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SOUTH PORTLAND — Voters on May 10 will choose a new District 7 state senator to represent South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough.
The ballot choice will be between South Portland Republican Louis Maietta Jr. and state Rep. Cynthia Dill, a Cape Elizabeth Democrat.
The seat opened when former Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, resigned on April 15 to take a job in California.
This will be the second special election for state office since Republican Gov. Paul LePage was elected last November and Republicans took control of both houses of the Legislature for the first time in decades.
Since then, there has been no shortage of headlines coming from Augusta, including the dispute over removal of a Department of Labor mural, whoopie pies, efforts to roll back and streamline business and environmental regulations, and proposed changes to the state pension system.
Dill said the first 100 days of Republican control have made it “perfectly clear” there are differences between the two political parties. But Maietta said it was too early to judge the LePage agenda, saying it will take time for Republicans to hit their stride.
Maietta said that if he is sent to the Senate he will not be told how to cast his vote. He believes his business experience as a commercial property manager is what is needed to create jobs and keep young people in the state.
Dill said she has experience with bills currently before the Legislature and can make an immediate impact in the Senate, promising she will fight for the environment, education and job opportunities.
Maietta said the ongoing controversy over the labor mural is “ridiculous” and “needs to get out of the media,” because it is not helping the unemployed get back to work.
Dill, however, said the mural is “an incredibly powerful symbol” of what she called LePage’s attempt to implement an extreme corporate, out-of-state agenda. She said the issue shows how the administration tries to bully its opponents.
Dill said she opposes efforts to roll back child labor laws to allow minors to work more hours while school is in session and allowing employers to pay employees under the age of 20 a “training wage” for 180 days that is $2.25 lower than the $7.50 minimum wage.
“If you look at all those labor bills in the package it’s extraordinary,” she said, noting LePage tried unsuccessfully to dissolve the Labor Committee. “I totally oppose those.”
Maietta, however, said the labor proposals – like most bills – need to be scrutinized before deciding whether or not they deserve support.
Dill’s name has also been in headlines recently for launching an online petition calling for an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow a citizen-initiated recall of the governor.
But the petition carries no legal weight, and Maietta called it “totally ridiculous,” another unwelcome distraction in Augusta. But Dill defended the petition, which has been “signed” by more than 18,000 people, saying it should give LePage pause about pushing through his agenda.
Maietta said legislators need to focus their attention on making the state more business friendly by removing bureaucratic red tape.
He noted how his brother, Vincent Maietta, worked for several years to get approvals for a strip mall on Western Avenue in South Portland, investing as much as $500,000 before he could even purchase the land from the city.
“Every time you turn around there’s another obstacle,” Maietta said. “Anyone else would have just thrown up their hands.”
Maietta said he recognizes Maine’s strict environmental regulations are needed to protect the state’s natural resources, but said the permitting process could be streamlined so developers would get more timely approvals.
Dill said protecting the environment and preventing the rollback of the Maine Kid Safe Act were of the “utmost importance.”
When it comes to addressing the state’s budget problems and unfunded $4.3 billion state pension liability, Dill said legislators must take a comprehensive look at the state tax code and remove exemptions.
She said LePage is seeking to lower the top income tax rate and pay for it by adding a 2 percent tax to state employees, raising the retirement age and freezing cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, which she opposes.
Dill, meanwhile, has proposed a local-option sales tax that would allow municipalities to assess up to a 3 percent sales tax and keep half of the proceeds.
Maietta, who has no position on the local-option tax, said he would support LePage’s effort to reduce the top income tax rate, as long as it is geared towards keeping businesses in the state.
He noted how his family’s business, Scarborough-based Maietta Construction, has struggled with bankruptcy, in part, because his father never wanted to lay people off.
“He put his whole life savings into trying to save that company without going into bankruptcy,” he said. “It’s hard to sit back and watch this go on. They have got to take care of the people at the top who have worked their whole lives to get where they are and keep people working.”
Both candidates said they support legalization of gay marriage.
The polls will be open May 10 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Polling places are the South Portland Community Center, Cape Elizabeth High School and Scarborough Town Hall.
Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth
• Enrollment: Democrat.
• Age: 46.
• Address: Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth.
• Married with two children.
• Occupation: Civil rights attorney.
• Experience: Three terms representing House District 121, part of Cape Elizabeth; served two years on the Cape Elizabeth Town Council.
Louis Maietta Jr.
• Enrollment: Republican.
• Age: 54.
• Address: Elderberry Drive, South Portland
• Married with three children and five grandchildren.
• Occupation: Commercial property manager.
• Experience: One term as state representative in what was House District 26, now District 123 (part of South Portland and part of Cape Elizabeth); served four years on the South Portland City Council.
• Website: ElectLouie.com.
SOUTH PORTLAND — Longtime resident and local historian John Kierstead last weekend announced his write-in candidacy for the District 7 seat in the Maine State Senate.
Kierstead, a 58-year-old graduate of Harvard University, said he was formerly registered as a Republican, but is running as a fiscally conservative independent.
Kierstead said he is not spending any money on his campaign, and hopes to reach out to residents from his part-time job at a local hardware store.
If elected, Kierstead, who spearheaded a fundraising effort for the Long Creek air crash memorial, said he would not accept his legislative salary.
According to the Legislators’ Handbook, legislators are paid about $13,850 for the first session and about $10,000 for the second session. They receive an additional $55 a day for official committee work, and $100 a day for special sessions.
“I will not accept a penny in payment,” he said.
To vote for Kierstead, voters must write in his full name and address: John Kierstead, 36 School St., South Portland, Maine.
— Randy Billings