Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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ASK A QUESTION
JOHN HINCK will answer your questions live at pressherald.com today at noon.
FAMILY: Married (Juliet Browne), one child, 14
OCCUPATION: an attorney whose practice focuses on litigation representing multiple plaintiffs
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Maine House of Representatives, 2006 to 2012
ON THE ISSUES
• Do you support President Obama’s health care law? Yes
• Do you support a balanced budget amendment? No
• Would you support a tax increase for the wealthy? Yes
• Would you vote to extend the nation’s debt limit? Yes
• Do you support legalizing gay marriage? Yes
• Do you support legal access to abortion? Yes
• What should Congress be doing to create jobs and improve the economy? “Reform the regulatory framework and the tax code to benefit small businesses and the middle class; support new technologically advanced, high-precision manufacturing with work force development; and invest in research and development that generates new opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Hinck has received a 100 percent lifetime score from Maine Conservation Voters.
LABOR ISSUES: Hinck has received a 100 percent lifetime score from the Maine AFL-CIO.
BUSINESS ISSUES: Hinck received a 9 percent rating in 2008 and 20.5 percent in 2010 from the Maine Economic Research Institute.
• Portland Mayor Michael Brennan
• Lamey-Wellehan Shoes President Jim Wellehan
• Twenty-five legislators, including Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, Rep. Edward Mazurek, D-Rockland, and Rep. Jeffrey McCabe, D-Skowhegan
"The thing I completely understand from a number of years in my own life is that most people are struggling to get by," he said. "There are too few jobs that give people a living wage and benefits."
His support for universal health care, along the lines of "Medicaid for all," puts him to the left of many in his own party, including President Obama. He protested the war in Iraq from the start, at a time when many Democrats in Congress were hesitant to oppose the Bush administration. His voting record in the Maine Legislature is more liberal than Dill's or Dunlap's, according to scores by the AFL-CIO, Maine Conservation Voters and the Maine Economic Research Institute.
In the Legislature, Hinck is best known for his support of energy efficiency and alternative energy, including wind power. He was the House chair of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee during the session of 2009-10.
Some critics say Hinck has a conflict of interest because his wife, who works at the Verrill Dana law firm, is the leading attorney in Maine helping companies obtain permits for wind turbines.
But Hinck said "destructive" forms of energy, including nuclear power and fossil fuels, concerned him long before he met his wife in law school. He said wind energy -- like other forms of energy -- should pay its own way and not force costs onto others, including taxpayers.
At the start of the legislative session, Hinck was viewed as a "hard-charging" lawmaker who would find compromise difficult, but he learned how to listen and build consensus, said Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who was the Senate chair of the energy committee.
Those skills would serve Hinck well in the U.S. Senate, said Hobbins, who is not supporting any Democrat in the primary.
Chris O'Neil, an anti-wind lobbyist, said Hinck is bright and thoughtful but not so remarkable that voters should elect him to the U.S. Senate.
"I don't think he brings to the U.S. Senate the skill set, experience and aptitude that Maine voters should expect in their senator," said O'Neil, a former Democratic lawmaker who is supporting Dunlap in the primary.
It is Hobbins, not Hinck, who deserves credit for building consensus with Republicans on the committee, said Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, the current House chair of the committee.
With Hinck in the general election, Democrats would have a liberal candidate who is not well-known outside his political base in Portland, Thibodeau said. "I'd be surprised if the folks up and down my street would know who Hinck was," he said.
But Brownie Carson, the retired executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said Hinck has the commitment and the talent to be a national leader on environmental issues, similar to former Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie.
"He would work hard like Muskie worked hard," Carson said.
Tony Buxton, a Portland attorney who lobbies for industrial energy consumers, said he donated $500 to Hinck's campaign because he's impressed with his intellect and his resume, including his work as an environmental activist and a tort attorney.
In 1998, working with Lewis Saul & Associates, Hinck filed the nation's first statewide case against oil companies over groundwater contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE.
"He has a wealth of unusual experiences that most people don't know about it," said Buxton, a Democrat. "The Greenpeace stuff shows he's not afraid of taking a difficult stand."
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: