Bath residents vie for vacated House District 62 seat
BATH — Neither candidate in state House District 62 is a stranger to the political scene, with one having served several years on the City Council, and the other involved with the Maine Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee.
Councilor Kyle Rogers, a Republican is running against fellow Bath resident Jennifer DeChant for the seat. DeChant defeated Paul Johnson for the Democratic nomination in June.
The winner in the district, which covers part of Bath, will succeed Rep. Michael Clarke, D-Bath, who is not seeking a second term.
DeChant, 44, is married and has two children. She is public relations manager for Sea Bags, a manufacturing company in Portland. DeChant was also chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Democrats from 2000-2004 and has also served as treasurer of the Maine Democratic Party. She was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 2004-2008 and was one of Maine's eight Democratic superdelegates in 2008.
DeChant, who was defeated by Judith Stevens in a run for Sagadahoc County registrar of deeds in 2010, has worked as a marketing coordinator with Coastal Enterprises in Wiscasset and as a public service manager with the Maine Department of Economic Development. She also served as a legislative aide in the House speaker and House majority offices. She additionally worked in the marketing communications field with Five County Credit Union.
DeChant also served most of a term on the Bath Planning Board. She noted that she has experience with economic development at the state level and has already worked in the Legislature, making her aware of the process behind forming public policy.
Rogers, 49, is married and works as a real estate agent. He retired after 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He has served on the Bath City Council for six years and is seeking another term on the council in addition to the House seat.
If elected to both offices, he said, he expects to serve in both capacities.
Rogers has served as president of the Merrymeeting Board of Realtors, and he has served as a citizen on the Bath Economic Development Committee for six years.
The 125th Legislature "did a lot of good work, and they got a lot done, as far as streamlining the application process and the permitting process (for businesses)," Rogers said. "I think that that needs to continue, and I think that's pretty much a bipartisan effort in trying to get a lot of that done."
A business wanting to expand should not have to wait months to get a permit to break ground on a new building, he said.
Referring to Bath's Wing Farm business development, Rogers said, "we've got shovel-ready lots for people to come in, and they're just not coming. ... The cost of energy is so high in Maine ... it's going to be a lot ot overhead (to heat a building)."
In making Maine more friendly to business development, DeChant said, it is important to focus on the strengths of small businesses. She said she would encourage innovation in the fields of science and technology.
"Working for a manufacturing company myself, I'm very keen on the made-in-Maine manufacturing brand," she said, noting that manufacturing as it currently exists in the state is evolving rapidly.
Training and workforce development should be provided that is more in line with those kinds of innovations, DeChant said.
Maine is also known for its brand of quality, and of protecting its resources, so she said she would advocate for promotion of green companies and renewable energies.
DeChant said she would also like to focus on reducing barriers that companies face, like a complicated licensing process or technical training and assistance delivery, and would also like to streamline services for businesses, allowing owners to focus on sustainability, as well as offering or expanding jobs as is appropriate.
The state is not spending funds on social welfare programs correctly, DeChant said.
"There isn't more money to go around," she explained, noting that the state should allocate its services and resources in smarter ways.
"We've got to be leaner," she said.
The support network that currently exists for the unemployed is not meant as a way of life, but rather as a way to transition people from unemployment to employment, DeChant said. To create sustainable employment, there must be jobs, she said, but also the ability to people to work and know their young children are being cared for, through resources like childcare and preschool.
Exposing children to science, technology, engineering and math as potential jobs, and having those as options for Maine's future workforce, could also help to mitigate the state's cycle of poverty, she said.
Rogers said he does not agree with putting needy people out on the street, but he also does not like watching the welfare system be abused, and he feels that the perpetrators should receive a stiff enough penalty go as not to abuse it again.
He pointed out that the system "absolutely" has abuses. As an example, he said he recently saw someone use food stamps to buy two cans of Red Bull.
"How do we curb those abuses, and how do we enforce what the law says?," he asked. "That's a question that's got to be studied, and ... we need to sit down and have that discussion."
Unless there are good jobs in Maine, the cycle of poverty will not be broken, Rogers said. "It's way, way too easy to stay on welfare, and there are way too many loopholes in the system that allow for people to stay on welfare," he said.
DeChant said she supports the development of alternative energy resources in Maine, as well as any assistance that can be provided at the federal level, "because it's going to help us be self-sufficient ... (and) we'll be able to sell that energy out on the grid."
She also supports the state subsidizing that development through bonds.
"With the right application, anything is doable," Rogers said. "I would like to think that we would look at a more sustainable energy than wind, and that would be hydro power. ... I just don't believe that tearing the tops off of mountains, to put up seven or eight windmills that are going to produce not enough energy to make it worthwhile to change the landscape of Maine, I don't think it's worthwhile to do that."
Rogers said he does not favor government subsidization of alternative energy resource development, although he is not opposed to the development itself, as long as a cost benefit can be shown.
He noted that "if there's a way to save money, I want to look into it."
Rogers declined to disclose where he stands on Question 1, which if approved will allow marriage certificates to be issued to couples of the same gender.
"My vote is my right, and I don't particularly tell people how I vote, and I'm not going to change that," he said.
DeChant said she has never considered not supporting Question 1.
"I can't imagine why I would want to deny those rights to be married to people who want same-sex marriage," she said. "It's not affecting my marriage."