A Democrat opposed to an east-west highway in northern Maine and an incumbent Republican who wants more information about the project’s impact are competing for a state Legislative seat to represent an area that includes Athens and Harmony.

Democrat David B. Pearson, 63, of Dexter, faces incumbent Republican Raymond Wallace, 67, also of Dexter, in the race for House District 24 seat, which Wallace has held since winning a special election in November. The other towns in the district are Charleston, Dexter, Garland and Ripley.

Pearson, who is town manager of Sangerville, said he would like to see the state focus on local development and good use of natural resources. He said he does not support a proposed east-west highway across Maine, but would like to support local agriculture and local development groups.

Wallace, who is retired from the Dexter Shoe Company, said he supports the Legislature’s recent decision to fund a $300,000 study to examine the viability of the proposed 220-mile privately financed highway that would run through the Piscataquis Valley from Calais to Coburn Gore.

“I want to see the study done to see what the effects would be,” he said. “We are in northern Penobscot County and it’s a little out of the way. It’s hard to get people to invest in central Maine.”

He also said that he is in favor of development and wouldn’t restrict development in the area.

“We are a developing state and we need to develop it,” he said, adding that towns should focus on turning old buildings into housing or new businesses.

Meanwhile, Pearson has chosen to focus on local agriculture as a way to create more jobs.

“We ship too much lumber out of the state,” he said. “It is very rarely sawed or made into products here. We have lobster and fish but not many processing plants. We have great natural resources and transportation costs are going up, so why not make them into something here?”

As vice chairman of the Dexter Regional Development Corporation, Pearson has also been involved with local development and is working on the Fossa General Store in Dexter, a year-round indoor farmers market that is tentatively scheduled to open this fall.

Wallace, in turn, has emphasized the development of small business, business regulations and benefits for workers. During his first year in the Legislature he was on the Committee of Labor, Commerce and Economic Development, where he worked on reforming worker’s compensation, made changes to unemployment policy that he said helped unemployed people return to work and reorganized the board of the Maine Housing Authority.

“This past year was a good learning year for me,” he said, noting that because he only served during the second session of a term he was unable to sponsor any bills.

Both candidates are focused on the future of Maine for young people and cited it as a motivation for running for office.

“We need to show them there’s a future,” Wallace said. “Right now young people in Maine have nothing in the future for them.”

According to Pearson, “I’d like to see Maine take a different direction, making it a place where people want to live and not just come because labor is cheap or there are resources.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

rohm@mainetoday.com