Vote or Quit Bitchin’ 2006
Local election coverage
Voters’ Guide: State House District 115
Two challenge the Leader
By Chris Busby and Erik Eisele
Glenn Cummings isn’t the easiest candidate to beat. The former high school history teacher and married father of two has two Masters degrees (one from Harvard, one from Brown); three fairly unblemished terms in the state House, the last as Majority Leader; and a position directing the new Entrepreneurial Center at Southern Maine Community College.
But he is a Democrat, and as a key leader of the party in control in Augusta, he bears his share of responsibility for the state of state government today.
The question is whether voters in neighborhoods around Back Cove and the University of Southern Maine are angry or scared enough to oust Cummings in favor of one of his two challengers: Republican Melinda Loring and Green Independent Murrough O’Brien.
Don’t hold your breath for the answer.
Loring’s challenge rests on voters’ support for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which she alone supports among the candidates for this seat. O’Brien’s essentially running on an environmental platform inspired by the threats posed by global warming.
Loring declined to answer most of our standard background questions (like age, education, political experience), but from the Portland Press Herald we learn she claims to be a divorced, 50-year-old mother of two with a Bachelor’s degree in “mathematics/economics” from Bates College. She works as an insurance actuary and has never held public office before.
O’Brien, 61, a married father of two, is also a Harvard Man (Bachelor’s in history), with a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law. A lawyer and veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserves, O’Brien is making his first run for public office.
For the record, Cummings thinks Portland and other cities should have a local-option sales tax. He continues to be pro-choice, against the death penalty, and in favor of a state ban on assault weapons.
Cummings said he does not support any expansion of gambling in Maine, and is opposed to allowing Peaks Island to secede from Portland.
Loring thinks Peaks should be allowed to leave, as does O’Brien, but like Cummings, she’s against expanding gambling or restricting access to abortion. She’d vote no on an assault-weapons ban and nix any bid to let cities levy a local-option tax. Loring does not believe gay and lesbian couples should have marriage rights equal to those of married, heterosexual couples.
O’Brien, the Green, believes gay couples should have equal rights and favors more gambling in the state. He’d oppose an assault-weapons ban and is against the death penalty.
A longtime member and secretary of the Maine Judicial Council, O’Brien does not support the creation of so-called “drug-free safe zones” around public parks and playgrounds – zones in which drug-crime offenses carry stiffer penalties, like extra prison time. Cummings said he is “undecided” on the idea. The zones are already being implemented in Maine communities – the state law allowing them to create the zones passed last year “under the gavel,” without a formal roll-call vote by the full Legislature. Loring supports the zones.
O’Brien and Loring were at sea when asked what can be done to help Maine’s struggling groundfishing industry. Cummings had a three-part answer that involves better research of fish stocks, state and federal subsidies for the Portland Fish Exchange, and a change in federal rules to exempt days traveling to and from fishing grounds from the limited “days at sea” fish harvesters can acquire.
So there’s healthy disagreement between the candidates in District 115, but again, TABOR and the environment are the main issues in this race. Loring will need all the pro-TABOR votes to have a chance, O’Brien all the votes of those who fear the world will melt on Cummings’ watch. Cummings needs – well, I suppose you could say he’s all set for now.