ELLSWORTH, Maine — Republican voters in a handful of eastern Hancock County towns will have a choice of whom to support when they go the polls on Tuesday, June 8.
Leonard “Earl” Bierman and Richard Malaby are competing for the chance to represent their party in the Nov. 2 general election, in which one of them will challenge Democrat Rob Eaton. Eaton now represents District 34 in the Maine House.
District 34 comprises the Unorganized Township of Fletcher’s Landing and the towns of Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor.
Bierman, 44, of Sorrento held the seat before losing it to Eaton in 2006. He said Thursday evening that he’s running because he wants to ensure that his three young children have a future in Maine.
The closure of schools in small towns and the state’s Essential Services and Programs funding model for schools, he said, are undercutting the ability of rural towns to provide good education for their children. He said the EPS model shortchanges small towns in favor of larger municipalities.
“[The model] rewards [towns with] higher populations and property values,” Bierman said.
Coastal towns, especially those farther east, are losing out on state subsidies because, even though they have high property values, they have relatively low populations, he said.
“I think the EPS model needs to be changed,” Bierman said. “Maybe we need to look at having two models.”
Bierman said that the state spends too much money and needs to be more business-friendly. He described himself as a fiscal and social conservative who believes state government needs to be smaller.
“I have a strong bond to this area,” said Bierman, whose family has lived in Sorrento for generations. “I’m a student of the Constitution.”
Malaby, 59, of Hancock expressed several of the same concerns Bierman mentioned among his reasons for running for the Legislature. He described himself as a fiscal conservative and a social libertarian.
Malaby, who unsuccessfully ran against Eaton in 2008, said the state government does some things well but that the EPS model needs to be changed.
Malaby, who sits on the board of directors for Regional School Unit 24, said the EPS model, which has forced most school districts in Maine to consolidate into bigger units, should be thrown out in favor of the former funding model.
“It’s unwieldly, undemocratic and takes away local control,” Malaby said.
Malaby also said Maine is “not a pro-business state” and that more market competition should be allowed in the state’s health insurance industry. He said Maine needs to reduce taxes and reform its tax structure. Likewise, he said the Legislature should be reduced in size and spend less time in session.
“The footprint of state government is just too large,” Malaby said. “We have suffered from an absence of leadership.”
Malaby, who has lived in Maine for 31 years, also has served on the board of directors of Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth.
Bierman, a firefighter and contractor, and Malaby, who owns and runs Crocker House Inn, did not have strong distinctions to make between each other’s positions. Malaby said either he or Bierman would make for a good candidate in the general election, while Bierman said he did not know enough specifics about Malaby’s positions to comment on them.