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Former police officer challenges South Portland incumbent in House District 124

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Former police officer challenges South Portland incumbent in House District 124

SOUTH PORTLAND — Both candidates in the Maine House District 124 election – retired police Officer Kevin Battle and incumbent Rep. Bryan Kaenrath – emphasize experience and their ability to work with others as what makes them stand out.

Democrat Kaenrath, 29, of Barberry Creek Road, is seeking his fourth, two-year term in the district that includes the western section of the city. He serves on the Legislature's State and Local Government Committee and is seeking a master's degree in business administration.

Earlier this year Kaenrath set his sights on the state Senate District 7 seat being vacated by Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, but he was defeated in the June 12 Democratic primary by Cape Elizabeth resident Rebecca Millett.

"In my three terms, I have tried to be a moderate person and to look at every idea individually," Kaenrath said.

Republican Battle, 54, of Sandy Hill Road, retired last January after almost 27 years as a patrol officer. He and his wife, Kathy, have two grown children. He said he was an unenrolled independent who contacted Democrats and Republicans when he decided he wanted to make his first run for office this year.

Battle said his police career and volunteer work with the South Portland Boys and Girls Club and the committee that erected a veterans memorial in Mill Creek Park establish his ability to work with others.

"I have dealt with people all my life. I like helping with them and working them," he said.

Kaenrath said he supports Question 1 to allow same-sex marriage in Maine, while Battle said he remains undecided.

"It has always been my view that people should be equal under the law," Kaenrath said."It is about equal rights and basic fairness to me."

Battle said his personal decision on the referendum question will be made in his usual method.

"I make my decisions when I go to vote," he said. "I read the question and I decide."

Battle and Kaenrath agree small businesses are the heart of Maine equality, and the best way for the state to improve its business environment is to help business owners by streamlining rules and agencies when possible.

"I have supported streamlining agencies as a whole," Kaenrath said. "It saves money and meets this mission better."

While campaigning, Battle said business owners have told him they feel they are getting conflicting information and interpretations about rules from state agencies.

"We need to enforce what is on the books, but be more concise so Mr. Storekeeper knows is he does A, B and C, he is in compliance," Battle said.

Kaenrath said it is equally important to fully fund education and job retraining courses to provide the best work force for new and existing businesses.

Both candidates agree on a need to reform social welfare programs to include some time limits and to reduce fraud and abuse. But they remain wary of making assumptions about people on public assistance rolls.

"I don't know how rampant abuse and fraud are yet, because negativity sells," Battle said. "So things need to be cut with due diligence and care."

Kaenrath said he accepts a need for time limits on some programs, but is fundamentally opposed to eliminating health-care benefits whether in the public or private sector.

"The budget is a big picture. When we are going after health care, I have a problem with that," he said.

Kaenrath and Battle both support efforts to develop alternative energy sources, but said they are wary of subsidies for developing the sources as opposed to subsidizing energy conservation projects.

Kaenrath said he is less enthusiastic about developing wind power because of "aesthetic and environmental impacts" and the rate of returns on investments.

Battle said the rate of return and time to self-sufficiency should be considered when subsidies are involved, and suggested specific government committees have oversight in determining how public money is spent to develop energy resources.

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