Maine Senate District 6 race pits Scarborough, Gorham business owners

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SCARBOROUGH — After eight years, voters in state Senate District 6 will see two new names on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Democratic Sen. Phil Bartlett cannot seek a fifth, two-year term because of term limits laws. Republican Ruth Summers, of Scarborough, and Democrat James Boyle, of Gorham, are seeking the seat in the district encompassing the western portion of Scarborough, the southern portion of Westbrook and all of Gorham.

Summers, 41, a Burnham Road resident, is the wife of Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers. He is the Republican candidate to replace U.S. Sen Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The couple has one young son, and an adult son and daughter from his first marriage.

Dundee Road resident Boyle, 54, has four adult children with his partner, Susan.

Boyle and Summers are seeking office for the first time. Each said they enjoy the process of meeting district residents.

“I have knocked on more doors than I knew existed in Maine,” Summers joked.

Summers, who owns Little Hands consignment, is the former executive director of the Education Foundation, established to grant scholarships to college students.

She is a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a former president of the Junior League of Portland.

Her father served in the Marines, and Summers said military life has shaped her perspectives and readiness to serve in the state Senate.

“It makes me a different person, in that I find I can be pretty flexible,” she said.

Since 1996, Boyle has consulted businesses on complying with environmental regulations and helped steward them through the application process for state and federal permits.

He is also the owner of Avant Dance & Event Center in Westbrook and has worked as a real estate developer.

He said his work allows him to understand and communicate the perspectives of opposing sides.

“I don’t just jump on something and attack it,” he said.

With the exception of opposing views on state Question 1, which would permit marriage for same-sex couples, Summers and Boyle both run toward the center of political opinion.

Summers opposes same-sex marriages and said the very definition of marriage is between a man and woman. She said she does favor civil unions affording same-sex couples the legal rights and protections extended to married couples.

“I can’t remember not being supportive of (same-sex marriage),” Boyle said. “If two people love each other, they should be able to marry each other.”

Summers and Boyle agree more can be done to make Maine business friendly. Summers said if elected, she would carry on the course set by the 125th Legislature, which reformed regulatory and insurance laws.

“Prior Legislatures preached a good game, but lacked follow-up,” she said. Reforms like allowing lobstermen to stack traps on docks are simple remedies, but Summers said it was a waste that so much legislative time and energy was spent on passing and then repealing such laws.

“Government does not make jobs,” Summers said. “If we make things more difficult, people will not come here.”

Boyle called the regulatory process “frustratingly complex” for ordinary people, but said some of the doubt about being business friendly is a matter of perception.

“Blanket statements covering complexity does not make a problem more simple,” he said.

Boyle said attending legislative workshops and hearings on LD-1, the bill introduced in 2011 by Gov. Paul LePage to reduce regulatory hurdles, was an impetus for him to run this year.

Seeing legislators as ordinary people is as important as seeing employees of government agencies in the same way and will help dispel the negativity surrounding the question of being business friendly, Boyle said.

The candidates agreed the larger effort of making Maine more business friendly lies in reducing the steps business owners are required to take for permits, as opposed to loosening actual regulations that affect quality of life in Maine.

“Not every regulation out there is bad, but if you have to go to seven different agencies, it is not good,” Summers said.

Summers and Boyle are also in favor of using government subsidies to encourage use and development of alternative energy, but did not define how incentives might be created and implemented.

“We have to develop alternative energy sources; it is the way the world is now,” Summers said.

Boyle said inertia has played a role in preventing development and implementation of alternative energy sources, and said a long view of cost savings should always be considered.

“A small incentive can pay big returns,” Boyle said.

Both candidates took moderate views of government spending on social programs. Summers said she has not made up her mind on whether too much or too little is spent, but said personal responsibility needs more emphasis.

“Just because I have an ‘R’ in front of my name does not mean I want to see everybody eliminated from social services,” she said.

Government programs should ensure people with mental health issues and developmental disabilities get the care they need, and Summers said she is especially concerned veterans of all ages are not neglected or harmed by budget cuts.

Boyle said he has had a lucrative career as a consultant and entrepreneur, but his conversations on the campaign trail have reinforced the idea that constituents legitimately need help.

He added he felt cutting income taxes, then making cuts to MaineCare to pay for them, as in the last legislative session, was a questionable process.

“I like the idea of balancing budgets,” Boyle said. “What makes it difficult is other people have not been as fortunate and they need a helping hand.”

Boyle said he supports increased efforts by LePage and Attorney General William Schneider to prosecute fraud and abuse of social programs.

“I think the problem is very small, but we should be on it,” he said. “It undermines the public trust.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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James Boyle

Ruth Summers

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.