May 26, 2012

No hard feelings between rival Democrats in District 84

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The two Democratic opponents looking to represent District 84 in the Maine House of Representatives have nothing bad to say about one another.

Ed Finch and Karen Kusiak have served together for a dozen years on the school board for Fairfield-based Regional School Unit 49. Both are vying for a spot on this year's general ballot as their party's nominee. Voters will decide on June 12 who advances toward November.

Ed Finch, 69, of Hinkley is chairman of the Fairfield Town Council; he has served on the school board for the past 12 years; and he represented District 84 for four terms until he left in 2010 due to term limits. He is running as a publicly funded candidate.

"I do have experience," he said of his House stint. "I like to think I've learned some things from it, and I don't need on-the-job training."

Finch said the economy is most important issue for voters in the district's communities of Fairfield, Rome and Smithfield.

"It's the whole economic situation -- not only in this district, but in many districts. There's a lack of jobs, and the jobs we have don't pay very well. People are worried about their budgets," he said.

Finch said one way to fix the problem is to support job training through vocational programs and continuing education.

"There are employers out there that are looking for people with the right training, and the community college system could provide that training if they're given sufficient resources," he said. "For instance, in the medical field there are jobs listed every week. There are applicants at the community colleges looking for that training, but the schools don't have the space or the resources to do it."

Finch said he also supports greater funding for kindergarten through grade 12 education.

Finch's pitch to voters is straightforward.

"If folks think I did a good job last time, I hope they'll support me and let me represent them again," he said.

Kusiak, 59, of Fairfield is a part-time teacher in Colby College's education program. For the past 15 years, she also has served on the Fairfield-based district's school board. She is running as a publicly funded candidate.

Providing equitable school funding for her district and all public schools in Maine is a priority, she said.

"We're a high-receiving district, meaning that we're poor and we receive a big chunk of state funding," she said. "Whenever that funding is reduced, we get hit proportionately harder than other districts.

"Looking at equity across the state in the actual funding that is provided for students is something that I'm concerned with."

Kusiak said it's better to raise spending now in education than suffer the consequences to society later on.

"It's much more efficient to support early education, early intervention than to support people through public services or in the court system or incarceration," she said.

The condition of public roads is also concerning, she said.

"The roads definitely need to be fixed, and we need bonds to fix them. That will put people to work building and maintaining infrastructure," she said.

Kusiak said she's a long-time supporter of rights for people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. She supports efforts to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

"I'm public about that, and people have responded by telling me that is important to them," she said.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

bmccanna@centralmaine.com

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