October 20, 2012

District 81 hopefuls Knight, Castonguay tout skills

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Republican incumbent L. Gary Knight and Democratic challenger Maurice Castonguay want to put the skills they've learned in productive careers and lives to work in the Legislature.

The Livermore Falls men are both retired -- Knight as a community banker and educator, Castonguay as a postal worker, although he still owns a small butter-making business. Both think their abilities would allow them to serve the people of House of Representatives District 81 better than the other.

The district is made up of Livermore, Livermore Falls, Leeds and Wayne.

Knight, 68, who has served three straight terms in House District 81, said his experience and his influence on both sides of the aisle give residents a strong, knowledgeable, effective voice. He's chairman of the Taxation Committee.

"With politics, the more involved you become, the more knowledge you have about the process, the more effective you can be," Knight said. "Being chairman of the Taxation Committee is a significant post. It'd almost be selfish of me to give it up, from a constituent point of view."

Castonguay, 65, said he decided to run after speaking with some elderly people worried about paying their fuel bills and other bills at the same time they were being asked to pay more for their health insurance, and were being forced to pay higher property taxes because of program cuts at the state level.

He suggested his opponent, Knight, speaks in half-truths.

"I've seen the pain caused by the last Legislature and its cuts to the disabled, which leads to higher property taxes," Castonguay said. "I've seen it firsthand. It didn't have to be. I just feel it can be done better. If there is a problem, I'll tell you straight out, and won't just tell you want you want to hear. I'm a firm believer that the truth is the truth is the truth. If you're wishy-washy, you're going to get found out. That's basically the difference between me and my opponent."

Castonguay graduated from Livermore Falls High School and attended Wright State University in Ohio. He spent four years in the Air Force. After retiring after 28 years as a postal worker, he started Maine Country Butter with his wife, Karen Yost.

He and his wife have six children and three grandchildren. He has no prior political experience.

Castonguay said jobs and education are the most important issues facing the state and people of the district.

He said the state needs to support the educational institutions here adequately and increase research and development because such investments create jobs, citing as an example research in the paper-making industry that allows companies to harvest more economically the fibers they need to make paper.

He also said the state should put education in the trades back in high schools, to help students get training that could land them jobs with benefits.

Knight graduated from Livermore Falls High School. His postsecondary education includes a bachelor's degree in economics from Colby College, a master's in business from the University of Southern Maine, graduating from the School of Banking at Williams College and completing the Maine Development Foundation's one-year Leadership Maine program. He also taught at the University of Maine at Farmington for three years.

He and his wife, Lynn, have two children and five grandchildren.

Knight also cited jobs and the economy as the state's key issues. He said both issues are tied to education.

He said the state needs to make its environment more conducive to attracting companies to come to Maine. Toward that end, he said, the current Legislature "put in the largest tax decrease in our history."

He said the state needs to continue to fund the educational system adequately but said he is also open to looking at alternatives, including charter schools, if they reach children successfully. He said he has advocated unsuccessfully in the past for state funding of education for residents for two years beyond high school. He said doing so would come with a large cost but would pay off with a better-educated work force, better jobs, and more tax revenue.

Knight said voters should consider his moderate voting record and his experience as a strong voice for the district.

"I don't vote by party; I vote by issue," Knight said. "I bet no one has crossed the aisle more than myself. I suspect my opponent would be more likely to vote the party line. I think more can be accomplished from the middle."

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647

kedwards@centralmaine.com

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