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Cumberland Republicans compete in state House District 45 primary

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Cumberland Republicans compete in state House District 45 primary

CUMBERLAND — Two Republican candidates are competing in a June 10 primary in Maine House District 45.

Joseph Kumiszcza, of Middle Road, and Michael Timmons, of Bruce Hill Road, seek the GOP nod in the district. The winner will face Dale Denno, a Main Street Democrat, in the November election.

The candidates are running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Moriarty, D-Cumberland. Moriarty has represented District 108, which also includes a portion of North Yarmouth, as well as Chebeague Island and Long Island.

After redistricting, voters in Cumberland and a southern part of Gray will elect Moriarty's successor in House District 45.

Kumiszcza, 57, is married and president of Online Associates, a marketing firm he founded in 2008. He is also executive director of TechMaine, an online community for Maine's technology sectors. He was the first employee at the original TechMaine and then founded a new version in July 2010, and has also served as a business and marketing director in other capacities.

Kumiszcza ran against Moriarty for the House 108 seat in 2010. Prior to that he spent time in Augusta working on legislation, including a "fund of funds" bill to create a $100 million private venture fund for Maine technology businesses. He also participated in the Blaine House Conference on Maine's Creative Economy, received a gubernatorial appointment to the Maine Jobs Council, and participated in a governor's trade mission to Canada.

Kumiszcza is also vice president of the Cumberland-North Yarmouth Lions Club, for which he created a website.

"I bring a unique set of ideas, having worked in both marketing and manufacturing in the public sector, the private sector, profit and nonprofit companies," he said. "So I've had a pretty diverse background, and have worked with a range of constituencies. And I've been successful with three different governors: an Independent, a Democrat and a Republican."

Timmons, 71, is married and has one daughter and one grandson. The former Windham resident now lives at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, where he has been president for six years.

He spent 47 years in education, including time as a school principal, assistant superintendent, special education director and teacher. He retired two years ago.

Timmons also served five years on the Windham Town Council, and was its chairman for one year. He additionally spent time on the town's Board of Assessment Review.

Timmons has taken part in fundraisers for Camp Sunshine, the Make-A-Wish foundation and the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, and was named Maine High School Principal of the Year in 1989, Honored Lions Person of the Year in 2006 and Maine Agricultural Person of the Year in 2012.

Maine has nearly 30 agricultural fairs, which "do make an impact on family life in many, many towns and communities," Timmons said. "... I think the issues that come up that affect the community itself are very, very important, and I have worked very closely with the administration of the town as we put together mass gatherings and run the Cumberland Fair, because the fire, police and rescue all come here and work for us during the week of the fair.

"I have a great connect with the community, and I think serving in Augusta will give Cumberland another voice as well," he added.

University system

One of Kumiszcza's goals, he said, has been to create a stronger and more responsive University of Maine System, to make it a catalyst for growing the state's economy.

"We need to teach the university system the three Rs," Kumiszcza said. But instead of reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic, he said "the university needs to be respectful of its students and faculty, (be) responsible with the dollars that it receives, and then (be) responsive to the economic needs of Maine businesses and entrepreneurs."

Kumiszcza said he is a product of the university system. "In years past, when it had an engineering focus in Orono, it really focused on the engineering for the paper and pulp industry, and it really helped support that," he said. "Since then, it really seems to have lost focus on what the engineering is that's really going to move Maine forward. It's become less of an economic stimulus, or catalyst, and more of an entrenched bureaucracy."

Timmons, who received both his bachelor's and master's degrees through the university system, argued that the lack of jobs has been more of the issue. From his university experience, including the quality of his adviser to the courses he took, he never had cause to express the criticism voiced by Kumiszcza, he said.

"I think that the highest unemployed group in the nation, other than the people that couldn't work ... (is) college students and high school students," Timmons said.

Bridging the gap

Asked how he would help bridge divisiveness that has plagued state government in recent years, Timmons noted his service for more than four decades with a variety of groups, and said he has maintained the same philosophy: communication is key.

"I would use the town as a sounding board when issues came up," he said. "I would make a point to let them know what some of the key issues are, and how they might be able to play a part in helping me solve (them). So I'm not just a single entity going up there every day, serving on the different committees."

Timmons said criticism of Gov. Paul LePage in what he called "a vindictive, unprofessional way" has not helped get things done.

"These people that are shooting the current governor down, if they get elected, how are they going to work with him and others?," he asked. "They're alienating themselves ... because they're saying what they think that people want to hear."

Timmons cited the importance of working together, despite party affiliations. There are two sides to every issue, he said, adding that if a legislator does his research, and presents his case, "you can start to build coalitions, I think you can be effective, and I think people will come to you and share some of your views."

He said he would "certainly" consider bills that required bipartisan support, and would not draw a party line in the sand.

"I'm willing to make decisions based on what I feel are best for the people of the state of Maine, that make sense," Timmons said. "And I'm going to work on those coalitions with those people who do that. And I'm going to set my 'R' and 'D' to one side, especially on those really critical issues."

"I think a lot of (bridging the gap) is just bringing new ideas," Kumiszcza said. "It's ideas, not political ideology. That's really the focus of my campaign."

With welfare, he said, the goal should be to get folks off of public assistance. "The rolls of welfare recipients are more than 50 percent people without a high school education," Kumiszcza said. "So, my plan is to say OK, let's add the folks to MaineCare, Medicaid, because everyone is claiming that they're able-bodied. But within a year of coming on the rolls ... those individuals have to achieve a minimum of a high school GED."

One of the state's biggest goals should be making sure its residents have an adequate education, Kumiszcza said.

One of Kumiszcza's goals when he ran two years ago was to try to pass legislation that would enable Maine companies to work with the University of Maine System, assured that their technology would not be divulged to other companies. He noted at the time that it is difficult "for a smart Maine business to work with the university system, knowing that whatever they work on, their competitors can get a hold of."

In the recent session, a bill passed that gives the university system more protection over patents, Kumiszcza said, adding that "no one was up there to really counter the university as far as what the business community needs."

"We need stronger ideas in Augusta," Kumiszcza said. "And we need someone that can bridge the ideas over just the political ideology that's going on up there. We can't survive on 'yes' and 'no'; there's got to be a bridge in there."

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.