Media Archive

Hamel is candidate for Congress

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 43, October 27, 2004

By Kristine A. Harger
Special to the Observer

Brian Hamel, the Republican candidate for the 2nd congressional district seat, remem)ers the first time he came to northern Maine. It was 1994 and he was leading the Pease Air Force Base redevelopment effort in New Hampshire when then-Gov. John McKeman asked him to come to Aroostook County and repeat his success at Loring Air Force Base.

"It was a stretch from my perspective," Hamel said. Also, while he had vacationed in Maine, "I never envisioned a personal or professional life here." McKernan persisted, however, asking him for just one day. Hamel agreed to the visit, and "that's all it took. I fell in love with the region and its 'can do' spirit."

There were those who said Loring could not be redeveloped, but Hamel said his attitude was: "I'll show you it can be done. And we've proven the case in 10 short years."

The 1,200 jobs lost when the base closed have been replaced with employees from 23 companies. More than $650 million has been injected into northern Maine's economy, and that doesn't include the $75 million from the three Phish concerts. And last year, for the first time, there wasn't a net population loss in Aroostook County.

"We've had a huge impact, and I'm very proud of the way we did it," Hamel said.

Now, 10 years after Governor McKeman asked him to repeat his success at Pease at Loring, Hamel wants to repeat the success at Loring throughout the 2nd district.

But why run for public office? And why Congress?

Hamel said his first reason is "my frustration level with the poor business climate in Maine." It is difficult for businesses to flourish, he said, when they are dealing with the high cost of taxes, worker's compensation, healthcare and government regulations.

Second, he was frustrated by what he considers incumbent Michael Michaud's "reactive approach" to the downsizing and closing of businesses in the 2nd district. "Showing up at a closing and promising help with unemployment," is not the approach northern Maine needs, Hamel said.

"If I was in the workers' shoes, I wouldn't want extended unemployment. I'd want a job and be able to provide for my family."

If elected to Congress, Hamel said he would be able to work on policy that would allow for Loring-type successes throughout the second district and the state.

His first focus in Washington, D.C., would be agriculture. "It's the very fabric of the economy of the 2nd district," he said. "And no one's paying attention to it," he added, criticizing Michaud's decision to not seek a seat on the House Agriculture Committee.

"I have pledged that (agriculture) will be my committee request. It may not be the most exciting, but it's the most important."

Transportation will be another focus, Hamel continued.

The East-West Highway and the Interstate 95 extension have been battling for federal funds, but to Hamel, "it's not one or the other. It's both." Fair trade, economic development and safety are all tied to a healthy transportation infrastructure, but there is also the "you can't get there from here" perception that needs to be changed.

As for funding, Hamel said the state and federal governments are "missing an opportunity" by not looking to the private sector as Canada has done to upgrade its highway system.

Small business issues would be Hamel's third focus.

"In excess of 80 percent of the businesses in the 2nd district are defined as small businesss; having 20 employees or less," he said. "We need to create a business environment for them so they can make a reasonable return on their investment and re-invest in the economy."

Torte reform (limiting frivilous lawsuits and capping settlements) and allowing businesses to band together to purchase healthcare insurance, are two of Hamel's priorities here.

"One of my strengths is being a collaborator with all sorts of people," he said. "There are a lot of issues important to this state tax, environmental and energy policies, healthcare. Medicare and Social Security national issues that impact our daily lives.

Brian Hamel and his wife, Gail, a schoolteacher, make their home in Presque Isle with their three daughters : Natalie, 21, Abby, 18, and Molly, 15.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.