Two veterans of the Legislature, who both also served previously as selectmen in Bowdoinham, are squaring off in the race to represent House of Representatives District 55.

Democrat Seth Berry, who represented the area in the House from 2006 to 2014, is looking to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Brian Hobart, who was elected to the House in 2014.

Hobart, 62, previously was a selectman for 12 years in Bowdoinham, where he still lives.

Berry, 47, is also a Bowdoinham resident and former selectmen, having been on the board for four years.

But both candidates for the district that includes Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and most of Richmond, said there are significant differences between them.

“The difference between us is night and day,” said Hobart, a retired farmer. “I support small business; I’ve been one. I put people first; he puts the environment first. Any environmental group that crawls out from under a rock, he’ll support it. I want to put Maine people first and special interests last.”

Berry, vice president at Kennebec River Biosciences in Richmond, said he and Hobart “come at it from somewhat different perspectives.”

“I think my voting record reflects greater interest in serving working people, rather than the more privileged,” Berry said. “I think I’m able to work harder as well. I work hard to take the interests of the people of the district into consideration in my voting in Augusta.”

Berry said improving the economy is key for the state. He said ways to help do that should include investing in early childhood education, bringing down the cost of higher education, and strengthening the state community college and university systems to provide an agile workforce able to transition as the economy changes. He also said the state should simplify the tax code to help small businesses and eliminate loopholes so everyone is playing by the same rules. And he said the state should do more to encourage the use of renewable solar energy.

Hobart said the most important problem the state faces right now is drugs.

“I think we’re in a crisis situation if we don’t do something,” Hobart said. “It’s going to have a big impact, gun crime will go up — and they’ll bring their own guns with them — and gang and other criminal activity will go up. We have to include drug treatment in that as well. And educate young people to keep them from starting drug use to start with.”

He said property taxes are a real problem and suggested, because education funding is a large part of property taxes, the public education system needs to be reformed. He said there are too many superintendents for the number of school systems in Maine.

A key concern for Hobart is helping shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works keep their jobs.

Berry also said the state is experiencing a drug epidemic and said a three-legged stool of treatment, prevention and enforcement is needed to address it.

Berry said his key concerns for the district, which he said is a fairly rural area, include supporting small farmers and small businesses, encouraging policies that lead to conservation of land, and policies that help senior citizens.

“Certainly, my area has its share of seniors, we’re all getting older, and we need to make sure our seniors are able to live with dignity and not have to choose between food and medicine and heat in the winter,” Berry said.

He said his prior experience in the Legislature, where he served as House Majority Leader, would be valuable, especially with the high turnover of legislators.

“We lose a lot of institutional memory, and that leaves power in the hands of lobbyists or bureaucrats who may have interest in maintaining how things are done now,” Berry said. “I study the issues from a big-picture level right down to the details. Some 2,000 bills come flying through every two years. You really have to be able to hit the ground running.”

Hobart said he has the fortitude to serve in the Legislature and help maintain the state’s culture, way of life and traditions. He recounted an incident when he was 25 years old and in a near-fatal motorcycle accident, waking up in an emergency room with a prognosis that he would never walk again. He did walk again, and changed careers, to become a charter pilot.

“My doctor recommended I go on disability and said I was no longer able to work,” Hobart said. “I said, ‘I’m not ready for that.’ That was 1979, and I’m still not ready. I believe in working hard no matter what your obstacles are.”

The election is to be held Nov. 8.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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