He’s intense. He’s funny. He can talk for hours. He has no political experience, but Steve Hanrahan, a resident of Brooksville, has decided to run for Maine’s House District 16 (Castine, Sedgwick, Brooksville, Blue Hill, Surry and Trenton). He is solid Republican, wears a U.S. Marines cap and a T-shirt indicating his feelings for his flag and his faith, but it would be a mistake for liberal voters to dismiss him without a hearing.
Hanrahan believes in the political process. He is astonished, even offended, by the fact that he was the only Republican who came forward to run in his district. “Things are going wrong,” he states, “and somebody has to do something.”
Once tagged with the nickname “Bitter Steve,” he now has an intense desire to “get back a sense of community” where aid and compassion are the hallmarks. This used to be second nature in Maine, but Hanrahan fears it is not so common now. He firmly believes that solutions to community problems do not need to involve government money.
Three traits distinguish Hanrahan from an ideologue. He espouses many Republican principles but does not hesitate to question his party’s ideology. He has his own view of a legislator’s job. And he is a focused listener.
Hanrahan has a distinct opinion of the responsibilities of a legislator. “People call legislators leaders,” he says. “They’re not the leaders.” He believes there are leaders within a community who know their town well and know what people want or need. A legislator’s job is to listen to those leaders and help each community achieve what it needs, if there is a role for the state to play. Otherwise, they should leave towns free to work out their own solutions.
He is approaching his campaign as a job interview, saying, “People who serve in the Legislature have to remember who they work for.” One idea he has for a local problem-solving process is to assemble people and present a community problem, then gather again subsequently to consider possible solutions generated by townspeople.
A conversation with Hanrahan is just that — a conversation. He is not one who thinks people with different opinions can’t talk to each other. He is not shy about expressing himself, but he really does want to engage, to listen.
One wonders what his party makes of him. Thoughts, ideas and opinions tumble out. He absolutely supports the Second Amendment. Immigrants should enter the U.S. legally, and not rely on federal money to survive. He supports voter ID. He thinks teachers should have a lesson plan available to any parent who would like to see what their kids are being taught in school. But he can color outside the lines, too.
He believes that changes should always be “in keeping with the texture, the fabric, the people of an area.” He wonders how to balance cutting woodlands to make room for solar panels against leaving carbon-sequestering trees on the land. He is worried about the price of food for those without sufficient resources, and about the possibility of a “solar flare” or other disaster interrupting the power grids that control the nation’s infrastructure. He is afraid for children. “Somebody, somewhere is gonna do something stupid.”
He is troubled by an ethic that “doesn’t respect anything old,” be it people or possessions, and thinks grandparents should play a bigger role in family life. He believes that intergenerational families are where children learn respect for elders. Older people who contribute to the household to the extent of their abilities imbue the younger generation with a solid work ethic.
During his time in the Marine Corps Hanrahan worked in a corrections facility. He believes people jailed for crimes should not expect more than basic food, exercise, clean clothes and sanitation, but that they should be treated humanely and not suffer from violence in prison, either, which interferes with the ability to reintegrate into life after they have served their sentences.
Hanrahan goes from voluble to quietly attentive, leaning in, head tilted, fixed on every word.
He leaves little doubt about his opinions, but this Marine can also get “weepy” when his passion to “fix things” overcomes him and particularly when a solution is elusive.
Hanrahan wonders if those outside his party will give him a chance to make his case. He knows he has one voter he can count on. That’s his wife, who he calls without hesitation “the greatest gift of my life.”
If you dislike slick ads, inaccessible politicians, and money in politics, this is your opportunity to do politics the Maine way. Don’t miss out on the full Hanrahan experience. Allow enough time and coffee, and Steve Hanrahan’s “job interview,” however you decide to vote, will be an experience you won’t forget.
Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.