Two candidates with different styles, resumes and campaign priorities will compete for votes in a June 14 Republican primary to determine who challenges the Democratic incumbent in Maine’s 1st Congressional District this fall.

Mark Holbrook and Ande Smith both insist they will bring a more conservative, locally minded approach to Washington, D.C., if elected to replace Rep. Chellie Pingree, a self-described progressive seeking her fifth term in Congress. Yet the two men say their diverse professional backgrounds and public service experiences – as well as their approaches to working in a Congress often described as dysfunctional – uniquely suit them to the job.

Smith, a 30-year Navy veteran and attorney who runs his own cybersecurity consulting firm, said he “has the tools, knowledge and temperament” to represent Maine in Congress.

“I believe I have the credibility and the history of leadership to get things done,” said Smith, of North Yarmouth.

Holbrook, a psychologist and former police officer, calls himself “the only conservative choice in the race.”

“I am very accustomed to conflict and conflict resolution … and I think those skills will serve me well in Washington,” said Holbrook, who lives in Brunswick.

Holbrook and Smith both support repealing the Affordable Care Act, strengthening U.S. borders to reduce illegal immigration and are skeptical of scientific evidence that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are changing the global climate. However, the two differ on key details and campaign styles.

THE NAVY VETERAN

Smith spent eight years as a nuclear engineer officer aboard Navy submarines. Since transitioning to the Navy Reserve in 1994, Smith has commanded three reserve units, deployed to Africa as part of a “security cooperation” task force and helped coordinate pumping operations in flooded parts of New York City after Hurricane Sandy.

He believes his military experience provided him with ample opportunities to develop leadership skills.

“That doesn’t always mean standing in front and leading the charge from the trenches. That also means inspiring people” to work together, Smith said.

But as someone with decades of experience working with and within the federal government, Smith said he has seen the challenges and inefficiencies of large bureaucracies.

“Small organizations or leaner organizations are better equipped to be successful,” he said.

In his campaign, Smith has highlighted the need to require a balanced federal budget, to decrease the national debt and to rein in the “unrestrained growth in regulations” stifling business development. He also believes the Obama administration has “stretched the Constitution to the very breaking point” while taking a weak stance against China, Russia, Iran and potential terrorist threats. He supports strengthening military ground forces, as well as air strikes, in the fight against the Islamic State.

He has made supporting veterans a major part of his campaign.

Smith has served on the Maine State Board of Education since 2012 and is vice chairman of the Maine Charter School Commission. Yet he also has called for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.

He also pledged to work closely with the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and other economic development programs to bring new jobs to Maine.

“Like many people, I have been disquieted by what I have seen as the direction of the country … and I believe Chellie Pingree is emblematic of that,” Smith said.

He has paid staffers as well as more than 120 volunteers on a campaign that had drawn more than $130,000 in contributions from individuals as of late May.

THE COUNSELOR

A police officer for 12 years in his early career, Holbrook holds undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology. He has worked as a social worker, in the psychiatric unit of a prison, and taught courses on hostage negotiations and crisis situations. He now has a private practice working with veterans, law enforcement personnel and families. Holbrook said he has also worked as a lobsterman and holds a Coast Guard master license to operate up to 100-ton boats.

Like Smith, Holbrook accuses Obama of violating the U.S. Constitution and describes the national debt as a major threat to the country’s future. But Holbrook is more aggressive on immigration in his calls to secure the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants that he called “life-sucking invaders” in his speech to the Republican state convention in April.

“Build a wall, put up a fence, dig a moat, I’m for it all,” Holbrook said in an interview. “Do whatever you can to secure our borders.”

Holbrook argues that while illegal immigrants do not have a major presence in Maine, they siphon off financial resources that should be spent on American citizens. He supports allowing those who are in the country illegally – but who have not committed major crimes – to receive preference when reapplying for re-entry after self-deporting.

“I think immigration is at the root of many of this country’s problems, including the $19 trillion debt,” he said.

On abortion, Holbrook describes himself as “unabashedly pro-life” from the moment of conception and is wary of any attempts to expand the government’s ability to take away guns from those with mental illness, saying there already is a court process in place to do that.

He pledged to work closely with the LePage administration as well as Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, to talk to Fortune 500 companies about what it would take to bring their operations to Maine. And he believes he is a better communicator of his conservative ideals.

“I believe I can do that in a way that will bring independents and Democrats over to our side,” Holbrook said. “I believe Chellie Pingree has gone too far to the left and that she only represents a small number of pathologically progressive (voters).”

Holbrook was trailing Smith in fundraising, taking in roughly $24,600 in individual contributions through late May.

CHALLENGING DISTRICT

Democrats have held Maine’s southern congressional district for all but a two-year stretch since 1987. Pingree, who was first elected in 2008, has received more than 60 percent of the vote in each of the past two elections.

She currently enjoys a substantial financial edge over her would-be challengers – receiving more than $325,000 through late May from individuals and political action committees – and is positioned to raise significantly more given the fundraising power of incumbency in Congress. A North Haven resident, Pingree does not face a Democratic challenger. Brunswick resident Jim Bouchard recently filed as a libertarian candidate in the fall election.

“It’s been a tremendous honor to work for and serve the people of Maine,” Pingree said in a statement. “Over the last few years we’ve focused on creating and supporting jobs by growing the agricultural economy here in Maine, we’ve fought to protect our fishing families and their jobs and worked to make sure veterans get the care and benefits they have earned. There is a lot still to do and I hope I have the opportunity to continue to serve Maine in Washington.”

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.