House 97 race: Cunningham vs. Rankin

House 97

George Cunningham
• A resident of Fryeburg; retired Superintendent of Schools of SAD 72, which includes the town of Fryeburg and six other surrounding communities; resides with wife of 45-plus years, Priscilla, and rescue dog companion, Bonnie; grown son and daughter who live out of state and six grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 to 18.
• Education: Bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and two earned doctorates; one of the doctorates is in educational administration (Teachers College, Columbia University) and the other in law (University of Connecticut School of Law).
• Professional background: Served as a teacher and curriculum administrator in New York State for eight years, as a superintendent of schools in the combined states of New York, Connecticut and Maine for 28 years, and as an associate professor of educational administration at the University of Southern Connecticut for eight years; served in the U.S. Naval Reserve (P.T.) for eight years.
• Community groups: Chairman of the School Building Study Committee in Fryeburg that just won approval for a new elementary school to replace the one that is now quite outmoded. “One of my goals, if elected, is to ensure getting the state funding that is needed to proceed,” he said.
Regular volunteer at the Southwest Oxford County (Brownfield) Food Pantry. “One of my other goals, if elected, is to help them secure a much needed permanent facility of their own to facilitate their ongoing operations,” he said.
Served on the Board of Directors of the Tin Mountain Conservation Center and have been instrumental in bringing various of their educational programs to our local schools; member of the Fryeburg Area Rotary and an active participant in their many programs of community outreach; serve as treasurer of the local Congregational Church in Fryeburg.
• Awards: Recipient of numbers awards and recognitions over career, including Educator of the Year by the Tin Mountain Conservation Center which serves the boarder area between Conway, N.H. and Fryeburg.

The District: Brownfield, Fryeburg, Hiram, Porter and Parsonsfield.

The Candidates: Incumbent Helen Rankin (Democrat) is being challenged by Republican George Cunningham.

Their Positions: The News asked the candidates the following questions (answers arranged alphabetically):

Q. Gridlock is a problem, so how do you propose to overcome partisan politics?

Cunningham: Gridlock is more an issue in Washington than it is in Augusta. The Republican leadership over the last two years has made a concerted effort to work across the aisles. My personal pledge, if elected, is to always put the interests of the state as a whole over everything else.

Rankin: Passing good legislation is a complicated process. In order to succeed, legislators must have mutual respect. This includes leaders in the House and Senate, committee chairmen/chairwomen and their members and the governor. We must debate all the issues.  Because Maine is a large state with very different needs at opposite ends of the state, there are times when be must be willing to compromise.  The governor is the Head of State. With all due respect, he should set the example by respecting the opinions of others and acknowledge that we can agree to disagree without being demeaning. Working together, we can accomplish much, but being bullied and insulted gets us nowhere.

Q. What characteristics would you bring to the position that would make you an effective politician?

Cunningham: The major part of my life has been spent as a chief school administrator working with individuals and groups from all segments of the community to solve and settle issues of broad, general concerns. I believe this to be one of my strengths and one for which I am generally very well respected. I am open to all sides of an argument and make my decisions based upon what I feel to be the fairest and most sensible course of action to take.

Rankin: I am a good communicator, sensitive to the needs of others, conscientious, a good listener and I have an open mind. I can work with legislators from both sides of the aisle. I am respectful of differing opinions and willing to compromise to achieve a workable solution.

Q. What do you believe are the three major issues facing the state, and how would you propose to address them?

Cunningham: I feel the biggest issue facing the state is the economy and how to foster more economic development for job growth and better salaries. I support targeted efforts to attract more business to the state, as well as more attention to what the state needs to do to make itself more business friendly overall.

The next biggest issue is the budget and how to balance all the competing needs that are there to be met. Fundamentally, it comes down to two things: (1.) effective prioritizing of the most critical needs to be met and, (2.) institution of effective accounting systems to assure that dollars being allocated to any particular program are being spent properly and in the most efficient way possible. These are not easy things to do, but with appropriate determination the challenge can be met.

The third biggest issue is education.  Education is the core to our state’s ongoing future. We must find ways to sustain and ensure the successes of the past and to address the changing needs of a changing world. The state needs to shoulder its fair share of the costs and to foster ways to share and implement proven best practice across the state. The state also needs to focus more fully on developing vocational and technical training for our young people geared to those vocations where there is the greatest opportunity for ongoing job placement and growth.

Rankin: 1. I believe education is the most important issue facing our state. Serving on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, I am very much aware of the need to improve our education system from pre-school through college. A good education is essential for the future of our children, our state and our country. Public schools are the center of our communities and we must be sure they are sufficiently funded.

2. We must encourage opportunity for jobs and the economy by supporting local businesses and attracting new investment in our communities. The economy is slowly changing and we need to provide workers the opportunity to attend quality training programs.

3. We should make sure everyone has access to healthcare and a reasonable insurance plan. This includes children, the elderly, veterans and the most vulnerable.

Q. What will you do to better serve your constituents in western Maine?

Cunningham: I pledge to provide timely and reasonable response to any constituent concern that is brought to my attention to address. If I can help, I will do what I can to achieve a solution. If I can’t, or otherwise disagree with what is being proposed, I will so inform and explain my reasons why.

In another arena, I also propose to meet periodically with the selectmen in each of the towns represented within District 97, to keep in touch with the given local issues and concerns with which they are dealing.

Rankin: I will attend more meetings of different committees in order to be better informed of other issues of concern. I plan to purchase an Ipad to carry with me in order to respond promptly to my constituents’ problems.

Q. How do we balance the needs of people (such as health care, education, etc.) while trying to balance the state’s budget?

Cunningham: This is one of the three major issues that I see as needing to be addressed within the state. Please see my response above.

Rankin: I believe we should carefully prioritize the needs of our constituents. We should not make cuts in the budget that affect our most vulnerable citizens; children and the elderly. We should have a staff in Health and Human Services that is

Helen Rankin
• A resident of Hiram, Rankin lists herself as a “young 80.” Husband deceased, two adult children
• Education: bachelor’s degree, University of Southern Maine.
• Business background: School Nutrition director/SAD 55/ one high school, five elementary schools and 14 employees.
• Community groups: Hiram Community Church, Women’s Club, Enhancement Society and Hiram Historical Society.
• Awards, honors: Maine School Nutrition Director of the Year (twice); recipient of prestigious Katherine Musgrave Award presented by Maine Nutrition Council; co-author of $450,000 grant to benefit School Breakfast Programs; name entered in Congressional Record by Congressman John Baldacci in recognition of advocacy for Maine’s children; honorary diploma, Goodwill-Hinckley School.

sufficient to keep essential records to provide adequate services and eliminate fraud. Loopholes should be investigated and the highest income citizens should pay their fair share of taxes.

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