2 Dems face off in District 28 Senate primary

Posted May 24, 2010, at 11:18 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Two Democrats are seeking the nomination for the District 28 Senate seat that will become vacant when Sen. Dennis Damon steps down because of term limits.

State Rep. James Schatz of Blue Hill, who represents House District 37, will face off against Lawrence P. “Skip” Greenlaw Jr., a former state legislator from Stonington.

District 28 includes the towns of Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Ellsworth, Fletcher’s Landing Township, Frenchboro, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Sedgwick, Sorrento, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Sullivan, Surry, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Trenton, Winter Harbor, a portion of Mount Desert in Hancock County, and the town of Isle au Haut in Knox County.

A long-term selectman in Blue Hill, Schatz, 69, just completed his third term in the House. He has served on the State and Local Government Committee during his tenure and in the last session also served on the Criminal Justice-Public Safety Committee. He is the co-chair of the House rural caucus.

Greenlaw, 64, served on the Deer Isle-Stonington school committee from 1983 to 1994 and from 1999 to the present. He served in House of Representatives from 1973 to 1978 and worked as a special assistant and legislative liaison for Gov. Joseph E. Brennan from 1979 to 1982. Greenlaw also spearheaded the unsuccessful statewide effort to repeal Maine’s school consolidation law.

Education, the economy and health care were key issues cited by both candidates in recent interviews.

In the coming legislative session, Schatz said, the state will need to rectify the damage done by consolidation. Although schools certainly need to be run more efficiently, he said, the state needs to focus more on quality and less on organization.

Consolidation is still a hot issue, according to Greenlaw, who added that people are still concerned about the law. If elected, he said, one step he would take would be to propose legislation to make school reorganization voluntary, thereby eliminating the penalties imposed on towns that do not consolidate.

A big part of the regional economy is based on fishing, said Greenlaw, who owns and operates a wholesale seafood business. Greenlaw said he would work to strengthen the lobster industry and other fisheries to ensure that fishing continues to be a source of employment for the coastal towns.

Schatz said he would use the Senate seat to continue work he has done to bring high-speed Internet access to rural areas of the state. The lack of high-speed access, he said, is a deficiency for rural areas and is a hindrance to economic development in those areas.

The state will need to work within the framework of the new federal health care law to ensure its effectiveness in a rural state such as Maine, according to Schatz. Legislators, he said, will need to work to make sure physician reimbursements are handled efficiently, particularly in the state’s rural critical access hospitals.

Greenlaw’s focus is on health insurance costs. He said he would like to see a single-payer system for all state employees. Such a system, he said, possibly combined with the state’s Dirigo program, could generate an insured pool large enough to generate significant savings for the state without lowering benefits.

Schatz said that as a state senator he hoped he could use his experience in the House to generate more cooperation and better communication between the House and the Senate.

The winner of the election will face Rep. Brian Langley, who is unopposed for the Republican nomination for the District 28 Senate seat.

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