Lawmakers’ shifting priorities get Bunker off the bench and into the game



On we go with legislative candidates. In House District 137, Republican Larry Lockman (Amherst) is being challenged by Democrat Doug Bunker (Franklin).

An avowed conservative, Lockman is no stranger to controversy based on his views about women, abortion, gays and immigrants. Those views, and the language he uses to support them, have been sufficiently extreme that Sen. Susan Collins declined to support his candidacy. His district has supported him. With three terms under his belt, Lockman is a known quantity with a record readily available online, so we will focus here on candidates new to the scene, as we have done with other races.

Democrat Doug Bunker, Lockman’s challenger, says he has neither held nor run for political office because “I was satisfied with my representatives until now. I didn’t always agree with them, but I thought they were acting in the best interests of the electorate.” No more. He watched politicians “giving up their core values for political expediency” and decided it was time to run.

Bunker has the quintessential Maine background. Born and raised in Franklin, he raked blueberries, worked in the blueberry plant and dug clams before he became a papermaker at the mill in Bucksport. He has found “joy” in campaigning. He says that when it comes to going door-to-door, “I hate the rapping, but I love when the door opens.”

According to Bunker, Maine does not always have “effective foresight” when it comes to jobs. “Where do we want to be in 20 years?” Forest products will always be part of the mix, but not with traditional uses. An example of a wood product of the future is nanocellulose, a biodegradable, plastic-like fiber from wood. Whatever the industry’s course, it should be science-based.

Bunker says smaller businesses, technological and sustainable, need to be promoted. There should be more state investment in product development and renewable energy. Ellsworth may be the job center for his district, but there is opportunity in tourism, especially eco-tourism, in the more rural areas. Increased economic security will help make people less susceptible to the divisive rhetoric of today.

In House District 131, Sherm Hutchins, Republican of Penobscot, served one term in the House, 1988-90. Now he’s running again. Hutchins has a long record of public service close to home. He was a selectman for 11 years, nine as chairman, and was on the Hancock County Planning Commission for 14 years. By his reckoning he has been moderator at over 110 town meetings for a number of towns in his area.

His family has been here since before the Revolution, 10 generations to be precise. A builder by trade, he became “semi-retired” when his sons opted for fishing over building. It is easy to see that he’s a “people” person, lighting up when he describes his family and relishing the many friendships he developed through his public life. He says he “loves” going door-to-door, focusing on the towns where he is less well known.

Hutchins has a masterful grasp of what it takes to keep a community moving forward. He was recruited to run when Rep. Karl Ward decided to step down due to business demands. He supports the work of Governor Paul LePage to pay state bills and minimize regulations, though he admits: “He’d be better off if he was not quite so much a bull in a china shop.” He supports Shawn Moody for governor and thinks it would be “exciting working with him.”

The Democrat in the race is Nathalie Arruda of Orland. A Clean Election candidate, she says that is a constant reminder of who she would be working for in office. A former volunteer for the Hancock County Democrats, she gained experience with political activism, including testifying in front of the Legislature, and was drawn to the race by her interest in outside-the-box problem-solving.

In a district with only small village centers, she says the trash transfer stations are one of the best gathering places. She has gotten an earful there, with health care the most common concern that voters raise. The cost of medications and transportation to often distant health care providers are top of mind for voters.

Her jobs at family-based organizations as well as the needs of her own family have exposed her to the issues on the minds of young families. In a rural district, she is well aware of the shortcomings of the broadband infrastructure that handicaps both communications and job opportunities for people in her area.

Her quest for solutions is informed by her degree in behavioral psychology. She calls herself a “research nerd,” passionate about the root causes of the issues facing Mainers in her district. She is hoping more young people will run for office. “They’re Maine’s future,” she says, “and ought to be involved in the direction the state takes.”

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.