Education is a central issue for both Joe Kumiszcza and Mike Timmons, Cumberland residents who will go head to head in the House District 45 Republican primary on June 10.

The winner will face Democrat Dale Denno, also of Cumberland, in the Nov. 4 general election to represent Cumberland and part of Gray.

Kumiszcza, 58, said he would work to improve public education because “it’s one thing the state can do better.”

He would propose legislation that would require public-assistance recipients to get a general educational development diploma if they haven’t graduated from high school. He noted that 47 percent of adult welfare recipients haven’t graduated from high school, according to ProLiteracy America. He also noted the correlation between education and better health.

“If folks are going to be on public assistance, we’ve got to find a way to get them a GED,” Kumiszcza said. “It’s time to give a hand up, not a handout.”

The GED requirement would require a federal waiver, Kumiszcza said, but it would make welfare recipients more employable and possibly help Maine avoid a $7 million penalty for low work-participation rates under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. It also would help address worker shortages for entry-level health care and long-term care jobs, he said.

“I’d much rather spend that money on helping Maine residents move forward than send that money to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

A Web-related business owner, Kumiszcza was named a New England high-tech all-star by Mass High Tech in 2004. The same year, he served on the steering committee for the Blaine House Conference on Maine’s Creative Economy, appointed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

Kumiszcza said he would bring state labor, education, and health and human services officials together with business leaders to develop certification programs that would help meet Maine’s workforce needs. He also would encourage businesses to pay the competitive wages necessary to attract and keep educated workers here.

Kumiszcza would push for an independent audit of all University of Maine System activities in an effort to assess academic programs, increase graduate success and improve resource-and-development programs.

Timmons, 71, is a retired teacher, principal and district administrator who worked in Windham public schools for 38 years. He hopes to serve on the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee if he wins the House District 45 seat, as well as the agriculture and ethics committees.

In addition to working with school and town officials throughout his career, Timmons gained political experience serving on the Windham Town Council for five years in the early 1990s, including chairman for one year. Now he’s president of the Cumberland Fair and a member of the Maine Harness Racing Commission, appointed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

“In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to be in Augusta a lot and I’ve seen how it works,” Timmons said, adding that he saw too much gridlock and negativity at the State House. “With my background, I think I can make a positive difference. I don’t operate from the negative.”

Timmons was named Maine High School Principal of the Year in 1989, Lions Person of the Year in 2006 and Maine Agriculture Person of the Year in 2012.

Timmons said he would “work across the aisle” to improve Maine’s economy, health care programs and educational system, especially to promote better understanding of the Common Core educational standards. He opposes tax hikes, increasing the minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act.

“A lot of people feel there’s too much government intervention in our lives,” Timmons said. “I don’t like Obamacare and how that all came down. I’m in favor of helping people in need, eliminating fraud and misuse and managing increases in the welfare rolls.”

Timmons said he tends to take a common-sense approach to problem-solving.

“That means doing your research and understanding issues before making decisions,” he said.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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