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PORTLAND — A six-term state representative is vying for the state Senate in District 9 against the wife of a candidate who sought the seat two years ago.
Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, faces Republican Kirsten Martin for the seat being vacated by Sen. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, who is not seeking re-election. Martin’s husband, Jeff, ran unsuccessfully against Brannigan in 2010.
District 9 covers the Back Cove, Deering, North Deering and East Deering neighborhoods, and part of Westbrook.
Haskell is finishing her third term representing state House District 117, which includes parts of Deering as well as the Libbytown, Rosemont and Stroudwater neighborhoods. She also represented Gorham in the House for three terms, beginning in 1988.
A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Lou, live in the house where she grew up.
Martin has never held political office. But she served as campaign treasurer for Patrick Calder, who narrowly lost the June Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, the Democratic incumbent in the 1st Congressional District.
Martin works as a property manager at Foreside Real Estate Management, where her husband is president. The couple have two children.
Martin cites her personal experience as a strength that has prepared her for the District 9 seat.
“As the mother of a special-needs child, I know what it’s like to be dealing with state agencies, and to have to navigate the health-care system,” she said.
Martin also said she has learned about the financial concerns of Mainers from the experience of managing affordable housing properties for her firm.
Haskell brings a different type of experience to the race.
“The value of my experience in the state Legislature is really the defining factor. I know what it takes to be effective,” Haskell said. In addition, she cited her former roles as chief operating officer of the Maine International Trade Center and as communications manager for the Finance Authority of Maine.
When it comes to business, Haskell said Maine has an identity problem.
“The perception of Maine not being business-friendly is not necessarily true,” she said. “We have a lot of strengths to play off of.”
As proof, Haskell pointed to the growth of Maine’s biotechnology industry and of Jackson Laboratory, the genetics research organization based in Bar Harbor.
She said Maine should encourage further development through financial incentives, finding ways to decrease energy costs and marketing the state’s assets to business.
“We need to be selective, to take what’s working here and focus, focus, focus,” she said.
Martin agrees with the need for financial incentives and for marketing.
“It’s hard to compete with other states,” she said. “We need incentives to bring business in, and let them know what a great workforce we have in Maine.”
But she said she also feels the state can make it easier for businesses to locate here. “Government is making it too expensive for business. We need to streamline regulation, to limit it in a responsible way,” she said.
Another area for streamlining is government entitlement programs, Martin said.
“Today there’s no incentive for people to get off welfare,” she said. “The system is broken. … Some people even end up choosing to stay at home, receiving benefits, because going to work is like getting a pay cut.”
She said she supports placing time limits on benefits, such as those of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The joint federal-state program stops paying recipients benefits after five years.
“The aim wouldn’t be to cut people off, but to transition them off, so they can be successful,” she said.
But limiting the length or dollar volume of such programs misses the point, according to Haskell. “We need to focus our (social programs) on services that have the greatest long-term outcomes,” she said.
As an example, she mentioned the Maine’s Parents as Scholars program, which helps TANF recipients pay for books, transportation, child care and other support in order to complete a college education.
“You need to have some stability first, and then offer services that move people off the (welfare) rolls,” Haskell said.
The candidates have very different views about Maine’s development of alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and tidal power.
Developing other sources of energy is best left to the private sector, according to Martin.
“In theory, (alternative energy) sounds like a great idea,” she said. “But it’s unrealistic and too soon to be depending on it. Our government shouldn’t be wasting money this way.”
Haskell said she doesn’t want to rule out any potential source of energy independence. “To me, these alternative sources make good sense. So let’s not stop any of them. We need to be creative,” she said.
But the need for greater energy efficiency is even more pressing, she said.
“We use so much more than we need. We should be in the business of energy efficiency, before we even go toward (alternative energy),” Haskell said. By encouraging greater efficiency, the state also can help business overcome the challenge of Maine’s high energy costs, she added.
Haskell is clear on Question 1, the referendum asking if the state should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“I’ll vote yes,” she said. “We have enough families in our state who are in disarray. But when two people are in love, that’s a good thing.”
Martin said she doesn’t know how she’ll vote. But she said she believes “government shouldn’t be in marriage.”
Rep. Anne Haskell