CUMBERLAND — Incumbent Rep. Mike Timmons, R-Cumberland, and Democrat Dale Denno are facing off again in the Maine House District 45 election.
Timmons in 2014 narrowly defeated fellow Cumberland resident Denno, 2,472 to 2,446, to win his first term representing the district, which includes Cumberland and a southern section of Gray. Denno won 2,195 to 2,172 in Cumberland, while Timmons took Gray by 300-251.
Denno, 66, is married and has two children and two grandchildren. He has lived in Cumberland for 32 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 2013 from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, where he was director of the Office for Family Independence and worked directly with the Legislature for more than two years.
Denno is also chairman of Cumberland’s Aging in Place Committee and an adjunct professor of business law at St. Joseph’s College. He also volunteers occasionally at Preble Street in Portland and the Cumberland Food Pantry.
Timmons, 74, 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 eight years.
He is a retired educator, with 47 years as a school principal, assistant superintendent, special education director and teacher.
Timmons also served five years on the Windham Town Council, including a year as its chairman; was a member of the town’s Board of Assessment Review, and was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage to the Maine Harness Racing Commission in 2013.
In the House he has served on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Timmons has participated in fundraisers for Camp Sunshine, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. He 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.
Asked whether he would support any action by the Legislature against Gov. Paul LePage following an angry, obscene voicemail the governor left for Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, Timmons said he supported a Republican resolution calling for LePage to apologize to Gattine and the state, to seek help regarding anger management, and to “agree that this type of action would cease immediately.”
While he does not think LePage’s actions merit impeachment, Timmons said “I did not agree with a public official, especially the governor, using that type of language, and I don’t believe there are many that did.”
Had he been in the Legislature, Denno said, “I would have supported censure of Gov. LePage. I think that it has become an embarrassment to the state, and I believe that we have an obligation to say both to the state and to the country that we are holding our politicians accountable.”
Narcan, a medicine that blocks opioid effects and reverses overdoses, should be available to first responders, Denno said, adding that “I would have supported that over the governor’s veto.”
“People are not just addicts,” he continued. “They are somebody’s brother, somebody’s sister, or son or daughter. I think that we have an obligation to fight for their life as we would anyone else’s.”
He praised the immediate treatment Midcoast Hospital in Brunswick offers people, preventing them from relapsing.
“We need to approach this like any other crisis,” Denno said. “We need to have leadership, we need to be aggressive, we need to see what works, we need to be scientific. But we need to act.”
Timmons said he expected Maine’s opioid problem to be back on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s agenda in the next Legislative session.
“There’s no question that this issue comes with a fairly significant price tag,” he said. “… With this particular issue, I believe that there are very, very few that do not disagree that this is one of the biggest problems facing us. It’s going to take teamwork and leadership to accomplish that.”
Asked about the biggest problem facing the Legislature in going about its business, Denno said, “I don’t think there’s anything that stands in the way of legislators working cooperatively and on a bipartisan basis, except for the fact that there are legislators who are just totally loyal to their party.”
It is not a matter of governmental structure, he added, but rather one of “electing people who have an independent mind and who are willing to say to their leadership, be it the governor or anyone else, that ‘I represent my district; not my party.'”
Speaking to the issue of divisiveness between political parties, Timmons said, “this cannot be politics as usual. We need to look at many, many issues,” such as welfare, education, the prison system and the budget, “and come up with solutions for them, not just end up fighting over it.”
While both major parties work well in committee, he added, “it seems to break down when we get on the House floor.”
Timmons said he is “leaning toward” fellow Republican Donald Trump for president.
While Denno, too, supports his party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, he said she was not his top choice. Still, he supports her over a candidate he called “dangerous and totally unprepared.”
“The biggest issue facing my towns, and I hear it as I go door to door, is (rising) property taxes, and what are we going to do about it,” Timmons said.
He also noted opposition around Cumberland Foreside to Question 2, one of the six statewide referendum questions going to voters in November. The citizen initiative would establish a 3 percent tax on household incomes of more than $200,000 to fund education.
“If you take that 3 percent, and couple that with property taxes, you’re going to find that there are going to be more people leaving Maine, but particularly people even leaving Cumberland,” Timmons said.
Residents with young families are concerned about the quality of their schools, while the seniors in District 45 have concerns about property taxes and their ability to remain in their homes on a fixed income, Denno said.
Those issues are a nod to a statewide concern, he explained.
“We’re the oldest population in the entire United States, and we’re losing our young people,” Denno said. “That is not a sustainable model.”
Along with opposing Question 2, Timmons said he also would vote against Question 1 (which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product), Question 3 (mandating specific background checks for the sale and transfer of guns), Question 4 (increasing the hourly minimum wage to $12 by 2020) and Question 5 (establishing ranked-choice voting across the state). But he said he is undecided about Question 6 (issuing $100 million in bonds for transportation projects).
Denno said he is leaning against the marijuana question, while he supports the other five.