Topsham state House race draws 3 candidates

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TOPSHAM — Candidates from three parties are vying this fall for the state House seat being vacated by Rep. Andrew Mason, D-Topsham.

Republican Kim Talbot of West Schoolhouse Crossing Road is competing against Democrat Denise Tepler of Homeplace and Green Independent Daniel Stromgren of Coombs Road in District 54.

Daniel Stromgren

Stromgren, 41, is married and has one child. A clinical social worker, he has been a member of the Maine Greens since the party’s 1994 inception. He is treasurer of the party, sits on its statewide steering committee, and has worked on several campaigns and national party issues.

Stromgren, who was adopted as a child, has been a longtime advocate for adoption rights. He ran unsuccessfully last year in a special election in state Senate District 19, which prior to redistricting included Sagadahoc County and the Lincoln County town of Dresden.

He has also worked as a legal researcher, helping small business growth in Portland, and supporting local economic development. He has more recently been a mental health provider for several area agencies.

With party politics often causing divisiveness in Augusta, one means of bridging that gap is listening, Stromgren said. Going door-to-door to meet potential constituents, he said he is finding that people want to be heard, and want their ideas to be validated.

“There’s a kernel of truth to everybody’s perspective,” Stromgren said. “And dialectically, it’s possible for two things that are opposites to both be true. That’s really the kind of the root of unity politics. … It’s possible for us to find kernels of truth in everyone’s perspective, and when we’re able to do that what we end up with … is that middle ground that becomes acceptable policy.”

One means of boosting business in Maine and improving the state’s economic viability, he said, would be to “look at leveling the playing field” between small and big businesses. He suggested eliminating corporate tax loopholes, while “continuing to award innovative companies that are building themselves and … supporting Maine’s local farmers, food harvesters and agribusinesses with direct-to-market opportunities.”

Stromgren also supports eliminating tax increment financing deals for out-of-state businesses that “offer few livable wage jobs.”

He said Topsham has established a “box-store mecca” off Interstate 295, while having an above-average property tax and school education.

“Those aren’t jobs that typically Topsham residents are going to take, and they’re not building a local economy, because we spend money at Home Depot or Target … and that money gets put right into a truck and shipped right out of state,” he said.

Stromgren said his party’s campaign is the only one “being transparent and honest,” adding that “we’re trying to take the ambiguity out of politics. … I’m not allowing my party to define me; I’m not putting that ambiguity out there. When somebody goes into the ballot box and checks off my name, they’re going to know exactly what they’re voting for.”

Kim Talbot

Talbot, 53, is married and has two children. She handles bookkeeping and customer service for her husband’s small business, and works at the Great Impasta in Brunswick.

She said “it just seems like the right time in my life to … pursue this interest that I’ve had for a long time, and I feel that I’ve got a lot of perspective that I can bring to the state House.”

In bridging the party gap, Talbot said, “I’m going to work extremely hard to sit down, listen to everybody’s perspective and … speak to the fact that, bottom line, we’ve got to help the people of Maine, and helping (them) means getting over ourselves, and just moving forward and trying to resolve the issues of the day. And that’s what’s important.”

One means of boosting business would be to simplify regulations for new businesses and industry, Talbot said.

“The biggest struggle that we have in the state of Maine is energy costs,” she added. “We’re at the end of … the pipeline of trucking and industry. … We’ve got to look at innovative ways of getting around those obstacles, and also working toward reducing our energy costs.”

Talbot noted that she grew up with welfare support. “I bring that perspective to the table. … I was helped and assisted in pursuing my education, but I knew that that was a way out of the welfare system,” and never considered it a permanent lifestyle, she said.

Talbot said many Mainers have lost hope in themselves, and that she would work toward providing that hope, with an eye toward people improving themselves and emerging from the welfare situation – still providing assistance, but also job training, help for education, and health and child care, “because a lot of people can get a job, but then they can’t afford child care.”

Having started her own bookkeeping and secretarial service at the age of 23, Talbot said, she has lived with Maine’s rules and regulations, and knows what it is like to work hard to build a small business.

Denise Tepler

Tepler, 58, is married and has three children. A local foods advocate, freelance teacher and writer, she has served two terms on Topsham’s Finance Committee. She was also on the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors from 1996-2002, where she chaired the policy and curriculum committees. She is also a new member of the Brunswick Food Shed Advisory Committee.

Tepler was defeated in House campaigns in 2008 and 2010 by former state Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham. After withdrawing from this year’s election in June, Mason nominated fellow Democrat Tepler to replace him on the ballot.

“It’s my first opportunity to run for this seat as an open seat,” Tepler said.

Her time on the town’s Finance Committee raised concerns for her about how state government has operated recently, and its impact on Topsham, she said, noting specifically a cut in state revenue sharing.

As a member of that committee, the School Board and other groups, Tepler has “worked with people of all stripes,” she said. “Good answers don’t necessarily just come from one party. I will look for good answers wherever they come from.”

One thing to help boost business in Maine would be public funding toward better broadband and cellular communications service, she said, noting that “it’s critical to the growth of 21st-century industry of any kind in Maine that we have a better broadband and cable network than we currently do.”

Tepler said she will make a good representative for Topsham because of her experience with the town. “I’ve been active in a lot of different kinds of ways,” she said, “and I’ve lived here for 30 years.”

She also noted her background in public policy, adding that “I can discern a good idea when I hear it. I also think that I have a lot of common sense, and I’m very pragmatic and practical.”

Election Day is Nov. 4.

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

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.