KENNEBUNK — Republican Jared Hirshfield and Democrat Dan Sayre are running for Maine House of Representatives District 135 in the Nov. 8 election. The district includes part of Kennebunk. House 135 was formerly known as House District 8 and is an open seat — incumbent Rep. Chris Babbidge cannot run again due to term limits.
We asked candidates to tell us a bit about themselves; prior political experience, if any; their top four or five priorities and why they believe they’re the best person for the job.
• Hirshfield, 25, said if elected, his aims are to lessen the tax burden, lower energy costs, preserve local control of municipal ordinances and protect vulnerable senior citizens.
Hirshfield is a student, and is completing a degree in politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. In a July interview upon his decision to seek the office after a former candidate dropped out, he said he commutes to classes from his Kennebunk home a couple of days a week.
Hirshfield is single, and this is his first race for political office. He has been active in the local Republican committee.
He said he has been fascinated by politics since he was 13 years old. “When others were playing sports, I was watching cable TV news,” Hirshfield said in the July interview, adding that these days, he tunes into radio more often than cable news programs.
“Maine is currently ranked as having the third highest tax burden among all 50 states,” said Hirshfield. “New Hampshire is rated as having the fifth lowest tax burden. This disparity puts Maine at a distinct disadvantage in attracting businesses and those wishing to settle and raise their families in Maine.” He said the Maine Legislature must work to reduce taxes to become competitive with neighboring states.
He said Maine is in the midst of an energy crisis and he would seek to lower energy costs.
“With winter coming, many Maine residents are beginning to worry about how to heat their homes,” Hirshfield said. “The energy crises won’t be solved through one or two sources of energy alone. We must implement policies that support the most efficient, economical, reliable, and sustainable sources of energy.”
He said the housing crisis in Maine “won’t be solved by stripping municipalities of their ability to control their zoning ordinances, including ordinances related to multi-family housing and parking. Municipalities are best equipped to understand the diverse needs and goals of their communities and to craft ordinances in the interests of their residents.”
Hirshfield said Maine must prioritize funding for nursing homes and long-term care facilities and attract sufficient qualified staff to care for Maine’s senior citizens.
As to why he believes he is the best person to represent residents of House District 135, Hirshfield said: “If there are to be increased opportunities in Kennebunk for young people like me to live, work, raise a family, and be secure and safe in our later years, we must play a role in developing and advocating policies that are in the best interests of every generation,” Hirshfield said. “My future depends on making the future of Kennebunk better for all.”
• Dan Sayre, 58, is married and has two adult daughters. He is president of New World Associates, a consultancy on education and training for engineering professionals and the skilled technical workforce, and formerly worked 35 years in book publishing. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University.
It is his first run for political office.
Sayre is a member of the Kennebunk Budget Board and is its liaison to RSU 21. He is active in the Democratic Party locally and at the county and state level.
“I see tremendous opportunity for Maine to accelerate growth of our tech and manufacturing sectors,” said Sayre. “We need to strengthen collaboration between educational systems (especially our Community Colleges, which are already centers of innovation), state and local government, and employers.”
He said creating more opportunities for young people in Maine requires offering educational access to the trades, skilled technical careers, entrepreneurship, and skilled professions like computing and engineering. To do so, said Sayre, requires outreach to start-up and established enterprises to understand their skilled labor needs and tailor education programs for them — and noted there are successful models of this already in place in York County; and outreach to K-12 students and families about careers that do not require four-year college degrees.
“We need to replace the ‘college is best’ bias with equal respect for all pathways that young Mainers can take to successful livelihoods in the trades, technology, manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, the arts, and many other fields,” he said.
Sayre said he would keep property taxes from growing excessively by maintaining state investment in municipalities at current levels.
To address housing, Sayre said he would remove some restrictions on adding accessory dwelling units to existing properties, control proliferation of short-term rentals and work with builders to find ways to make new home development more cost-efficient.
He said he would protect Maine’s environment and moderate the impacts of climate change by speeding Maine’s transition to low-carbon energy sources.
Sayre said he is the better choice to represent House District 135 because of his long career; policy experience; what he called “lived experience,” raising his daughters, dealing with illness and death of parents and more.
He said he has seen “how access to life-saving and life-sustaining care too often depends on access to insurance and personal wealth,” and has also seen the impact on families who lack those resources.
He cited his experience on the budget board, and his commitment to liberty and justice for everyone.
“I know that the vast majority of Kennebunk residents value diversity and respect every citizen’s right to self-expression, self-determination, and equality before the law,” said Sayre. “I am committed to providing equity and inclusion for each Mainer in a way that is fair to all.”