PORTLAND — She’s a hypocrite. He’s an extremist.

At least that’s what the avalanche of attack ads would have voters in Maine’s 1st Congressional District believe about their candidates.

In reality, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree and her Republican challenger, Dean Scontras, simply have sharply different views of the role of government, the way out of the nation’s economic troubles and a variety of social issues. She’s progressive. He’s conservative.

On the final day of the campaign, both candidates made their way through the district Monday, shaking hands, motivating supporters, trying to make that final push into office.

Scontras embarked on a bus tour that started in Kittery, ended in Falmouth and stopped in 11 communities along the way. Pingree greeted the dawn along with early-shift workers at Bath Iron Works, picked up an endorsement from former independent Gov. Angus King, then got another from the Maine Small Business Coalition. “We’re feeling cautious but positive,” Pingree said during a lunch break at Local Sprouts in Portland, a small restaurant on Congress Street.

Hands curled around a mug of warm tea, Pingree, 55, considered the change in tone and tenor from her campaign two years ago. “I got elected because people want to stop the war, people want to reform the health care system and they really want to get off our dependence on foreign oil,” she said. “Those were really strong messages when I ran.”

The loudest message this year involved transportation – specifically, Pingree’s flights on her fiance’s private jet. “It’s been disappointing,” she said, “but in the long run I know who I am and what my values are, and that’s never going to change.”

Pingree’s voting record in Congress is much the same as her eight-year voting record in the Maine Senate, where she rose to majority leader and occasionally battled with King over bills such as a groundbreaking one aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for senior citizens.

“She’s smart, determined and she always puts Maine first, and I’ve been on the receiving end of that ‘determined’ part a couple of times,” King said in endorsing Pingree on WGAN radio Monday morning. “I think she’s done a great job under difficult circumstances.”

Scontras and his Republican allies say otherwise. Incumbents are notoriously hard to unseat, but this election cycle, with its “throw-the-bums-out” vibe, provides an opportunity.

By focusing attention on Pingree’s fiance, wealthy hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman, the GOP painted her as an elitist with ties to Wall Street who managed, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to run up an enormous deficit. “As if somehow, I, as a freshman, managed to do all that in two years,” Pingree said, noting the two wars and multiple tax cuts from the Bush administration that turned an inherited surplus into a $1.3 trillion deficit before her first day in office.

“I want to continue making wealthy people pay their taxes, increasing their taxes, and invest that money in real manufacturing jobs,” she said, “not just assume somehow that when the rich get richer, it all trickles down to the rest of us. That’s really a failed economic theory.”

Scontras, 41, is taking his second shot at the 1st District seat. It last was held by a Republican when Jim Longley of Falmouth served one two-year term before losing in 1996 to Democrat Tom Allen, a former Portland mayor.

After graduating from the University of Maine in 1991, Scontras held a series of sales and marketing jobs for high-tech firms in such places as Virginia and Atlanta before returning to Maine in 2005 with his young family.

Three years later, he ran second to Charlie Summers of Scarborough in the Republican congressional primary, with Scontras standing for ideologically right-wing values and Summers representing moderate views. This time, Scontras has refused to address social issues other than to say he respects the rule of law.

Instead, he has talked about debt, deficits and cutting back on spending. He has taken dead aim at Pingree’s support for the federal stimulus and her view that, in terms of infrastructure and research and development for renewable energy options, it didn’t go far enough.”She stuck firmly to the principle that she’d like to double down on the spending,” Scontras said. “I think what’s really going to work is returning to some certainty in our tax code and our regulatory code.”

Scontras attempted to parlay his success in the technology field to renewable energy, through a startup company called Ra Power Solutions with his friend and business partner, Richard Benoit.

After a few fits and starts, the company focused on small wind farm development and, a year ago, installed a 165-foot tower in Errol, N.H., that measures wind speed at three levels.

Finding financing to go further or to develop other projects has been the sticking point.

Scontras said money is available, but investors are unwilling to commit because of uncertainty over taxes and regulations.Scontras recused himself from the business in March to tend to his campaign. Today, he’ll find out whether it’s back to the hills, or on to the halls of Congress.

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]