Change of pace: Brunswick's Priest faces challenge in House District 63
BRUNSWICK — A local real estate broker is challenging incumbent Rep. Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, in state House District 63.
Republican John Bouchard said he is running because he wants to take the state into a better financial direction.
"I want to be able to bring my managerial experience to Augusta to move the state forward," Bouchard said.
Bouchard, who has a wife and two grown children, graduated from Husson College with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He then worked in commercial construction and his father's real estate business.
In 2007 , he became a licensed real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Brunswick. Bouchard said his company primarily works with commercial and rental properties, including the Affordable Midcoast Housing units on McKeen Street.
In addition to serving on the local Republican Committee, Bouchard said he also volunteers for Meals on Wheels and the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.
Priest, who is seeking his fourth consecutive term in House District 63, was uncontested for re-election in 2008 and 2010. The representative previously served in the House for three terms from 1984-1990.
The Democratic candidate is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant, a Vietnam War veteran, and a lawyer in private practice. He is married and has two adult daughters.
During the last Legislature, Priest co-chaired the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary and was a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Insurance and Financial Services.
Besides his legislative duties, Priest has also served as the chairman of the Brunswick Town Council, on the Brunswick Cable TV Committee, the Augusta Conservation Commission and the Brunswick Sewer District.
Priest said he is a moderate who believes in quality, affordable health care; a wisely balanced budget, and the government's role in creating jobs and providing assistance to those who need it the most.
"A job is the best welfare program," Priest said.
When asked about what he would do to improve Maine's business environment, Bouchard said he would push for lower energy costs, competitive health insurance and the streamlining of state regulation processes.
To illustrate the state's current problems, Bouchard cited a friend in Phippsburg who had to wait three years to get his project's approval from different government agencies.
"We have to have people (in Augusta) who are proactive," Bouchard said.
As for development at Brunswick Landing, the Republican candidate said he wishes there was more transparency at the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the organization charged with attracting businesses to the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
"The board in Brunswick has no idea what's going on," Bouchard said. "(MRRA) has their own little agenda," and that affects which businesses come in and which don't.
Priest said he thinks the state needs to push for greater investment in infrastructure and education, especially for adults, along with more predictable tax rates and regulatory polices.
"Businesses need to feel there is a long-term policy that supports them, so they can plan better," the incumbent said.
Priest said he and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, have worked hard to bring more jobs to Brunswick Landing, and he wants to see more support for that direction.
"I feel the government has a place in our lives, a role in creating jobs and helping those who need help and encouraging them to find a useful place in society," Priest said.
The Democratic legislator said he believes welfare programs should allow its recipients to live in "reasonable comfort," but they should ultimately focus on those who need it most.
Bouchard agreed, but the two candidates disagree on how to address the issue.
Recipients who are above the federal poverty level and have a job, the Republican candidate said, should be phased out in a five-year plan, removing 20 percent of the benefits they receive every year until none are left.
"We need to have (the Department of Health and Human Services) work for people who really need it," Bouchard said. "They need to give more to people who don't have enough. They're not getting all the benefits they really need because" others who don't need the benefits as much are taking their piece of the pie.
"You need to get people good jobs so they can get off social welfare programs," the republican candidate said. "When people work, when they make their own money, they feel good about it."
Priest said the state needs to focus on providing various services that will encourage people to train for jobs, so they no longer have to be reliant on the state's welfare programs.
"We need to concentrate on training them for jobs and providing them with a support system," the incumbent said.
He said he would like to see greater support for day-care programs, too, so mothers can train for better jobs.
While both candidates expressed support for alternative energy, Bouchard was more cautious in his approach, saying that he doesn't support mandates and subsidies to encourage growth in that sector.
"I'm not a big advocate of the government investing in alternative energy," Bouchard said. "I would rather see the private sector develop it. It comes back to making jobs."
Bouchard said he's a big supporter of natural gas and hydro power. And despite concerns from environmentalists about the latter, he said modern technology has made it more realistic to incorporate with existing ecology.
Priest said he also supports the further development of natural gas, but he also wants to see government subsidies for alternative energy sources.
He said part of the problem right now is that some of the technologies are too expensive for businesses and homeowners to invest in. But he recognizes the government can play a role in eventually ushering those sources of electricity into the mainstream.
"If you look back on our history, government was involved a lot with our industries. There's always been an involvement," Priest said. "The point is to find when the investment is useful and when it is not."
Bouchard said he will not vote for Question 1, the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage.
"It's because of my belief in God that I believe it's between a man and a woman," the Republican candidate said. "It doesn't set a good example" if you have two moms or two dads."
Priest said he will vote yes on Question 1, noting that he was a co-sponsor of a 2010 bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I think gay couples need the same protections as straight couples," Priest said. "The legislation is crafted so it doesn't interfere with religious denominations."
As for Bouchard's parenting argument, Priest said, "the studies haven't pointed that out. What's important is that both parents love (their children)."
Election Day is Nov. 6.