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BRUNSWICK – Jobs and the struggling Maine economy are very much on the minds of the two candidates seeking the state Senate District 10 seat that includes Brunswick, Freeport, Harpswell and Pownal.
The race pits a well-known Democratic incumbent, Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, against Republican challenger Scott Thomas, who is making his first bid for elected office. The two have agreed to a televised debate hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 29 at the Maine Street Station.
Incumbent Gerzofsky, of 3 Federal St., Brunswick, is seeking his second term in the state Senate. Prior to that he served four consecutive terms in the House.
Gerzofsky said he’s not a career politician. “I still consider myself a furniture maker,” he said. “I made a good living doing that for 38 years.”
Gerzofsky is clearly proud of his working-class roots. His energy and enthusiasm for public office belies his age; he’s 66 and says he has no plans to retire.
“If I’m fortunate enough that the voters send me back to Augusta for a second term, I’d like to run again, and again after that,” he said. “I enjoy doing this. It’s challenging, this job doesn’t stop when the Legislature adjourns. For me it’s a 24/7 commitment, 365 days a year.”
Gerzofsky said he believes voters have a clear choice at the polls.
“I’m a Democrat, no apologies,” he said. “I don’t believe that the private sector alone can solve our problems. Government can create an environment that generates good paying jobs.” He offers the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority as an example.
Gerzofsky said he was instrumental in orchestrating MRRA’s formation and the success its had attracting new employers, including Kestrel Aircraft Co., and the 300 jobs Kestrel has promised once production begins. He said he has also helped formulate a partnership between Southern Maine Community College and the University of Maine to put a small campus on the base.
“Legislation which I introduced helped create MRRA and gave them the authority and responsibility they needed to move forward,” Gerzofsky said. “This shows how government can work together with the private sector and create jobs. I’m a sincere believer in government, but government is only as good as the people who are in it and those who support it.”
Gerzofsky chairs the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Safety Committee, which he has been a part of since he was first elected to the House nearly 10 years ago. Among his proudest accomplishments, he said, is the establishment of a juvenile criminal justice system recognized nationally as among the most innovative.
Gerzofsky said his committee was responsible for the Legislature passing some of the toughest laws against child sex offenders. He also sits on the Labor Committee.
Gerzofsky said he has no fear of voter backlash against incumbents.
“People know me, they know my voting record, my honesty and my many accomplishments for this district,” he said. “I’m proud of those accomplishments.”
Thomas, 57, and his wife Ruth have owned and operated the Brewster House Bed & Breakfast at 180 Main St. in Freeport since moving to Maine five years ago.
Thomas serves on the Board of Directors of the Maine Innkeepers Association and Education Foundation and belongs to the Freeport Merchants Association and Greater Freeport and Southern Midcoast chambers of commerce.
The Michigan native attended Michigan State University, and earned a law degree at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. Thomas practiced real estate and business law in California for 13 years, and served three years on the Los Angeles County Commission for Consumer Affairs.
Name recognition will be a challenge for Thomas, a late replacement for Matt Cartmell, who won the June Primary but withdrew afterwards. Thomas recently got a web page up and running at Thomas4Senate2010.com, but to better his chances he’s running a grass-roots campaign, going house to house knocking on doors.
“I think this year an unknown like myself is more viable than in other years,” he said, adding he wasn’t sure what kind of reception he’d receive from people. “Nearly everyone I’ve met has been friendly and supportive.”
Thomas said he’s been getting an ear full: “It’s the same concerns over and over: the economy, jobs, affordable health care, taxes, people concerned about their retirement investments.”
As a Republican, he said he thinks the best way to kick-start the economy is to encourage private investment by removing barriers and unnecessary regulations. He said he also sees a need for better fiscal accountability and responsibility in Augusta by reining in what he called “reckless spending.”
If elected he said he’d prefer serving on a finance committee or one that would encourage new business investment. He said he has been watching with interest the redevelopment of the former Brunswick Naval Air station.
Thomas said people often ask if he’s the incumbent. “It’s surprising to hear people say they don’t know who their senator or representatives are,” he said. Thomas said he believes lawmakers need to do a better job representing their constituencies, but lay people need to get engaged themselves in the political process if any real changes are to be made.
“This is my first go at this,” he said, “but one thing I’ve found is there’s a general dissatisfaction with incumbents these days so this could wind up being a good horse race.”
Phil DiVece can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or email@example.com
Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick