The two Republican candidates running for a spot on the state Senate District 14 ballot offer stark differences.

One is a longtime Maine resident and a member of the Gardiner City Council, while the other lived out of state for more than three decades and is a retired Navy rear admiral. They’ll face off on the June 14 primary ballot.

Even so, Maureen Blanchard and Bryan Cutchen said they agree in their vision for their district.

“We are aligned in our thoughts about government and how it should be run,” Cutchen said. “The Republican party has a win either way.”

Cutchen and Blanchard admittedly don’t know much about each other, and neither was willing to criticize the other.

Meanwhile, three Democrats — Terry Berry, Shenna Bellows and George O’Keefe — are running in that party’s primary.

The Senate seat is being vacated by Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, who decided not to run for re-election.

The winners of the two primaries in June will face off in November in their campaign to represent the residents of Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

The 35-member Maine Senate now is controlled by Republicans, 20-15.

BRYAN CUTCHEN

Cutchen, 55, of West Gardiner, was born in Florida but grew up in Dresden and Brunswick before graduating from the Maine Maritime Academy. He said his experience and the skills he used as a real admiral in the Navy makes him an ideal choice for voters in the June primary.

“The concepts of financial management and having a constituency are the same,’ he said. “I would routinely be on Capitol Hill when I worked at the Pentagon to answer questions from senators and representatives, and to me, the skills are the same.”

Despite living out of state for so long, Cutchen maintained a connection to Maine through his sisters, who live in central Maine. He said he looks at the problems facing the state from a different perspective because he hasn’t been back living here for long.

“I’ve moved more than a dozen times, but Maine was always the constant,” he said. “(I came back) every summer, which allowed me to stay connected to the issues that impact the state today.”

Cutchen said the two biggest issues facing the state are drugs and the economy, and he has ideas on how to combat both. He has more than a dozen years of experience intercepting drugs in the Caribbean while a Navy pilot and said the issue is bigger than just supply and demand.

“You need to have a balanced approach to how you (attack the drug problem),” he said. “You need to make sure people get into treatment programs, get off drugs and get out of the treatment programs. You also need to make sure law enforcement has the resources they need to be effective in apprehending individuals that push drugs.”

He also said the state has several strengths to leverage, including its natural resources and tourism industry, but the Legislature needs to do better at attracting businesses, which create jobs and create more taxpayers, increasing state revenue.

Cutchen said one of his strengths is his ability to bring people together. Though he is a Republican, he considers himself a “mainstream kind of guy who wants to reach across the aisle and work together in support of a common goal.”

If there is a weakness, Cutchen said, it would be that he hasn’t lived in Maine for 31 years and that this is his first foray into politics. He is looking forward to continuing to knock on doors and meet as many people in the district as possible. Cutchen said he’s had a number of conversations already with people about their lives and what issues they are facing.

“My name recognition is almost zero,” he said. “I’m trying to (meet people) and let them get to know me and my philosophy. It’s educating me.”

He decided to jump into the race during the Maine Turnpike Authority nomination process.

“I wanted to continue to serve, so I looked at state government,” he said. “When I was an admiral, I learned a lot about financial management, strategic planning, personnel management and working with appropriations, so I figured it was a great transfer of my skills to help the people of Maine.”

MAUREEN BLANCHARD

Blanchard’s path to the Republican primary was more direct than Cutchen’s.

“Earle McCormick asked me to run,” she said. “I gave it some thought for a couple of weeks, asked him a few questions and then decided to jump in.”

Blanchard, 53, of Gardiner, was elected in 2014 to an at-large seat on the Gardiner City Council, and she has spent the past several years hearing from residents in Gardiner about what they think are important issues. Blanchard said she looks forward to talking more to the rest of the district about its concerns.

“The biggest concern people tell me about is that their taxes are going up but they are receiving less services,” she said. “A lot of the people are telling me they don’t feel respected as a taxpayer.”

She said people also have come to her with concerns about government spending.

“People want to know where their money is going, and everybody talks to me about the school budget,” Blanchard said. “The school budgets keep going up, but we have fewer students.”

Blanchard said in order to reduce the tax burden on people in her district, the cost of running the government has to decrease. She wants the state to be more efficient.

“You have to spend the money as if it was your own,” she said. “I understand that we have less state workers, which means it’s less that we have to pay in salaries and benefits.”

But Blanchard wonders if agencies are spending the money wisely. She said some of the easiest questions to ask are also the hardest ones to ask.

“Every year, the state should be telling the taxpayer what they did what their tax money,” she said. “And if you ask for taxpayer money, you should have to walk over hot coals to get it.”

Blanchard said she likes Cutchen but points to her local government experience as something that separates the two candidates.

“I know what people want and what they don’t want, and I know what irks them,” she said. “I’m an advocate for consumers and an advocate for businesses.”

No matter the result, Blanchard said she is excited about campaigning, meeting new people and is looking forward to the end result.

“I don’t think voters could go wrong with either one of us,” Blanchard said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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