House District 113: Sheriff faces golf course operator

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FALMOUTH — Mark Dion, the retiring Cumberland County sheriff, is facing political newcomer Jason Harris in state House District 113, representing the North Deering section of Portland and West Falmouth.

State Rep. Joan Cohen, D-Portland, withdrew from the race in July, as did the original Republican challenger, Charles C.S. Burns.

Dion, a Democrat, replaced Cohen and Harris replaced Burns on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Mark Dion

Dion, 55, is finishing his third term as Cumberland County sheriff, and announced earlier this year he would not run again. He lives on Allison Street in Portland and is married to Cheryl Dion. They have two adult daughters.

Dion, who earned his law degree while serving as sheriff, is also on the board of Northeast Patients Group, the organization selected to run four of the eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine.

His experience as sheriff and in public safety for more than 30 years have proved his leadership skills, Dion said, adding that he is also familiar with the legislative and budget processes.

Dion said he believes the state’s strategy of across-the-board cuts and cost shifting has run its course. His “priority yardstick,” he said, will be the education and protection of Mainers, and economic well-being. He also pointed out that he has experience dealing with financing non-discretionary, unfunded state and federal mandates.

He said he will work hard to represent “friends and neighbors on both sides of the Presumpscot (River).”

A key issue facing Falmouth and Portland, Dion  said, will be the amount the municipalities get from the state in general purpose aid to education. Reductions in that aid can can have “a cascading negative effect on local budgets …,” he said.

Jason R. Harris

Harris, 38, is a co-owner of Harris Golf, a Bath company that owns several golf courses, including the Falmouth Country Club, Freeport Country Club and Highland Green Golf Club.

He lives on Hope Avenue in Portland, is married to Kate Harris and has a son, Cameron. Harris attended Cheverus High School and the University of Southern Maine. He is an advisory board member of the Savings Bank of Maine.

Harris said he believes the fact he has no political experience makes him the best candidate. His experience as a businessman, he said, has given him “work ethic, inspiration and common sense,” and he’d like to bring those traits to Augusta.

Working with budgets for his business every day, Harris said it is important to recognize that “if you don’t have the money, you can’t spend it.”

“I know cuts aren’t easy, but you look at everything and find a way to make it work,” he said.

He also said that because his wife is a school teacher, he has a unique perspective on education needs.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

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