Three-term incumbent Republican Dean Cray, 54, of Palmyra, is being challenged the by Daniel Swain, 24, of Canaan, for the House District 28 seat.
Like other candidates running for public office this year, Cray and Swain agree that jobs are the biggest issue this year facing the state and the district’s towns of Canaan, Cornville, Hartland, Palmyra and St. Albans.
Both say Mainers should not have to work more than one job to just get by in a sagging economy.
“I ran six years ago to try and make a difference in Augusta. I know what it is like to work more than one job to make ends meet,” Cray said. “I have also owned a convenience store and a propane business, all while driving bus, farming and the biggest hurdle I dealt with was state regulations.”
Cray said the biggest obstacle facing small businesses in Maine is the high cost of electricity. He said the state should make it easier for companies to generate and deliver low-cost power.
“The state can only create an environment for business to grow and create jobs and energy costs are one of the big issues facing business,” he said. “We need to get less expensive power so they can compete.”
Swain said even with a 40-hour per week job, he still has to pick which bills to pay.
“I was hearing the same thing over and over from people,” he said. “Heat, food and prescriptions should not be luxury items.”
Swain said one area for potential growth would be tapping the resource of tidal power off the Maine coast.
“Maine has over 3,000 miles of coastline; we could be trying to attract big developers and builders of this technology to locate in Maine and hire our residents,” he said. “We should be at the forefront of new industries or technologies that need places to build their products or have an office. With the globalization that is happening in the world, Maine is no longer is ‘out of the way.’”
Cray said the state could reform welfare and health care as a way to help with costs.
“We have made steps in getting some of the welfare under control; I think we need to do more, but we have to make sure the people who really need help don’t get overlooked,” Cray said. “It is not easy to make some of these choices but it is like your home budget — when there is no money you have to make choices.”
Swain said if he is elected, the first thing he will do will be to contact the boards of selectmen in his district and go to their meetings to see what area officials want out of their state representative.
“Maine was one of six states that had a shrinking economy in 2011 — the only state in the Northeast to shrink,” Swain said. “We can deal with it by meaning it when we say we are ‘open for business.’ Maine has so many opportunities to take advantage of our unique location.”
Cray said he has the experience of 30 years in public service and knows the problems facing Mainers in this economy.
“I may not have a college degree but I have years of hands-on experience dealing with people and their issues,” he said. “That is why I think I am the best candidate.”
Swain said his inexperience should not be a problem. He said he has been a student of history and government his whole life, even staying up to watch election returns as a third grader.
“My learning curve will be far less then most freshman legislators because I know the process and how everything in the Legislature works,” he said. “I’m handling it by getting out to as many events as I can and knocking on as many doors as I can by Election Day.”
Cray said Democrats and Republicans have worked well together recently. He said 95 percent of bills in the Maine Legislature are passed with bipartisan support.
“A lot of times it may be north versus south or rural versus urban. The (divisions) you hear about are the ones that are the core values between the Ds and Rs,” he said. “I think it is very important that we keep the communications open and work together to do the best work for the people of Maine.”
Swain, however, said there’s a lot of work to be done for Democrats and Republicans to get along in the State House.
“The level of partisanship in the state is sickening,” he said. “The letter next to a politician’s name should only serve to tell someone generally what they stand for.”
Swain said he already has spoken with Republican legislators to start developing working relationships if he is elected.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367