BRUNSWICK — A former corporate lawyer and business owner, a retired science teacher, and an artist and nonprofit business consultant are the three candidates vying for the state House District 66 seat.
The seat is being vacated by Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, who agreed to not seek re-election in late June.
Fred Horch, 42, is a Green Independent and the only candidate who is running for a second time. He said his party affiliation puts him at an advantage, because he doesn’t have to follow traditional party hierarchy.
Horch lives with his wife, who teaches neurobiology at Bowdoin College, and his three children, who attend Brunswick schools. The family has lived in the area since 2002.
Between 2006-2011, the Green Party candidate and former corporate lawyer owned and operated F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods & Supplies, a small business on Maine Street.
Horch has also maintained a local voter guide on the League of Brunswick Voters’ website. He said he is taking a break from that position to focus more on his campaign.
Grant Connors, 69, is a retired science teacher, but that hasn’t stopped him from volunteering a few days a week at Durham Community School to be with his grandchildren.
In fact, the drive to work and make a better future for his grandchildren are the two motivations for him running, the first-time Republican candidate said.
He said one of his grandsons has already moved out-of-state for better economic opportunities, a signal that he had to do something about it.
“I want them to have a choice to work here if they so choose,” Connors said.
Connors’ father died from tuberculosis when Connors was 6 years old, so he began working at an early age.
Even while he taught at various schools, including Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham when it first opened in 1973, Connors said he has worked many other jobs on the side.
“I have a strong work ethic. I have to work,” he said.
Matthea Daughtry, 25, a Democrat, has worked for a consulting firm that specializes in communications and strategy for nonprofits, has run a local food blog and working for a photography studio.
“What happens in Augusta directly affects me, so I need to make a difference,” Daughtry said.
Daughtry graduated from Brunswick High School in 2005 and from Smith College in 2009 with a degree in studio art. She said her local roots have given her a better understanding of the town’s important issues.
“I’m running because I’m fired up and I’ve got skin in the game,” she said. “I realized this was the best way to serve my community.”
Up until June, Daughty also served as a communications associate for Maine’s Majority, a progressive nonprofit organization that is known for its “61 percent” bumper stickers – representing the percentage of voters who did not vote for Gov. Paul LePage. The group also advocates for issues like worker’s rights and marriage equality.
“I was up in Augusta for most of the 125th Legislature,” Daughtry said, a reason she believes makes her qualified in her election bid.
On top of that, she said she was just endorsed by former Sen. George Mitchell.
Horch said the environment underlies many aspects of life, including business development, which is why he wants to push for policies that promote economic and environmental sustainability.
For instance, he said Southern Maine Community College’s Midcoast Campus is a step in the right direction, but he would also like to see better support for the business incubator at Brunswick Landing.
“We want to make sure when we’re developing the property that people have the access to resources they need,” Horch said.
He said he would also like to see better state policies for alternative energy in Maine, which he said would, in turn, create more energy jobs, lower energy costs and encourage more businesses to come to Maine.
“We need to think about the future and the future is alternative energy,” Horch said.
In addition, Horch said he would like to reform Maine’s tax policy and increase taxes for those who earn more while reducing the burden for those who don’t.
Connors said he doesn’t have any solid plans for how we would improve Maine’s economy, but he has been listening to a lot of constituents and seeing the world through their eyes.
“We have to have incentives to encourage businesses to come to Maine,” he said. He also said he also doesn’t think taxes should be raised.
Daughtry said she would like to see new efforts to promote Maine as a business-friendly state, especially in reaction to negative attention she said Gov. Paul LePage has received on the national stage.
The Democratic candidate said she wants to make sure adequate funding exists for state education and infrastructure, though only through a balanced budget that is fiscally responsible.
To make the case for better funding in education, she cited a 2006 report from the Governor’s Community College Advisory Council that found 4,200 jobs went unfilled annually in Maine because colleges were unable to educate more students.
Daughtry said she also wants to work on sound environmental and regulatory policies that don’t create too much red tape, but instead encourage business to continue work in Maine.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing that business and the environment are mortal enemies,” Daughtry said.
She also shared Horch’s idea of better support for Brunswick Landing’s business incubator.
Horch said the state’s social welfare programs should act as more of a trampoline that helps lift people out of poverty, instead of a net that catches them and gets them stuck in that situation.
As it is right now, Horch said the state’s welfare programs discourages and sometimes prevent upward mobility for those in poverty, because they’re afraid of losing benefits if they get a job.
He said that wouldn’t be a problem if everyone was guaranteed those benefits through a single-payer health-care system, which he supports.
With that said, Horch said the state’s programs should focus spending on people who are truly in need and not on those who get comfortable with the living they’re provided, an opinion Connors shared.
“People that really are needy should be helped but I don’t believe there should be multi-generational help,” Connors said.
He said he would like the state to focus on providing more job training to bring people out of poverty, including creating apprenticeships for various trades.
Daughtry also said she would like to improve state funding for job training and education programs, in addition to increasing the minimum wage, preventing future cuts in social welfare programs and decreasing health care costs.
“I think the government has a role to provide a social safety net,” Daughtry said, but she agrees that it should serve as more of a “springboard that helps them back on their feet.”
The three candidates issued varying degrees of support for alternative energy.
“We have to come to grips with reality and look for alternative sources and make them work,” Connors said.
He said he supports looking at every option available, adding that it would be best to use government subsidies for research and leaving development to the private sector.
“Bottom line: make it work. Make it cost-effective,” Connors said.
Horch, who owns an electric car and recently installed a solar water heater in his house, said he would like to see stronger alternative energy policies encourage private investment.
One policy he would present is a feed-in tariff, a policy that would compensate renewable energy users for any electricity they don’t use. Daughtry said she would also like to see this happen.
“The game changer is changing the rates so people can get a good return on investment with their energy,” Horch said.
The Green Party candidate said he would like to decrease the state’s reliance on fossil fuels – a reliance he said ships Maine’s dollars out-of-state. He said he would do that, in part, by seeking a new tax on pollution and extraction.
Daughtry said she also wants to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels and focus on policies that would provide incentives for people to use alternative energy sources in addition to providing funding for future infrastructure.
She cited a University of Maine offshore wind program that was funded by a grant and matching funds from the state as an example of what she would like to see for the future.
Daughtry also cited the new tidal energy plant in Eastport as a step in the right direction.
All three candidates said they will vote vote in favor of Question 1, the same-sex marriage referendum.
“I’m absolutely in favor. I feel that it’s a fundamental issue of civil rights,” Horch said.
Daughtry said she has two aunts who are in a relationship, so she has seen what it’s like for a couple to not have the “basic civil protections” that marriage would provide.
Daughtry also noted that she has been endorsed by Equality Maine.
Connors said he hasn’t often considered the issue, but when it comes down to supporting his grandchildren and the possibility that one turns out to be gay, he said ee would want them to have the right to marry.
“I always acted with my heart and intellect,” Connors said.