October 23, 2012

Former school board members seek District 59 seat

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The two candidates in the Maine House of Representatives District 59 race both like their chances of winning because they say they're well-known in their communities.

Gay Grant, a Democrat from Gardiner, runs her own writing consulting firm called The Write Way, which she said has helped bring in over $1 million in grants and fundraising for local non-profits and businesses.

Shirley Hanley, a Republican from Randolph, has been in the race less than two weeks. The party chose Hanley at an Oct. 12 caucus as a replacement for Daniel Bates, 61, who died of an apparent heart attack Sept. 29.

The candidates are seeking to succeed Rep. Stephen Hanley, who can't seek re-election because of term limits, for the district seat representing Gardiner and Randolph. Rep. Hanley's cousin is Shirley Hanley's husband.

Hanley, 77, was a stay-at-home mother for her eight children and was honored as Maine's Mother of the Year by American Mothers in 2004.

Grant, 52, lives with her husband, Ron Grant, and has two adult children.

Hanley and Grant have both served on the Maine School Administrative District 11 school board, now called Regional School Unit 11.

Both candidates said creating more jobs is a top priority for Maine.

Hanley said schools and businesses should work more closely to prepare students for finding work. She pointed to the cottage industry -- making crafts from home -- as a way for people to make more money.

The craft fair season is starting, she said, and some of these people could potentially turn their work into a full business with the right incentives. Hanley mentioned Gardiner Main Street's pop-up store project, where several new businesses will get free rent downtown for the holiday months, as one possible incentive.

Hanley also said the fishery and forestry industry are important to Maine's economy. She said she doesn't have a specific idea to improve them, but she thinks people in the fields of science and technology will come up with ideas to make such jobs more plentiful in Maine.

Fishermen also say they're over-regulated, she said. "I would like to get rid of some of these regulations that are holding these people back," she said, although she didn't have any specific regulations in mind.

Grant said people she has spoken with while campaigning door-to-door are worried about jobs, health care and education, but a lot of the issues come down to the economy. The key to growing Maine's economy, she said, is strengthening small businesses and the middle class. One way to do this is to attract and train a skilled workforce, she said.

Grant thinks the state needs to address the mismatch of Mainers' skills and skills employers are looking for.

"Maine is not going to grow unless we focus on the education piece, and it isn't just K-12. It's the higher education piece too," she said.

Grant said she has contacts with people from community colleges and education foundations because of her work as a grant writer. She said an important role of a legislator is to bring these types of knowledgeable people together to talk about solutions for Maine.

Grant said community colleges have responded to the needs of the business community but sometimes they don't have the needed resources. Some programs, such as nursing, don't have enough professors, she said.

"I would want to be looking, making sure the community colleges are getting adequate funding," she said.

Hanley said the issues she's most passionate about involve helping children, specifically with poverty, child abuse and domestic violence.

She thinks the solution lies in educating children to be good parents during middle school and high school through either required classes or mentoring from parents.

(Continued on page 2)

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