Business experience, party affiliation and campaign financing are central issues in the Senate District 25 Democratic primary, which pits former Falmouth Town Councilor and Chairwoman Cathy Breen against Yarmouth Town Council Chairman Steve Woods.
The winner of the June 10 primary is set to face Republican William Gardiner of Yarmouth in the Nov. 4 general election. With incumbent state Sen. Dick Woodbury, an independent from Yarmouth, stepping down instead of seeking re-election, the outcome of the District 25 race could help decide which party holds a majority in the state Senate.
Woods, who owns and operates several marketing companies and co-owns the Maine Red Claws, said he believes economic development is the best way to address many challenges facing Maine, including health care, education, energy dependence and the environment. He questioned Breen’s lack of experience in running a company and recalled a 2009 Falmouth council meeting at which Breen questioned the purpose of forming an economic development committee.
“This election should be a referendum on Maine’s economy,” said Woods, 54. “I think it’s the most vital issue we have in our state.”
Breen, who is a community volunteer and board member of Spurwink Services, explained her comments at the 2009 meeting, saying that she was pressing a fellow councilor to be more specific about his goals for the economic development committee. Breen said she supports and understands the need for economic development, but she wanted to make sure that the committee would benefit the whole community and not just developers of high-priced homes.
Breen, 48, said the Maine Senate should include people with various backgrounds and experiences, so it represents broad interests and reaches optimum solutions to Maine’s educational, health care and economic challenges.
“We’re running for the Legislature,” Breen said of the upcoming election. “We’re not running for CEO. I know how to work with people.”
On her campaign website, Breen lists several Democratic House members who have endorsed her, including Mark Dion of Portland, Mary Nelson of Falmouth, Ann Peoples of Westbrook, Anne Graham of North Yarmouth and Stephen Moriarty of Cumberland. She also lists more than 150 supporters in District 25, which spans Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook.
Breen said primary endorsements are unusual and show confidence in her ability to work effectively with Democratic leaders to get things done in Augusta.
Woods has posted no endorsements on his website, saying that he thought they were inappropriate in a primary election. He did, however, dedicate more than two pages to explain his decision to run as a Democrat in this race. He ran as an independent candidate for governor in 2010 and for U.S. senator in 2012, then withdrew from both races.
Woods was a Democrat for decades, he writes, before moving to Maine 13 years ago, when he decided to register as an unenrolled voter, based on “the belief that issues and people mattered more than party politics.” He has returned to the fold because “being part of the independent tent of differing opinions and stark contrasts was ideal as a voter, but less comfortable to me as a candidate.” If elected, he will support the Democratic Party, but “my greater allegiance and higher duty will be to the citizens of Maine and not any group or partisan interest.”
Breen also touts being a Clean Elections candidate, which means the state funds $7,359 per candidate for a contested Senate primary and $21,749 per candidate for a contested Senate general election. Clean Elections Senate candidates also may accept as much as $1,500 in small, individual contributions.
Woods supports Clean Elections campaign funding, but he decided against running as a Clean Elections candidate “because I have the ability to self-finance” and “I didn’t want to place an additional burden on taxpayers,” according to a prepared statement.
The deadline to file pre-primary campaign finance reports is Friday.
Woods said his 35-year international business career provides a unique understanding of Maine’s assets and problems, including tax policies that burden municipalities and hamper outside investment. Woods owns TideSmart Global, a marketing company, and several other firms based on an 8-acre campus in Falmouth.
Woods said he would court biological-, medical- and information-technology companies that have filled Boston’s suburbs and promote Maine as a potential “annex” for firms looking to expand where life is the way it should be. He also supports progressive educational policies, clean energy alternatives, the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of health care services in Maine.
“In a global economy, we need a stronger economic engine,” Woods said. “At this point, it’s being managed much like a lemonade stand.”
Breen said Maine must invest in infrastructure improvements that would promote economic development, including deep-water ports, rail service and Internet access. She would work to provide public pre-kindergarten education in all school districts and improve graduation rates from the state’s universities and community colleges. She supports expanding Medicaid coverage, developing a single-payer health care system and improving mental health care.
“A lot of people aren’t getting treatment,” said Breen, who has a family member with severe mental illness. “They’re getting housed in jails and homeless shelters, and that’s immoral and a waste of money.”
Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: