May 24, 2010

Primary pits anti-gay marriage advocate vs. Air Force major

GOP winner will face Democrat Frederick Austin

A pastor and an Air Force major are facing off for the Republican nomination for state representative in District 25, which includes Newport, Plymouth, Exeter, Corinna and parts of Corinth.

The pastor, Bob Emrich, led the successful drive to repeal the law allowing gay marriage in Maine. He said he’s running for state office because Augusta needs a reminder of the values that are important to most Mainers.

“The Legislature as a whole has lost touch with where average Maine citizens are,” he said.

In his campaign, Emrich said he wants to clarify confusion about the separation of church and state, which he said has wrongly come to mean keeping the church out of government.

“There are so many good people in churches throughout Maine,” he said, “and there’ve been too many attempts to try to push them back into a corner somewhere.”

Emrich, who runs the Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth, began the Maine Jeremiah Project several years ago to encourage conservative Christians to become more involved with public issues.

“I have a real deep concern that the Maine state government have spent too much energy trying to shape the culture and reality of Maine,” said Emrich, who grew up and went to college in Oregon. “I think state government should reflect the culture and the morality of the people of Maine, not try and direct it.”

He said that although his campaign was not purely about his vocal opposition to gay marriage, he would certainly be ready to defend what he calls “traditional family values” if and when another move to expand the definition of marriage comes before the Legislature.

Even outside of promoting certain cultural and moral values he dislikes, Emrich said that state government constantly tries to expand.

“The state government should be about building roads,” he said. “I don’t think that the state government should be about creating jobs, and deciding what kinds of jobs people in Maine have. I think if state government gets out of Maine, people in the state of Maine will decide that.”

Education, he said, should be localized as much as possible. “The people that know best about how children learn you’ll find in the classrooms around the state,” he said, not in the Department of Education.

The major, Ken Fredette, said he would lead in a style similar to Minority Leader Rep. Josh Tardy, R-Newport, who represented the district for the past eight years and is prevented from running again because of term limits.

Fredette said he is running because he wants to see a stronger economy that will lead to a better future for the state and its citizens.

“I have seen a lot of young people leave this state,” Fredette said, “and I don’t think that’s good for anybody.”

A lawyer, Fredette is about to earn his third graduate degree — this one, from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Fredette said he’s the first person in his family to graduate from college and grew up in the tiny Washington County town of Danforth.

“That’s what the potential is for each and every child in the state of Maine,” he said of his improbable journey. His wife teaches first grade in public school.

Although Fredette does not feel that an education such as his is necessary for lawmakers — an electrician could do just as good a job, he said — he does think formally studying public policy and leadership has enabled him to better understand and address the issues.

His goals, he said, are to reduce regulations, “right-size” government, lower debt and “create a tone and an atmosphere so that businesses and young people, most importantly, decide to stay in Maine and contribute to our economy, our communities and our churches.”

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