The bad economy has meant pain for middle-class families, with a record number of bankruptcies, said Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry. In Maine, almost as many children saw their families go bankrupt as saw their parents divorce, a campaign report concluded.

The report, released last week, said that nationally one household filed for bankruptcy every 19 seconds during 2003. The increase in bankruptcies was prompted by a weak job market, shrinking incomes, rising costs for health care and gasoline, and uncontrolled credit card spending, he said.

Credit card debt will become a larger problem when higher interest rates kick in because of the national deficit the Bush administration has built, the campaign predicted. In Maine, 4,555 households filed for bankruptcy in 2003, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts.

Pledging to strengthen the middle class, Kerry said Americans are too optimistic to accept an economy in which average-income families are becoming worse off.

Bush campaign: Maine jobs up, economy improving

Disagreeing, the Bush campaign in Maine said new job figures and other recent economic data show that the economy is getting stronger, that the president’s jobs and growth plan is working.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said employers added 248,000 new jobs in May. That’s more than 1.4 million jobs that have been added since August, the campaign said.

In Maine, there are 3,700 more payroll jobs than a year ago, according to Maine Bush-Cheney 04 Chairman Peter Cianchette. “These employment numbers are an encouraging sign and a clear indication that President Bush’s pro-growth tax relief policies have put our national economy on the fast track to recovery,” Cianchette said in a press release.

“Mainers and Maine businesses are taxed enough, which is why we need to make permanent the president’s tax relief that has spurred this recent growth and will continue to foster the healthy business environment necessary to create jobs and provide every Maine resident the opportunity to get back to work,” Cianchette said.

Two Jesses heading Kerry’s Maine campaign

The presidential campaign of John Kerry is gearing up in Maine with full-time campaign workers Jesse Connolly and Jesse Derris.

Connolly, 25, joined the campaign two weeks ago as state director. Derris, who arrived on May 17, is communications director.

Connolly served as political director for the Kerry campaign during the Democratic presidential primary, while Derris worked as communications director for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Before that, Connolly was communications director for Maine Senate President Beverly Daggett during the legislative session last year.

A native of Portland, Connolly is a Bates College graduate, where he served as caucus director for the Senate Democratic Committee.

Derris, who declined to reveal his age, is a veteran of several campaigns for Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, presidential primary contender Bill Bradley, and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore.

Derris grew up in Long Island and graduated from the University of Wisconsin.

Both are working from their homes, but expect to open offices in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, Connolly said. “It’s fair to say we’ll have a presence in these cities fairly shortly,” he said.

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