SOUTH PORTLAND — The end of Democratic Rep. Jane Eberle’s tenure in Maine House District 123 opened the field for three candidates seeking to replace her.
Of the three, only Republican Kenneth “Jake” Myrick, 38, has experience running for elected office; he lost to Eberle in 2010.
Democrat Scott Hamann, 31, has Eberle’s support to replace her in the district covering the central part of South Portland to Main Street and northwest Cape Elizabeth. Eberle, who cannot run because of state term limits laws, is Hamann’s campaign treasurer.
Roger Bishop, 64, a retired Fairchild Semiconductor human resources vice president, is running as an unenrolled independent.
Hamann, a resident of Thornton Avenue in South Portland, is an unmarried video producer and marketing consultant who has two foster children.
He said he stands out in the field of candidates because he is the only one never enrolled as a Republican. He said his campaigning in the district also shows he is attuned to constituent concerns about the economy, health care and education funding.
“I happen to be right in line with the majority of the district I have talked to,” Hamann said.
Myrick, who is engaged to be married, lives on Harborview Place in South Portland and has three children. He is an Army veteran who served in Kosovo and a short stint in Iraq, and is now athletic director at the South Portland Boys & Girls Club.
“I have distinguished myself by not being the party guy,” Myrick said.
Bishop, a former registered Republican, said his corporate experience and desire to create consensus without concern for personal gain make him stand out. He and his wife, Virginia, are the parents of two grown children and live on Leighton Farms Road in Cape Elizabeth.
Bishop said he worked “on the fringes” of independent Elliot Cutler’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010, and said his personal votes and opinions have always been centrist.
“I consider myself a citizen politician,” Bishop said. “I am interested in getting people to work together effectively.”
The three agreed on the need to improve the state’s business climate.
“I can say that about many states,” Bishop said.
Drawing from his business experience helping National Semiconductor expand, Bishop said state government needs to shorten its decision-making process when trying to attract new businesses.
“I want to take my knowledge and impart what we can do to be ready,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to give a company everything, but you have to have a process in place.”
Hamann said his experience shows him the state is missing business opportunities because of uncompetitive tax incentives for production companies.
He said he would work to put state tax breaks on a par with Massachusetts to lure the entertainment industry north, where it could make use of abundant scenery and a skilled work force.
Even if incentives were increased to rebate 25 percent of taxes paid by companies, the remaining 75 percent of the revenue would be substantial and the additional spending would benefit local restaurants, hotels and stores, he said.
Myrick said he supports reducing business taxes and creating more incentives to draw businesses to Maine, while emphasizing the natural resources that allow lumber, paper and seafood industries to grow.
The three stressed more need for regulatory reforms, and said the effort should be to reduce the number of agencies enforcing the regulations.
Hamann said social welfare spending is better measured by efficiency than a question of too much or too little. The 126th Legislature could face a $756 million budget deficit, and Hamann said he wants to ensure the balancing act “isn’t just kicking people who need health care out into the streets.”
Tax cuts that forced budget reductions were a bad approach, Hamann said, and he called efforts to trim MaineCare eligibility “unconscionable” and short-sighted because the cuts would lead to higher costs for emergency room care in the future.
Myrick said his upbringing in Portland and his current job reinforce his belief that programs helping children should not be cut, even as the state tries to wean people off public assistance. He would like to see the Department of Health and Human Services split apart to better provide aid for people in need.
“Put limits in place, but don’t just shift people out of programs,” he said. “I don’t like the shotgun approach.”
“We are obligated to protect the less fortunate,” Bishop said. “Protect has a definition; those who are unable to have the basic necessities need a safety net.”
Bishop added that when those in the safety net can begin to support themselves, it is theirs’ and the state’s responsibility to remove them from the safety net. Entitlements come with responsibilities, Bishop said, and recipients should take part in government and learn to communicate in English, if needed.
The candidates agreed on the need to develop alternative sources of energy, and Bishop said lower utility costs will greatly benefit economic development.
“We would have one more trump card in our hands,” he said about the lure for businesses.
Bishop added the government could provide subsidies to develop alternative sources, but noted nearly all sources of energy have opponents and said government spending should be “very selective with very measured expectations and time lines.”
Myrick called for a policy requiring companies developing traditional energy sources to also research and develop alternative sources, and suggested government could have a role in selling energy, too.
All three said they support passage of Question 1, to allow same-sex marriages in Maine.
Bishop said he is able to support the 2012 referendum question because it allows same-sex marriages without requiring religious denominations to perform ceremonies.
Myrick said his support of the referendum is an example of his willingness to step away from his party, but agreed with Bishop on the importance of maintaining religious freedom.
Hamann said he is a “passionate supporter” of Question 1.
“There is no appropriate justification I have ever heard for limiting the right to marry for one couple instead of another,” Hamann said.
David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.