Wednesday, January 21, 2004

McKenney running for state Senate

Published in the Current and the American Journal

Paul McKenney of Scarborough, who recently moved to town from Cape Elizabeth, is running for state Senate as a Republican and hopes to challenge Democrat incumbent Lynn Bromley in November’s general election.

He does not know of any other Republican running for the seat, which represents Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough, but may have to face a primary runoff in June if any others put their names in.

McKenney calls himself a “moderate Republican,” saying he is “pro-environment, pro-jobs and pro-family,” and wants Maine to “be more fiscally prudent.”

McKenney will be running a “clean campaign” under Maine’s clean elections law, which requires him to get 150 people to donate $5 to his campaign. In exchange for agreeing not to accept large donations from private supporters, McKenney gets access to state funds to run his campaign. If he is opposed in both a primary and the general election, he could get as much as $23,000 in state funds, plus additional money if his opponents spend more than his limit.

“I am running because of what I see happening in the state of Maine, and I want to make a difference, and I know I can,” he said.

“I’ve always had an interest in public service,” he said. “I’ve served the public for many years in the military.”

He is now co-owner, with his wife, and president of Dirigo Financial Group, a financial planning company in Cape Elizabeth. McKenney is also a major in the Maine Army National Guard. He served nine years as an Army aviator and has been in the Guard for six years.

He has military and civilian university training in leadership and management and is active in the Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts of
America, Rotary and the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce.

He wants to improve Maine’s business environment and lessen the tax burden.

“It should not be an arduous task to open a business and to run a business,” he said. In particular, businesses often have to fill in several state-required forms with the same information going to different agencies.

Making Maine friendlier for business will help the state’s finances even as it helps residents.

“You cannot tax your way into prosperity. You have to grow your way into prosperity,” he said.

Town and state spending are raising coastal property taxes “without consideration for the people who have been there for decades,” he said. “We’re driving these people right out of their family homes.”

McKenney has a general guideline: “Every time we pass legislation we need to keep in mind Maine families,” considering how laws affect workers’ ability to earn a living.

He also has some specific ideas: “I think our tourism industry could grow 10 times,” he said. The state should spend more money promoting tourism, because money tourists spend stays in the state.

State program spending should focus on areas where dollars are proven to yield results, such as early childhood education.

The state should not spend money on building schools in towns with small growth and should consider privatizing some services.

“It’s not the public sector’s job to do everything for everybody,” McKenney said.

Another way to save money could be the impending retirements of many state employees, he said. As they leave, the state should analyze the services it provides and “realign these jobs, realign these departments,” without laying people off.

The Republican county caucus will be held Saturday, Feb. 28, at Southern Maine Community College. If there needs to be a primary, the vote would be held in June.