The two candidates in the Maine House of Representatives District 59 race both like their chances of winning because they say they’re well-known in their communities.
Gay Grant, a Democrat from Gardiner, runs her own writing consulting firm called The Write Way, which she said has helped bring in over $1 million in grants and fundraising for local non-profits and businesses.
Shirley Hanley, a Republican from Randolph, has been in the race less than two weeks. The party chose Hanley at an Oct. 12 caucus as a replacement for Daniel Bates, 61, who died of an apparent heart attack Sept. 29.
The candidates are seeking to succeed Rep. Stephen Hanley, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits, for the district seat representing Gardiner and Randolph. Rep. Hanley’s cousin is Shirley Hanley’s husband.
Hanley, 77, was a stay-at-home mother for her eight children and was honored as Maine’s Mother of the Year by American Mothers in 2004.
Grant, 52, lives with her husband, Ron Grant, and has two adult children.
Hanley and Grant have both served on the Maine School Administrative District 11 school board, now called Regional School Unit 11.
Both candidates said creating more jobs is a top priority for Maine.
Hanley said schools and businesses should work more closely to prepare students for finding work. She pointed to the cottage industry — making crafts from home — as a way for people to make more money.
The craft fair season is starting, she said, and some of these people could potentially turn their work into a full business with the right incentives. Hanley mentioned Gardiner Main Street’s pop-up store project, where several new businesses will get free rent downtown for the holiday months, as one possible incentive.
Hanley also said the fishery and forestry industry are important to Maine’s economy. She said she doesn’t have a specific idea to improve them, but she thinks people in the fields of science and technology will come up with ideas to make such jobs more plentiful in Maine.
Fishermen also say they’re over-regulated, she said. “I would like to get rid of some of these regulations that are holding these people back,” she said, although she didn’t have any specific regulations in mind.
Grant said people she has spoken with while campaigning door-to-door are worried about jobs, health care and education, but a lot of the issues come down to the economy. The key to growing Maine’s economy, she said, is strengthening small businesses and the middle class. One way to do this is to attract and train a skilled workforce, she said.
Grant thinks the state needs to address the mismatch of Mainers’ skills and skills employers are looking for.
“Maine is not going to grow unless we focus on the education piece, and it isn’t just K-12. It’s the higher education piece too,” she said.
Grant said she has contacts with people from community colleges and education foundations because of her work as a grant writer. She said an important role of a legislator is to bring these types of knowledgeable people together to talk about solutions for Maine.
Grant said community colleges have responded to the needs of the business community but sometimes they don’t have the needed resources. Some programs, such as nursing, don’t have enough professors, she said.
“I would want to be looking, making sure the community colleges are getting adequate funding,” she said.
Hanley said the issues she’s most passionate about involve helping children, specifically with poverty, child abuse and domestic violence.
She thinks the solution lies in educating children to be good parents during middle school and high school through either required classes or mentoring from parents.
“Maybe this would stop some of the child abuse before it happens,” Hanley said.
She also said she thinks the state could improve its poverty and rates of domestic abuse if schools would teach a class encouraging students to get married.
“Maine does little or nothing to discourage unwed mothers and nothing to helping good marriages,” she said.
Hanley also said she cares a lot about issues affecting veterans, especially ones who are homeless or struggling after returning from overseas. Along with the rest of the Randolph Veterans Memorial Committee, Hanley and her husband, Peter Hanley, raised more than $25,000 to build the War Memorial in Randolph, she said.
Grant derided the last Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage for actions that she said have hurt, or will hurt, a lot of Mainers.
“The changes that the last Legislature made to insurance was devastating for people in the rural areas and small business who saw their premiums go up for health insurance,” Grant said, in reference to L.D. 1333, which opened up the health insurance market to companies in other New England states and lessened restrictions on companies raising premiums.
Grant also objected to the efforts to cut $20,000 from MaineCare, which is currently in limbo after a federal court rejected Maine’s request to speed the federal government’s decision on allowing the cuts in September.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663