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It’s a three-way race Nov. 4 for House District 20, which includes Lebanon, Acton and part of Shapleigh. An open seat in a newly created district, there is no incumbent. Running are Democrat Bettie Harris-Howard, Republican Karen Gerrish and Republican Harrison Thorp, who is mounting a write-in campaign and had unsuccessfully challenged Gerrish in the June primary.

Ӣ Gerrish, 46, of Lebanon, is an elementary school teacher. She has an adult son. She served on the Lebanon Budget Committee from 2008-11, and wound down a term as selectwoman in June.

Gerrish said the first step toward job growth and improving the economy is pursuing policies to lower the cost of energy. She said Maine needs to lower the cost of doing business here, “because regulations are a weight around the feet of our corporate culture.” As well, she said the state needs to take a good look at cutting the high corporate tax rate ”“ she views it as a disqualifier for investors all by itself. Gerrish said fundamental changes are needed with the education system so Maine is producing workers who have skills that are in demand for industries the state is trying to attract.

“I am huge supporter of expanding our technical and vocational schools,” she said.

Gerrish said Maine’s income tax is higher than in other states, she believes the sales tax is high and that corporate tax is “ridiculously high.” She said the solution is to work to increase investment and growth in Maine.

Gerrish said she is committed to serious welfare reform, including eligibility requirements.

“Taking care of our veterans and seniors is also very important to me,” she said.

”¢ Harris-Howard, 65, is married. She and her partner have a blended family of four kids, five grandsons and two great-grandchildren. She’s owned a real estate firm, taught college courses, was a nurse and retired as a nursing home administrator. She’s served on Lebanon’s budget, conservation and appeals boards, the festival committee and chairs the historical society and ran, unsuccessfully, for the board of selectmen, a year ago.

Harris-Howard said she would promote technical education to combat the dearth of skilled workers affecting York County manufacturers as current employees reach retirement age. She wants to attract new employers to the state ”“ those who want to come and stay, and not leave once financial incentives run out ”“ but notes that right now, the skills gap hampers job growth.

She favors what she calls a “fair share” economy, where everyone has a fair share to pay in taxes and a fair share of benefits. “For too long the middle class has been paying everyone’s fair share,” she said, “so it’s time it evened out.”

She said, if elected, she’ll work to restore municipal revenue sharing to prior levels, and for a property tax program designed so the elderly can stay in their homes.

She said she’s been falsely painted as a candidate who will try and limit gun ownership.

Ӣ Thorp, 62, owns and operates an online newspaper, The Lebanon Voice. He is in a long-term relationship and has two grown sons and a teenage daughter from a previous relationship. His previous political experience includes a stint on the MSAD 60 school board in the 1990s.

Thorp believes an enterprise zone on the Route 202 corridor in west Lebanon, which is just a few miles from the Spaulding turnpike and a rail spur in Rochester, New Hampshire, would boost economic growth. He said the area is right for light, clean industry, and that York County has to partner with the community college to make sure there’s an available skilled workforce. He said he believes in the right to work and that Maine can’t hold out for union jobs “to the exclusion of $15- to $18-an-hour, non-union jobs.”

He said revenue sharing has to be a “happy medium,” and that municipalities can’t be relying on greater and greater amounts of it. Thorp said he agrees with Gov. Paul LePage on taxes. He would explore cutting corporate taxes to attract new industry, because he believes it stops industry from coming to Maine and doesn’t bring in that much revenue.

Thorp favors incentives to wean people off welfare. He advocates mandatory job searches with a formula that allows the job seeker to gradually move away from welfare. He favors random drug screening for those welfare recipients with a history of drug use.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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