March 13, 2010

Cohen, Fernald and Harlow get the nod

— Maine's next Legislature will be sworn in just in time to address yet another fiscal crisis.

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David Fernald Maine Senate District 9

Charles Harlow District 116

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Before beginning to fill the estimated $500 million gap between projected revenues and expenses in the next two-year budget, members will likely first have to repair a hole in the current budget.

If there were ever any easy choices for budget cuts, they have already been made. And there should be little interest in raising taxes during en economic downturn expected to turn into a deep recession.

Legislators will have to dig into core government services, including education and health care for low income Mainers, if they are going to find meaningful savings.

But at the same time, shrinking government cannot be the only approach. Lawmakers will also have to make cautious, strategic investment of state resources to preserve Maine's assets and open new avenues for growth.

There is a strong field of candidates to represent Portland's House Districts in the next Legislature.

Our choices for districts 113, 114 and 116 are Joan Cohen, David Fernald and Charles Harlow.

Cohen, a Democrat, is challenging Republican Jeff Martin for the seat currently held by John Braughtigam, representing North Deering and part of Falmouth.

Cohen, the wife of Portland City Councilor James Cohen, is a lawyer with two children in Portland public schools.

Although a newcomer to elective office, Cohen will know her way around the State House, based on her experience representing the Maine Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Medical Association.

Cohen's stated priorities are holding the line on taxes and stimulating economic growth through the maintenance of high-quality schools, which are in line with the state's needs.

Her greatest strength may be her approach. She is a self-described ''moderate'' who said she has little interest in fighting partisan battles in Augusta. If she can indeed work with Republicans, she will be a valuable asset.

Martin is a strong challenger and would also make a good member of the Legislature.

He has a varied experience in business and experience in turning a troubled company around. He has clearly been studying the issues and would come to Augusta well prepared.

But in this race, Cohen's policy work and avowed bipartisanship gives her the edge.

Republican David Fernald is an outstanding candidate for the open seat in District 114, representing part of Portland.

Fernald is a Maine native who came back to the state 15 years ago after a career in high technology industries.

Stints on the boards of directors of both the Small Enterprise Growth Fund and the Maine Technology Institute, have given him first-hand knowledge of the weaknesses of Maine's approach to economic development.

Fernald proposes targeting companies that could move to Maine and create high-quality jobs and a more aggressive use of tax incentives to attract them. He would be the forceful voice this type of investment needs in a time of belt-tightening.

Fernald is running against Democrat Peter Stuckey, an activist and retired director of the People's Regional Opportunity Program. Stuckey would be a strong advocate for people receiving state services but Fernald's ideas about business expansion make him a better choice.

District 116 incumbent Harlow is a Democrat seeking his third term in Augusta.

Harlow is a member of the Education Committee, and we appreciate his work on the school district consolidation law, which is likely to come under attack again this session.

Harlow has been a good representative for his district and his work to create a Pine Tree Zone in Portland kept Barber Foods, an important local employer, from leaving the city.

Although he knows Portland will have to accept its share of budget cuts, Harlow said he would protect the city from cuts that would overburden local services.

Republican Ken Capron brings a strong knowledge of health-care finance to the race. But Harlow's track record makes him the better choice this time.

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