The Democrat calls the Republican a nice man on the wrong team. The Republican says the Democrat has a long record of public service he should be proud of.

The hopefuls are cordial, but the difference between the philosophies of Senate District 21 candidates is large. Hallowell Democrat David Bustin is running against Rep. Pat Flood, R-Winthrop, to represent the communities of Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Litchfield, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

Bustin, a former Hallowell mayor, a state representative in the 1970s and the former commissioner of personnel under former Gov. Joseph Brennan, said he thinks state Republicans will float legislation aimed at “voter suppression,” weakening unions and favoring charter schools over normal public schools.

“You’ve got the same players in charge,” Bustin said. “If we don’t get a Democratic Senate or House, we’re going to see more of the same.”

Flood, a retired business manager and four-term representative who has been chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, sees himself as a consensus builder who is most valuable in state budgeting processes.

“That’s the thing that I feel I can help the state with the most, to go back and help legislators understand what’s in the budget document and create an atmosphere where the legislators can be working together on those complicated issues,” Flood said.

Flood said that although he spends 90 percent of his legislative time on budgeting, he’s worked to fund waiver programs that provide supervision and support for severely disabled people and has worked for funding wastewater and sewer infrastructure.

He counts Republican-led pension reform as the past Legislature’s crowning achievement.

MaineToday Media reported that changes to the state employee pension system in a biennial budget passed in 2011 saved the state a projected total of nearly $1.7 billion through 2028 by moving the retirement age from 62 to 65 for new hires, adjusting for the cost-of-living impact of a two-year state salary freeze and making changes to health care eligibility.

“Largely, when you explain to people what the changes were, they become more accepting of those,” Flood said. “The fact of the matter is I think we did as fair a job as we could possibly do.”

But Bustin said many people he’s talked to aren’t happy about pension reform — especially its impact on teachers. It’s one piece of a “negative attitude about government” in state government, he said.

Bustin said to make up for expenses he believes the state should incur, he’d favor making Maine’s income tax system more progressive by asking, “Are the wealthy people really paying their share?”

He said in the place of cuts Republicans have championed, state spending outside of the General Fund should get more scrutiny. Also, he said small-business owners in his district are seeing a positive bounce in the economy, so state tax revenues may soon tick up.

Flood said to do his job on the Appropriations Committee, one has to build bipartisan support for broad-based plans. But when Bustin said some refer to Flood as moderate, he made quotation marks with his fingers to accentuate “moderate.”

He pointed to a recent report from Maine People Before Politics, a conservative group that started as Gov. Paul LePage’s transition team between governor-elect and governor. The report ranks legislators on their conservative record, and it gives Flood a 92 percent score.

“He’s more likely to back the governor’s programs — as he did in the last session,” Bustin said. “He had to carry the water. A lot of us think it’s bad water.”

Flood praised LePage’s vision, but said he and the governor are two different people.

“There’s only one guy steering the ship and that’s Governor LePage. I respect the office and respect the direction he’s set,” Flood said. “There have been times when I’ve disagreed with portions of that direction.”

Michael Shepherd — 621-5632

[email protected]

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