House District 108: Incumbent faces 2 challengers

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CUMBERLAND — To win a third term in state House District 108, Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess, R-Cumberland, must defeat fellow Cumberland residents Erin Cianchette, a Green Independent, and Thomas Gruber, a Democrat.

All three spoke of desires to cross party lines so that lawmakers can work together for the benefit of all Mainers.

House District 108 includes Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Chebeague Island and Long Island.

Erin Cianchette

Cianchette, 30, is a hostess at the Portland Harbor Hotel, where she hopes to ultimately hold a management position. She is also a secretary and office manager at Main Line Fence in Cumberland.

Cianchette, however, said she considers her career track that of a political activist.

She managed the campaigns of David Frans for the Maine House and Jason Bergquist for the Maine Senate, and she chairs the Maine Green Independent Party.

Her platform includes 10 Green values: grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization toward local control, community-based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability, including the protection of important natural resources and safe disposal of the waste people create.

“I believe I would be a great state representative if the community, District 108, agrees with my core values,” Cianchette said. “… I will work towards upholding those values, and I will not compromise on them, and I will stay true to them.”

She called herself a diplomatic person, suggesting that her time with Seeds of Peace inspired her to be a facilitator. “I work to bring people together, to motivate them and work together,” she said.

Cianchette said she can offer an alternative voice in the state as a third-party representative.

“I’m an organizer and an effective communicator,” she said. “I listen to the people, what they need and want.”

Cianchette said it is essential to create a sustainable and vibrant economic system that can generate jobs and provide a decent adequate standard of living for everyone while a healthy ecological balance is maintained. She also advocates a health-care system that allows all people to get the treatments they require at affordable prices.

Thomas Gruber

Gruber, 60, is retired from the U.S. Army and the health-care field. He worked in operations at Mercy Hospital for about 20 years and was later at Catholic Health East, where he started a supply-chain management program. He is married and has no children, and he has spent 30 years in Maine.

Gruber said he is running because he has time and knowledge, as well as a desire to be a public servant. He has never served in an elected position, but said he has been on many boards and participated in a variety of volunteer activities.

“I’m kind of tired of all the comments that are (made) towards our public officials,” Gruber said. “I think that everybody that runs as a public official has good in them, and in their heart they’re trying to do the best they can.”

He added that he wants to restore confidence in public officials.

Gruber said he has been involved in environmental issues. “I just want to pass on something to the next generation … that they would feel good about,” he said.

He added that he does not think his generation has given back enough to future generations in that respect.

Gruber said he also wants Mainers to be proud of their state.

“I don’t want it just to be ‘the vacation state,’ or something like that,” he said. “I want people to say, ‘there’s a state that got it together, there’s a good place to bring my family, there’s a good place to start a business.’ And make (Maine) attractive, and basically use the resources that we have.”

The state’s No. 1 resource is people, Gruber said, who are imbued with Yankee independence, and “we’re not just party people; we do what we feel is right.”

He  said his work experience has shown him to be an available and accountable person, qualities he said will serve well in Augusta.

Meredith Strang Burgess

Strang Burgess, 54, has three sons and has spent her whole life in Maine. She is chief executive of Burgess Advertising & Marketing in Portland, which she co-founded as Burgess, Brewer, Stanyon & Payne in 1986.

She said she is running for a third term because “I believe that Augusta still needs to hear from folks from the small business and the business sector.”

Strang Burgess noted that she has not only supported businesses, but has done it herself with her own company: “I’ve signed both sides of the paycheck, and I employ 19 people.”

She said she seeks to return Maine to a more healthy business climate, “which means more jobs … providing jobs so that our kids can stay (in Maine) after school.”

Education is also important, she said, particularly with regard to getting children off on the right track.

In her second term Strang Burgess served on the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, and she also serves on the Maine Children’s Growth Council.

Strang Burgess said “we have some major, major issues to face in the next session to protect our most vulnerable population.”

She said she brings common sense and a strong work ethic to the table. In her four years in Augusta, she said, she has proved that she digs into every issue and is an independent voice, “and I do what I think is the right thing to represent my constituency.”

Strang Burgess, who waged a successful 18-month battle with breast cancer after being diagnosed 11 years ago, noted that while she does not claim to have all the answers, “I think that I am smart enough to figure out how to make the system work or support my four communities that I represent.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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Erin Cianchette

Thomas Gruber

Meredith Strang Burgess

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.