SKOWHEGAN — A retired Hollywood production manager who moved to Maine six years ago is challenging the incumbent for the state Senate seat representing communities in Somerset County from Fairfield to Jackman.

David Schwanke, 60, a Democrat from Norridgewock, faces incumbent Republican state Sen. Rodney Whittemore, 65, for a two-year term in Senate District 26, which includes more than 20 communities.

Both think jobs are the key to future economic growth and each has an interest in passage of a bill in the Legislature that would mandate the hiring of Maine-based production crews for all movies made in the state.

“I would like to get L.D. 384, which is the film bill, pushed through as I wrote it,” Schwanke said. “I gave it to the Republican John Picchiotti and he sponsored it.”

The bill requires that film companies working here use a Maine bank, travel agency and payroll company. It also requires that half of the crew are Maine-based.

Whittemore said he worked with Picchiotti and Schwanke in support of the movie bill.

“The bill has a lot to offer,” Whittemore said.

Schwanke said bringing jobs to Maine will have to include finding creative ways to attract outside employers.

“I would help with tourism, work with our existing small businesses and large businesses on how the state can partner with them on putting more people to work,” he said. “The more people we put to work, the more revenue we generate. There are numerous companies we could attract to come here.”

Schwanke said the state could market itself better to attract business, especially in the film industry where there would be a need for such things as auto rental as well as camera and special effects companies. He said the state could also attract what he called minor manufacturing, small businesses to build everything for light aircraft to automotive parts.

Whittemore said the top issue facing Maine today is the economy.

“The falling economy would be an important issue,” he said. “Being a businessman, the insurance and the regulations and the poor business climate is another concern of mine — that’s where most of our economy is generated. When the cost of energy, fuel included, starts to inflate it has a huge impact all the way around.”

A key to the economy in Maine is small business, he said.

“The best thing we can do for our economy is to address the largest segment of that economy and that is small business,” Whittemore said. “That’s not to say we don’t want to get larger employers here in the state, but I think if we lower our cost of energy; doing something with the insurance rate, which we have with the new medical insurance law. It’s health insurance. It’s the big one.”

Schwanke said district residents should vote for him because he wants to help them.

“I’m here to listen to what their problems are and how are we going to correct them, that’s what this whole thing should be about — jobs, the economy and the new health care coming in to play,” he said. “How I would approach helping people is to have town meetings; meet quarterly with the town managers; beef up our tourism a little more.”

Whittemore said he originally ran for public office out of a feeling of obligation to the community.

“With three sons, three daughters-in-law, three grandchildren and being exposed to the public (at Whittemore’s) as I am and with all the concerns my customers expressed to me, that is what inspired me for the most part,” he said.

Schwanke said bipartisanship in the State House so far has shown members of both parties can work together on some issues, but there is still room for improvement.

“There needs to be a little more closeness involved in some of the key issues — there always some common ground you can start with, but are we going to get us to agree on everything? No,” he said.

Whittemore said problems in Augusta often stem from the loud voices of the far left and the far right. The center is working together just fine, he said.

“There’s some great people in Augusta on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “If you have reasonably minded people it’s not to difficult to come to an agreement about what really is the right thing to do.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com