Primaries produce lively debate by candidates for Maine Senate, House
CUMBERLAND — Candidates in June 10 primaries for the state Legislature criticized the governor, the University of Maine, and one another Tuesday in a forum at Town Hall.
Democratic candidates Steve Woods of Yarmouth and Cathy Breen of Falmouth are running in Senate District 25, for the seat currently held by Sen. Dick Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, who announced in January he would not seek a third term. The winner of their primary is expected in November to face Republican William Gardiner of Yarmouth, who is running unopposed for his party's nomination after Republican David Savage of Falmouth dropped out of the race.
The new Senate District 25 includes Cumberland, Yarmouth, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Chebeague Island and part of Westbrook.
Republican candidates Joe Kumiszcza and Mike Timmons, both of Cumberland, are running in House District 45 for the seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland. The winner of that primary is expected in November to face Democrat Dale Denno, who is unopposed next month.
The new House District 45 includes Cumberland and a southern portion of Gray.
Candidates took turns responding to prompts from host Chris Hall, the chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, but also addressed one another and engaged in formal debate.
Woods, of Yarmouth, accused Breen of playing partisan politics, and challenged her knowledge of economic growth strategy.
He closed the forum by reading aloud a passage from an October 2009 report in The Forecaster, "Economic development bedevils Falmouth Town Council." In it, Breen said she was "embarrassed" to say she didn't understand the point of economic development.
Breen said after the forum that Woods took the quotes out of context, a claim that Woods denied.
"I was pressing a fellow Town Councilor for his version of economic development, which I believed to be the type that favors the wealthy," Breen said. "I support economic development that benefits the middle class, not just developers of expensive houses.”
Woods is the chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council and owner of TideSmart Global, a marketing company based in Falmouth. He ran for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2012, but withdrew from both races before the elections.
Throughout the forum, Woods stressed his business experience and said his first priority in the Senate would be to improve Maine's economy and overhaul its revenue-sharing model.
Woods said he would go to Augusta "with a calculator and an open heart ... but if the math isn’t working, we need to face those realities." He added, "As a state we need to stop being so parochial, so tied to our legacy."
Last year, Woods published "Maine Forward: 2020 Vision for Maine's Economic Future," a report that said 108 rural communities are insolvent and rely largely on government subsidies.
Breen is a former two-time chairwoman of the Falmouth Town Council. She serves on the board of Spurwink Services, a statewide organization that serves people with behavioral and mental health needs. Improving the physical and mental health of all Mainers was one of three priority areas she identified Tuesday.
"Our mental health system is really not functioning well. A lot of these people are in jail or on the streets," Breen said. "It’s a waste of money and a waste of life."
Breen said her other priorities in the Legislature would include modernizing Maine's economy, and promoting and protecting the state's natural spaces. She pointed to her work with the Falmouth Conservation Commission as evidence of her leadership skills, and noted that she has received endorsements from five Democratic legislators: Rep. Mark Dion of Portland, Rep. Mary Nelson of Falmouth, Rep. Ann Peoples of Westbrook, Rep. Anne Graham of North Yarmouth, and Moriarty.
Both Woods and Breen stated they intend to run cleanly financed campaigns. The candidates also both criticized Gov. Paul LePage.
"Paul LePage has embarrassed this state, he has squandered opportunities, he has been a bully, and he has shown that it’s his way or the highway," Breen said.
On the forum's Republican side, Kumiszcza said he would use his seat to try and overhaul the University of Maine into "the economic catalyst it should be." He said the university has low graduation rates and high numbers of loan defaults, criticized course offerings, and said the University of Southern Maine needs more of the doctoral programs that are currently only available in Orono.
Kumiszcza ran against Moriarty two years ago. A tech entrepreneur, he has served as president of Online Associates and executive director of TechMaine. He described himself as a fiscal conservative and social libertarian. Like Woods, he painted himself as a business-savvy job creator.
Timmons was the only candidate to keep his rhetoric almost entirely positive. He encouraged voters to contact him with their thoughts and concerns, and said that, if elected, he would maintain open lines of communication with his constituents and bring their concerns to the state Capitol.
Timmons is president of Cumberland Fairgrounds. He spent four decades as a school administrator before retiring two years ago. He served six years on Windham's Town Council, including one year as its chairman. Last year, the governor appointed him to the Maine State Harness Racing Commission.
While Kumiszcza largely avoided the topic of LePage, Timmons defended the much-maligned governor.
"He’s never sworn at me," Timmons said. "He’s never kicked me out of his office."