May 13, 2010

Resume aside, Rowe focused on next job

The former attorney general and House speaker says he learned leadership in the military.

By Matt Wickenheiser
Staff Writer

He started as a farm boy in an Oklahoma town of maybe 400 people and wound up being Maine's top law enforcement official.

click image to enlarge

Steven Rowe, candidate for governor listens to the concerns of Joane Dickinson as he talks to residents of 100 State Street.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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April 23, 1953

FAMILY: Wife, Amanda; four grown children

OCCUPATION: Attorney, serving as counsel to law firm Verrill Dana

Bachelor of science degree in engineering and mathematics from the U.S. Military Academy, MBA from the University of Utah and a juris doctor degree from the University of Maine School of Law

Four terms in Maine House (speaker in last term); four terms as Maine attorney general


This is the THIRD in a series profiling candidates for governor. Steven Rowe will chat with readers live at 11 a.m. today on this site.

Governor's Race special section

Along the way, Steven Rowe became a West Point graduate, an Army commander, a single father, a corporate attorney and speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Now, at 57. he wants to be Maine's next governor. He says his upbringing, his service in the Army and his work as a public servant in Maine all speak to what he sees as his greatest strength -- his work ethic.

"That's why I think I'm the best candidate to carry the Democratic banner," said Rowe. "No one works harder."

Rowe faces three opponents in the party's primary June 8 -- Pat McGowan of Hallowell, Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro and Rosa Scarcelli of Portland.

Rowe was the middle child of five on a farm that at times raised alfalfa, cattle, pigs, chickens, goats, horses, cows and ducks. He and his siblings did farm chores.

His father was a farmer who also worked as a welder, a carpenter and a railroad brakeman. He was also a World War II veteran who served on the local school board.

His mother was a stay-at-home mom whose formal education had ended in eighth grade, when she left school to take care of younger siblings. After her youngest child graduated from high school, she got a college degree to become a teacher and a librarian.

Rowe worked a variety of jobs as a boy, removing trash on Saturdays, selling produce, assisting a surveyor on a dam project. When he was 15, he went to Montana to work with a wheat combining crew. That upbringing, he said, began to form his work ethic.

That farm boy is still apparent. He and his wife, Amanda, a school nurse, keep chickens at their home in Portland.

Supporters describe Rowe as a man who works tirelessly, and is honest and straightforward. Former Senate President Beth Edmonds worked on issues with Rowe, when he was attorney general, including attempts to get ahead of the spread of methamphetamine into Maine.

"He was somebody who sort of saw problems and seized them," said Edmonds. "We always are trying to catch up with all the things that go kerflooey in the world. Steve's somebody who understands most of the difficulties we have are long-term problems, and they need long-term solutions. And they need someone to think about how they started."

Rowe said his priorities as governor would be the same ones he had as a legislator and, to a degree, as attorney general: job creation, a strong education system (particularly early education), and making sure the state's people are healthy and its government is efficient.

As speaker of the House, he pushed for bonds for community colleges and sponsored the Fund for a Healthy Maine, using the state's share of tobacco settlement money to support public health programs.

As attorney general, he said, he tried to address the root causes of things like teen drinking.

He worked with other attorneys general on initiatives to address teen drinking and prescription drug pricing. He joined efforts to protect Maine's environment by litigating state and federal environmental laws, and successfully argued a Clean Water Act case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

State Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, was in the House when Rowe was speaker. Trahan, a conservative-leaning Republican who is leading efforts to repeal a Democratic-supported tax restructuring law, called Rowe "an honorable man."

"Philosophically, politically, we differ, but Steve Rowe's a straight shooter," said Trahan. "He was a lot less partisan than a lot of the speakers I've known. His beliefs run liberal, but I think he meant to do right for the state of Maine."

(Continued on page 2)

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