June 6, 2012

Courtney eyes Congress after 10 years in Maine Legislature

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Editor's note: This is the second of two profiles of the Republican candidates competing in the June 12 primary for the 1st Congressional District seat. The winner will face Democrat incumbent Chellie Pingree in the November election.

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Jon Courtney, a Republican who is running in the June primary for the chance to challenge Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in November.

ALL

JON COURTNEY

Party: Republican

Age: 45

Home: Springvale

Family: Married, three children, three stepchildren

Education: Graduated from Marshwood High School in South Berwick

Job: Owns Courtney Cleaners in Sanford, Kennebunk and Portsmouth, N.H.

Political Experience: Maine House of Representatives, 2003-04; Maine Senate, 2005-12; assistant Senate minority leader, 2009-10; Senate majority leader, 2011-12

ON THE ISSUES

Do you support President Obama's health care law? No

Do you support a balanced budget amendment? Yes

Would you support a tax increase for the wealthy? No

Would you vote to extend the nation's debt limit? Yes, but only with debt-reducing reforms

Do you support legalizing gay marriage? No

Do you support legal access to abortion? No

What should Congress do to create jobs and improve the economy? "Congress should get control of our unsustainable debt that has caused the value of the dollar to plummet. We should create an environment to encourage job creators by reducing and simplifying regulation. We must work to become less dependent on foreign energy sources. Congress must find a way to talk to each other so we can create the personal relationships that will build bridges to solve problems."

VOTING RECORD

Economic issues: Voted pro-business 86 percent to 93.5 percent of the time as a state representative and senator from 2003 to 2009, according to the Maine Economic Research Institute.

Environmental issues: Voted pro-environment 40 percent of the time, according to the Maine Conservation Voters lifetime scorecard.

Labor issues: Voted pro-worker 11 percent of the time, according to the Maine AFL-CIO lifetime scorecard.

ENDORSEMENTS

Courtney's campaign had not announced endorsements and supporters at press time.

If Republican Jon Courtney is elected to Congress, he promises, he will show the same respect for Democratic colleagues in Washington that he has demonstrated for the last decade as a representative and senator in the Maine Legislature.

The Senate majority leader from Springvale said that's what's needed to move a mired Congress beyond ideological differences and find solutions to problems that plague Maine and the nation, from the need for more jobs to the high federal debt.

His attitude as a lawmaker is grounded in his upbringing as the son of a Pentecostal minister in Wells.

"One of the things I learned as a pastor's kid is, no one's perfect," said Courtney, 45. "The only way to get work done is by continuing to care about people regardless of their beliefs."

Courtney faces Patrick Calder, a political newcomer who lives in Portland, in Tuesday's Republican primary to choose a candidate to challenge 1st Congressional District Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, in November.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

While many Democrats see Courtney as respectful but partisan, he touts having worked with former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, on historic preservation, alternative energy and veterans initiatives -- accomplishments that are featured prominently on Courtney's campaign website.

After Republican Gov. Paul LePage took office last year and the party gained majorities in the House and Senate, Courtney moved from assistant minority leader to majority leader.

In that role, Courtney has worked to reduce spending and taxes and to promote respectful bipartisan debate in the Legislature, said state Rep. Andre Cushing III, R-Hampden, assistant majority leader of the House.

"Jon is respectful of differing opinions, and that's a characteristic that's desperately needed in Washington right now," Cushing said. "He has a thoughtful, balanced approach to issues, and he's someone who understands what Maine people need."

Cushing noted Courtney's leadership of the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform, which produced legislation to streamline Maine's regulatory processes, promote business and create jobs. The bill won nearly full support in the House and unanimous support in the Senate.

"He worked with Democrats to develop a proposal that would get bipartisan support," Cushing said. "He understands that we have to respect different viewpoints in order to make good policy."

As a small-business owner, Courtney "understands that Maine is predominantly a small-business state, and the regulatory environment in Washington isn't always helpful to the Main Street businesses back in Maine," Cushing said. Courtney operates three dry-cleaning shops.

Cushing described Courtney as a team builder who would focus on what's best for Maine and wouldn't toe the Republican Party line in Washington without carefully weighing each issue.

Democrats view Courtney differently.

State Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono, agreed that Courtney has a respectful manner, but she questions whether he could negotiate solutions in Washington and whether he knows what's best for Maine.

Courtney mentioned Schneider as one legislator with whom he wrangled respectfully about a bond package a few years ago. Schneider wanted to borrow a lot more money than Courtney did. The Senate wound up approving a bond package somewhere in the middle.

"We've had a very respectful working relationship. He's right about that," Schneider said, "but I'm worried about extreme politics on both sides. If he goes to Washington, would he cross over and compromise? I haven't seen that lately. He's part of the Republican leadership, and he has followed the party line on a lot of issues."

(Continued on page 2)

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