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Seacoast Online - "Congressional Candidate Strimling Hopes to Fight for Families"

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Seacoast Online - "Congressional Candidate Strimling Hopes to Fight for Families"

Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles profiling candidates for the Maine District 1 Congressional seat, in advance of primary voting on June 10.

Ethan Strimling has been working for the past 11 years with working class families in Portland, Maine's West End, to educate their children, train them for new jobs, provide housing and give them a leg up if they need it.

Now he wants to bring that focus to Congress. A three-term state senator from Portland and the executive director of the nonprofit organization Portland West, Strimling is running for the District 1 Congressional seat.

He is facing a challenge from five others in the June 10 primary for the Democratic nod: former state Sen. Michael Brennan, Portland lawyer Adam Cote, York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence, Augusta doctor Stephen Meister and former state Sen. Chellie Pingree.

"What brings me here right now is the work I do with families struggling to survive," he said. "This administration pummeled families, and they're finding it hard to pay for college and retire."

He recounted a story of meeting a 69-year-old man who had to leave retirement to return to work to pay his oil bill.

"He doesn't know how else to heat his home," said Strimling. "That's a travesty. I can't imagine anyone in America saying that's OK. It's not OK — not while I'm on the planet."

Strimling said his entire campaign revolves around this central issue of bringing relief to working families. He points to his work at Portland West and his work on the taxation committee in the Maine Legislature as his foremost credentials.

"Of all the people in this race, I've done the most with economic issues and have dealt with families who have been struggling," he said.

With that as a backdrop, Strimling points to the three issues that drive his campaign: the economy, dependence on oil and the war in Iraq.

The economy, he said, drives everything else. "When the economy isn't working, you can't focus on the other issues out there," he said.

Strimling favors repealing the tax cuts put in under President Bush and "taking that money and putting it into middle income tax relief or making college more affordable. That will do more to rebuild the middle class than anything else."

He said workers on Wall Street, particularly hedge fund managers, lobby Congress and even state legislatures "harder than anyone" to keep their favorable tax breaks.

Strimling is unequivocal on the war in Iraq. "I will not vote to fund this war anymore without a timeline," he said. "Hillary Clinton says the troops will be coming home in 60 days if she's elected. That's what we have to be saying in Congress."

Like some of his opponents running for the Democratic nomination, he faults the current Democrats in Congress for capitulating to President Bush on the war.

"They had a lot of mandates in 2006, but none stronger than ending the war. And not only didn't it end, they've increased the number of troops. That's not only disappointing, that's a tragedy. The Democratic leadership didn't get the job done."

As for the country's energy dependence, he said, "If I had my druthers, we would get rid of subsidies on foreign oil tomorrow."

He said there have to be people in Congress "who aren't bought and paid for by the oil lobbyists. If some of us stand up to them, we can do it. And I believe it can happen, because it's got to happen.

"If it doesn't, we're going to lose a generation. For the first time in history, parents are saying their kids won't do as well as they did. We have to resist big money in politics and get things done."

He also wants to institute tax credits for alternative energy and house energy retrofitting, and similar sustainability measures — all with the goal of reducing the country's dependence on oil, because "it's the reason we get into wars we can't afford to get in."

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