sunshine, the Make-A-Wish foundation and the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, and was named Maine High School Principal of the Year in 1989, Honored Lions Person of the Year in 2006, and Maine Agricultural Person of the Year in 2012.
He also has experience in Augusta. Gov. Paul LePage appointed him last year to the Maine Harness Racing Commission. If elected to the House he will have to step down from the commission.
Both candidates expressed a strong desire to bridge the divisiveness in state government.
“I just don’t think that we can continue with the bickering, and the people of Cumberland would be voting for me because they want me to represent them,” and not waste time arguing back and forth,” Timmons said. “I’m going to operate from the positive; I’m going to run on that. … I will be a team player, period.”
He said criticism of LePage in what he called “a vindictive, unprofessional way” has not helped accomplish things.
“These people that are shooting the current governor down, if they get elected, how are they going to work with him and others?,” he asked. “They’re alienating themselves … because they’re saying what they think that people want to hear.”
Timmons expressed a willingness “to make decisions based on what I feel are best for the people of the state of Maine, that make sense. And I’m going to work on those coalitions with those people who do that. And I’m going to set my ‘R’ and ‘D’ to one side, especially on those really critical issues.”
Denno said he found a strong degree of bipartisanship in the Legislature during his time working in Augusta, and that most of the legislators he met were “really willing to listen and to hear logic and to hear facts. Unfortunately, I don’t think Gov. LePage has been supportive of that bipartisan approach. That is a piece I hope will change in this coming election.”
Denno said he gets along well with politicians from both major parties. He said his business background gives him credibility when looking at economic growth. He said he would like people to “roll up our sleeves” and focus on what will be done to turn Maine’s poor economy around.
Denno said his particular interest in running is “the transformation of Maine’s economy,” adding that he wants everyone’s children to be able to choose to stay in the state, “but they can’t do that if we don’t have jobs. When we say it’s ‘the way life should be,’ you still need an income.”
He said Maine’s top export is its young people, a trend that must be reversed.
“That hard work, of transforming the economy, without destroying the environment, without destroying what it means to be Maine, is a very, very big challenge,” Denno said, adding that an efficient, responsive government can help foster that transformation if it develops a strategic approach.
The business community “needs clarity and they need consistency from government,” he said, also arguing that expansion of the role of community colleges and number of available slots at those institutions would help build an educated work force.
Raising the minimum wage is also key to economic growth, Denno said, explaining that “if people don’t have the money … they can’t spend the money.”
Timmons said he has no problem with the minimum wage being increased. But he thinks it should be done in stages, with the understanding that “it’s not going to do a lot for the 18- to 25-year-old … because that’s the group that already has the highest unemployment rate.”
One method is not enough, he argued, saying he would support a multiple-step plan to tackle the issue.
Timmons said small and large business owners alike have an important voice, and have issues with regulations and laws in Maine that they might want to change; working toward that end “requires us to work on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Election Day in Nov. 4.