2016-07-21 / Front Page

District 1 Congressional race

Holbrook faces uphill battle
Times Record Staff

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE for Congress Mark Holbrook, a Brunswick resident, is attempting to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree. 
NATHAN STROUT / THE TIMES RECORD REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE for Congress Mark Holbrook, a Brunswick resident, is attempting to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree. NATHAN STROUT / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

Brunswick resident and Republican Mark Holbrook knows he’s facing an uphill battle to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree in November’s District 1 Congressional race.

According to the most recent filings with the Federal Elections Committee, Pingree has raised more than four times as much money as Holbrook this election cycle, and has almost half a million dollars in cash on hand.

In comparison, Holbrook has just $1,422 cash on hand.

“I’d be blind, deaf and dumb if I didn’t say that’s a concern,” said Holbrook in a recent interview.

However, Holbrook points out that he defeated Ande Smith of Yarmouth to win the Republican nomination, despite being outspent by Smith 5-1. Holbrook doesn’t believe there is any correlation between money raised and votes received.

“This an historic year,” said Holbrook. “There isn’t anything about the current landscape that anyone projected.”

In a year where Donald Trump has taken the Republican Party by storm, Holbrook may have a point — and he’s not shy to highlight the similarities between himself and the Republican presidential candidate.

“We need to make America safe and great again — I’ve been saying that for years,” said Holbrook. “He and I are on the same page there.”

Holbrook said the most important thing for him is family.

“One of our biggest concerns is, what kind of world are we leaving for our daughter?” said Holbrook.

Holbrook lives in Brunswick, where he was born, with his wife, Wanda, and daughter, Delaney, who is in junior high. Holbrook is a self-employed clinical psychologist with 12 years of experience in law enforcement, and according to Holbrook, his family is the reason he’s running for Congress.

“ One night four years ago, I’m watching the news with my 9-year-old daughter when President Obama came out touting the benefits of his health care bill,” said Holbrook. “And my daughter says, ‘Daddy, that man was lying, wasn’t he?’ That was like a lightning bolt for me.”

Soon after that conversation, Holbrook joined the Brunswick Republican Town Committee and was eventually elected its chairman. He never expressed much interest in running for office himself until 2014, when he agreed to be a placeholder candidate for Maine House District 50 in Brunswick, with the understanding that he would be replaced on the ballot sometime after the primaries.

However, Labor Day came and went without any replacements. With his name stuck on the ballot in November, Holbrook buckled down and ran a two-month campaign for the open seat. The last minute campaign was unsuccessful, and Democrat Ralph Tucker won the seat in a landslide.

Shortly after the failed campaign, Holbrook’s wife asked him when he was going to run again. That set off a number of family discussions on whether Holbrook should run, and whether he should set his sights on the Congressional District 1 seat that covers southern Maine.

The Holbrooks knew it was going to be a difficult race — 2016 would be a presidential year and the district hadn’t elected a Republican in almost two decades. Additionally, Pingree had all the advantages of an incumbent and, at the time, was married to the wealthy hedge-fund manager Donald Sussman.

“She has access to a million dollars from any far-left organization she asks,” said Holbrook.

While it would be a tough race, Holbrook noted, ultimately the most important consideration for him on whether to run was the support of his daughter, Delaney, and concerns about how the race could affect her at school.

His daughter mulled it over for weeks, before finally asking him, “Could what happened to Mr. Kennedy happen to you?”

Holbrook assured his daughter that he would be safe, and she immediately gave him her blessing to run.

With his family fully supporting his run, Holbrook got to work in spring of 2015, attending every fair, festival, or meeting he could. Over the course of the year running up to the June 2016 primaries, Holbrook put 12,000 miles on his car’s odometer.

Declared an underdog by many, he narrowly defeated Smith in the June primary by 56 votes. After a short recount, Holbrook was declared the victor and the Republican nominee.

“We made it through the primaries with no paid staff,” said Holbrook. “We had more than 150 volunteers.”

With the primaries behind him, Holbrook is now focusing on his race with Pingree, and when it comes to the four-term congresswoman, Holbrook holds nothing back.

“We have a real fear for the direction our country is going in,” said Holbrook, “and what Pingree is not doing for the state of Maine.

“The GDP for the Portland area is flat,” he continued. “What has she done to bring — or keep — jobs in Maine? Nothing. Instead, she’s talking about saving butterflies and organic farmers.”

Holbrook said that the first thing he would do to bring jobs to Maine is to open a list of Fortune 500 companies, call them, and ask what they need in order to relocate to Maine.

Jobs aren’t the only issue Holbrook is worried about. He’s also frustrated with the opioid crisis and illegal immigration, stating that “illegal immigration is the foundation for many of our country’s problems.”

Holbrook repeatedly argues that Pingree is simply out of touch with the district. On the other hand, he believes he truly understands the needs of the district.

“I grew up here,” he said. “I know the people of (the district). I know what it’s like to make a living here.”


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