While the race for the next U.S. president has generated much attention on the national political scene, and the contest for a new U.S. senator to replace Olympia Snowe has drawn much of the publicity in Maine, voters in the state during the Tuesday, November 6, general election also will be choosing two U.S. congressmen and state legislative candidates, along with casting ballots on a number of referendum questions, including a marriage equality question.
On the Maine ballot for president are Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Libertarians Gary Johnson and James Gray and Green Independents Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala.
For the U.S. Senate seat that has been held by Olympia Snowe, candidates are: Danny Dalton of Brunswick, Democrat Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth, Independent for Liberty candidate Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell, Independent for Maine candidate Angus King of Brunswick, Republican Charles Summers of Scarborough and Independent Stephen Woods of Yarmouth.
For the 2nd Congressional District U.S. House seat, incumbent Democrat Mike Michaud of East Millinocket is running against Republican Kevin Raye of Perry. Profiles of the candidates follow.
Congressman Mike Michaud authored legislation that was enacted to create the Northern Border Regional Commission, which aims to direct $30 million each year to transportation, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, according to the website <michaudforcongress.com>. In 2005 he helped with the passage of a bill that authorized almost $1 billion for the state's federal transportation programs through fiscal year 2009. Among the projects funded were the new Calais-St. Stephen border crossing.
Michaud voted in favor of legislation that protected 19 million families from the Alternative Minimum Tax and thus provided tax relief for middle-class families. He also supported a bill that provides $1.2 billion in targeted tax breaks to military personnel and their families and the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007.
Serving on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, he has supported a modern-day GI Bill that provides college scholarships to returning veterans and legislation that provides the largest investment in the Department of Veteran's Affairs history. He also voted for cost-of-living increases for disabled veterans.
Michaud is a member of the House Trade Working Group, which has worked to oppose the expansion of NAFTA-style trade agreements, and worked to stop the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. He supported repeal of the Bush Administration's "Fast Track" trade authority, which ensures that Congress has oversight over future trade agreements. Michaud authored a bill to ban the sale of products made in sweatshop factories and supported the Trade Adjustment Assistance and Globalization Act, which extends help for workers who lose jobs to foreign competition. He introduced the TRADE Act, a new trade model for manufacturers and businesses, and, according to the website, he is fighting to reduce the American trade deficit with China and to ensure that the Chinese currency is not undervalued on the world market.
Maine Senate President Kevin Raye outlines his positions on the federal debt, healthcare, veterans and fixing Washington on his website <rayeforcongress.com>.
Noting that the federal debt is now more than $16 trillion, he says, "America is on the verge of leaving this country weaker than we found it. We do not want to be the first generation of Americans to do that." Raye believes that a balanced budget amendment should be passed to enforce fiscal discipline, and he notes that Michaud voted against a balanced budget amendment. Maine, though, is required to balance its budget and by making "tough choices" the state has reduced its debt by $1.7 trillion. "As Senate president, I led by example by reducing my office staff budget by 22%. Washington needs that kind of a dose of common sense. We need to rein in spending."
He notes the "bitter partisanship" in Congress and that Michaud "has voted the party line 93% of the time during his 10 years in Congress." While he was Senate president he and other legislators "worked together to build bipartisan consensus" on issues ranging from tax cuts to regulatory reform," he says.
Raye describes the Affordable Care Act as "a heavy-handed, top-down approach" and believes it should be replaced. To address the healthcare cost crisis, he says, "I want to make sure small businesses can band together to buy more affordable health insurance. We can make sure that those with preexisting conditions can have access to health insurance, and we can make sure people can buy health insurance across state lines."
Raye points to his support for veterans, noting his sponsorship of or support for several bills that assist veterans and were enacted while he has been in the state legislature.
MAINE SENATE DISTRICT 29
Washington County legislative candidates were interviewed and asked about economic development, school funding and the loss of nursing home beds in the county.
Three candidates are running for the State Senate District 29 seat that has been held by Senate President Kevin Raye. They are Republican David Burns of Whiting, Democrat Anne Perry of Calais and independent candidate James Whalen of Machias.
Rep. David Burns is serving his second term to the House of Representatives. He is retired from a 24-year career as a Maine state trooper. He and his wife, Donna, have five children and seven grandchildren. He was the director of a program to help children who were victims of violence and trauma. Among the boards he has been on or is serving on are Sunrise County Economic Council, Eastern Area Agency on Aging and the Regional Medical Center of Lubec.
Burns will continue with legislation to build the business environment. He has worked to lower taxes and health insurance costs, create tax incentives for small businesses, streamline workers' compensation and unemployment benefits. He supported the creation of a small business advocate, which "has been very beneficial in my district." He co‑sponsored a bill to encourage investment in rural, low‑income communities. The Port of Eastport is "making great strides," which he supports.
"We're asking schools to work smarter and to save" and to share resources with the help of an incentive system that has taken the place of a penalty system, Burns says. He has worked on the biennial budget's $63 million increase in school funding, and has worked to put the Essential Programs and Services (EPS) formula in the hands of a non‑biased vendor for review.
Washington County's nursing home beds have been a priority since First Atlantic's plans to close the Calais nursing home became evident. Burns filed bill LR49, which would develop a weighted formula to provide equity in funding for rural communities. He is working with the Washington County delegation, the City of Calais and Calais Regional Hospital to bring some beds back.
He is proud of work done with the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) to bring transparency in state government and agencies.
Anne Perry is a family nurse practitioner and has served eight years as state representative. During her time in the legislature, Perry was House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. She is chair of Washington County: One Community and the Calais Rotary Club, and is a board member of the Washington County Food and Fuel Alliance. She is an adjunct professor at Husson University.
Growing jobs in the county will involve working on efforts already under way, she says. GroWashington‑Aroostook needs "to be well supported." Healthcare costs are high in the county, another area that Perry would work to resolve in a "measured and well‑researched way" through the Advisory Council on Healthy System Development. The council was disbanded in 2011; Perry would work to reinstate it.
Perry believes that it's time to "look at things differently" when it comes to education in rural schools. She says that technology needs to be utilized to provide education in news ways, allowing students to stay close to home if they wish and providing a wider range of educational opportunities.
"I was upset that Calais lost its nursing home," Perry says. She explains that she will support work in progress to resolve the lack of beds. Looking at the demographics of the county's future, she notes that Washington County is the oldest of all the counties. Efforts under way at the state level may make it possible to have assisted living facilities act in some capacities as a nursing home would. While the county's number of beds is still "critical," she notes that if the change occurs "it might make it easier to keep loved ones in the county and close to family."
Perry adds that she wants to represent every person in the county.
Dr. Whalen is 72 and has lived and practiced as a board‑certified orthopedic surgeon in Machias for 33 years, where he also raised four children. He received his degree from the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry and is a veteran.
For job creation in the county, Whalen supports the east‑west highway and the legislature's approval of a $300,000 expenditure for a study of the highway. He says he would introduce legislation: to authorize gas and oil onshore and offshore exploration in the county; and to establish sawmills and an economic council to extract the complete value of harvested resources from manufacturing processes. He would work to expand access to natural gas. He believes there is work to be done regarding tourism, such as more bike paths, family activities along ocean communities and more national exposure.
In terms of shortfalls in state school funding, Whalen explains that he would need to research the issue in order to understand the order of magnitude of the problem. However, he is a proponent of educational integration with "training here for jobs that are here." He adds, "Plumbers, pipefitters, welders, mechanics, heavy equipment operators, nurses and doctors, teachers, law enforcement personnel make an economy work. Roads and ports don't work unless you have trained people to make those facilities work."
Whalen would insist that the governor make restitution to the citizens of Calais by building a new nursing home facility. He believes that the fixed number of beds allowed in the state could "be altered at a stroke of the pen by Commissioner Mayhew" at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). He notes that the fixed number of beds does not recognize the changing demographics of the state's population.
Whalen encourages the public to visit his website to learn more about him at <Whalenmesenate.com>.
MAINE HOUSE DISTRICT 30
The two candidates for the House District 30 seat that has been held by Rep. Howard McFadden of Dennysville are Republican Lawrence Lockman of Amherst and Democrat Dennis Mahar of Pembroke.
Lawrence Lockman of Amherst and his wife Debbie will soon celebrate their 40th anniversary. He has spent 20 of those years advocating for small business in Washington and Hancock counties, working with the National Federation of Independent Business. "At the grassroots level," Lockman is quick to add, "knocking on doors."
"We have to overhaul our tax code," Lockman says, when asked how to add jobs in Washington County. "We need to better conform to the federal tax code. I hear from so many small business owners that they pay more in taxes to Maine than to the U.S. That's just wrong." Another step to improve the business climate? "The cost of health insurance is too high for a small business to be able to afford it."
Regarding inequities in school funding, Lockman is clear. "The funding formula is thoroughly flawed," he says. "The way it is set up doesn't work; we should scrap the whole thing and start over."
The decline in nursing home beds is, according to Lockman, related to the state's fiscal problems, and the recent loss is a direct result of that. With nursing homes operating as private businesses, loss of revenue leads to decisions that may not be in the public interest. "What does the state owe the hospitals? Four hundred million?" Solving the tax issues, Lockman says, will help eliminate that problem. "There is no easy, quick fix," he concedes.
Roads and transportation are also on Lockman's radar. "The east‑west highway? I've never seen anything so polarizing," he says. "All the people I talk to, they're either dead set against it, or very much for it." "But," he adds, "the devil is always going to be in the details."
Pembroke resident Dennis Mahar is the former president of the Maine Bar Association and an active attorney who sits on a number of boards of directors, including that of the Calais Regional Hospital and Washington Academy.
When asked how to add jobs in Washington County, Mahar replies, "We have to fix the formula for funding nursing homes," adding that the recent closure in Calais cost "80-90 jobs." The problem, Mahar states, is that the formula is based on assumptions about the ratio of private‑pay patients to MaineCare and Medicare patients. "This ratio may hold up in other places, but not in eastern Maine," says Mahar. The smaller percentage of private‑pay patients -- which includes insurance companies -- has resulted in diminished nursing home funding, according to Mahar. While conceding that these ratios are set by federal agencies, he feels that the legislature can still address the issue.
School funding is also an issue, according to Mahar. "They [the legislature] need to live up to their long standing promise to pay 55% of the cost." He adds that the current practice, which has significantly reduced funding to many Washington County districts while continuing to finance urban schools, unfairly shifts the burden and has resulted in property tax increases to local property owners.
MAINE HOUSE DISTRICT 31
Democrat Harold Clark of Calais is running against incumbent Rep. Joyce Maker of Calais for the District 31 seat in the House.
Harold Clark of Calais has worked as a UPS driver and has owned a small business for 24 years. To help with job growth he would support expansion of the port at Eastport. "We have one of the finest deep‑water ports on the east coast, and I think we should put it to work for us. I would also support insurance law that actually makes sense. The current law allows insurance companies to charge higher rates in Washington County and other rural areas to subsidize lower rates in the more populated and richer parts of the state. Why would a company come here when they can go to southern maine and pay less for the same thing? This is a huge problem that needs to be corrected so jobs can finally come to Washington County."
Concerning school funding, Clark says, "We need to first look at which schools get the most in funding and which schools are severely underfunded. It is easily understood that schools in the most populated and often the richest parts of our state get the most funding. I believe that this needs to be stopped. We need to have a system where there is equal funding per student in every school, regardless of what part of the state it is located, or the tax base of the area."
On the nursing home beds issue, he states, "My solution for this is simple: Make it easy for companies and hospitals that run nursing homes to open up more beds in our area. To do this, we need to streamline the process and make it inexpensive. With a more streamlined process and low startup costs, combined with the high demand for nursing home beds, I believe that we can bring as many beds as we need to Washington County."
Joyce Maker, a retired college administrator, resides in Calais with her husband Geoffrey and two children. Her background in city government and education has been extensive.
Maker says her first priority would be to try to keep the jobs that currently exist and assist those who are already doing business in Washington County. She cites two examples: "Last year we worked together as a delegation to prevent the closure of the Downeast Correctional Facility and assisted Woodland Pulp LLC with their effort to link Baileyville's mill to a natural gas pipeline, saving the mill money and creating more jobs."
Maker says there is a need to evaluate the impact of the Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding formula on children from economically disadvantaged areas and the funding shifts experienced by small rural schools. "Last year we passed LD 1274, a bill to restore equity in education funding. This bill did help increase revenue for Washington County districts, but it was really another tweak to the formula and didn't solve all the problems. There is a need for an independent review to understand if money is being distributed fairly and in the best interest of Maine students. At the same time, we need to be working to increase the percentage of support from the state to 55% and return the obligation to the communities to 45%."
Maker says, "We are currently working on the loss of nursing home beds in Washington County. We have met with the City of Calais, the Calais Regional Hospital and with Department of Health and Human Services and the administrator of the Oceanview Nursing Home to see if it is financially feasible."
MAINE HOUSE DISTRICT 32
Democrat Katherine Cassidy of Lubec and Republican Michael Radeka of Whiting are vying for the House District 32 seat that has been held by David Burns, who is running for the Maine Senate.
Katherine Cassidy lived in Machias for eight years before moving to Lubec in June. She has held a number of positions including: Machias School Committee member, board member of the Eastport Arts Center and the Downeast Sunrise Trail and co‑founder of the Machias Historical Society. She is currently organizing the Bay of Fundy International Marathon for 2013.
She will work for job creation by focusing on creating a predictable business climate by investing in public education, infrastructure, broadband, roads and bridges for the state and the county. Locally she sees the value of focusing on building a clean‑energy economy. "It's one of the few real growth industries in Maine and has the promise of creating manufacturing jobs." She points to the example of Ocean Renewable Power Company as an example of how Maine is leading the nation in green energy.
Working toward the legislated mandate of state funding for schools at 55% is one way she would address continuing shortfalls in school funding. However, she believes that the consolidation efforts were "top‑down" and are creating "real challenges for some towns." However, one benefit she points to has been the set‑up of a way for schools to manage shared costs.
Cassidy says that she has always imagined that the county could grow jobs by building a 100‑bed assisted living facility where county families could visit loved ones locally. She says, "It could provide dozens and dozens of jobs" for young people. "It takes attracting a major assisted living owner to bring such a facility here."
While she initially supported the east‑west highway proposal, she no longer does; she feels that as a privately funded project the public may be under-represented in the planning and building process. The lack of voice in the process could harm part of Maine's brand of environmental integrity.
Michael Radeka has lived in the area for about 30 years. He and his wife, Sherry, have two daughters. He is a graduate of Washington County Technical College and has run his plumbing and heating and property management businesses for 18 years. He sits on the Washington County Development Authority board, is treasurer for the local chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation and is a member of the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Radeka is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
The key to job creation is continuing to work on regulatory reform, he says. He would like to serve on the Marine Resources Committee, to increase fisheries opportunities. Coastal areas, he notes, are hit hard by the large amounts of land held by land trusts. This affects property taxes, which he says is linked to economic health. He suggests that a balance needs to be found so that municipalities and residents are not over‑burdened with having to make up for lost taxes.
School funding equity needs to come from continuing to work with the EPS funding formula. Radeka adds, "Consolidation for this area still needs improvement." He would work to enforce the goal of 55% school funding from the state. "It goes back to property taxes. There needs to be the proper balance between the two," and the EPS formula needs to be balanced between the southern and northern parts of the state, he adds.
Radeka would work on state reimbursement rates for nursing homes. "There has to be some change in the ways the funding formula works." He adds, "It's a matter of looking at formulas and creating a balance." He's not the expert, he says, but would work with others who have the knowledge to help create solutions.
Radeka also hopes to serve on the Transportation and Veterans and Legal Affairs committees.
MAINE HOUSE DISTRICT 33
Republican Peter Doak of Columbia Falls is running against Democrat Lawrence Finnegan of Jonesport for the House District 33 seat that has been held by Dianne Tilton of Harrington.
"I've worked for 51 years," says Peter Doak of Columbia Falls when asked to explain his credentials. A 20‑year Army veteran, retired as lieutenant‑colonel with a master's degree in education, Doak served two tours in Vietnam in the Special Forces before becoming an educator. His most recent education post was as principal of the Lubec Consolidated School. "I was hired to be a temporary," Doak says, "but stayed on for five years."
"We need to make Washington County more attractive to businesses," Doak says. "Cutting red tape and regulations, and educating kids so those businesses can hire them. We have to give them the skills the businesses need, otherwise they leave."
It is in educational issues that Doak becomes passionate. "The school funding issue is all part of the same puzzle," he says. The EPS formula, which dictates programs at the local school level, "is an unfunded mandate. They [the legislature] were supposed to pay 55%. They never did." Describing how larger schools fare better under the formula, Doak says, "In the smaller towns, we need an equal playing field."
When asked about the recent loss of nursing home beds, Doak replies, "We can't be closing those facilities. But I don't know the answer to that."
"We have to work together to solve these programs," he adds. When asked whether that means he would be willing to cross the aisle and work with members of the other party, Doak replies, "Absolutely."
Navy veteran, former Census Bureau and United Nations employee, and retired small business owner, Lawrence Finnegan lives in Jonesport. Since retirement Finnegan remains active by serving on a number of boards and working as president of the Machias Rotary. He and his wife, Dianne, run the Jonesport Food Pantry.
While Finnegan says that economic development is the key to revitalization in Washington County, he does not provide any specific proposals. "Each town needs a development plan," he says, "one that addresses their own needs." He says he will work closely with the Department of Economic and Community Development to implement local and regional plans. "None of us has found the magic bullet," he says, adding, "Help might come from outside of Maine."
One thing that would help, according to Finnegan, would be making possible $5,000 or $10,000 loans at the county level, to help boost small businesses.
The current EPS formula is "not working," Finnegan says, referring to the school funding statute. "It works well in urban areas," he says, while speaking of the shortfall that schools in less populated areas face. "The legislature needs to get closer to the 55%," the funding level promised by lawmakers. The current formula has shifted the burden, leading to "property taxes that are too high," he says.
When asked about the loss of nursing home beds in Washington County, Finnegan replies, "That's a Calais thing. Allowing it to close up, not a good thing." He admits that, regarding this issue, "I'm not an expert."
Republican Vinton Cassidy of Calais is running unopposed for Washington County commissioner in District 1, and incumbent Republican Christopher Gardner of Edmunds is running again for commissioner in District 2.