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Candidates discuss Maine's future

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By Hadley Barndollar

Posted Oct 24, 2018 at 10:24 PM

Updated Oct 24, 2018 at 10:24 PM

KITTERY, Maine -- Though spanning different political parties and races, the candidates in attendance at Wednesday’s forum hosted by the Portsmouth Herald agreed upon one thing: The current state of affairs of Maine government isn’t a good one.

Candidates for House Districts 1 and 2, and Senate District 35, discussed an array of topics ranging from workforce development to municipal revenue sharing to retail marijuana at Kittery Town Hall.

Incumbent Democrat Deane Rykerson and Green Party candidate Andrew Howard are running for House District 1, which represents part of Kittery. Democrat Michele Meyer and Republican Dan Ammons are competing for House District 2, representing Eliot, part of Kittery and part of South Berwick.

Republican Mike Estes and Democrat Mark Lawrence are vying for Senate District 35, which encompasses Eliot, Kittery, Ogunquit, South Berwick, York and part of Berwick. All were present at Wednesday’s forum except Ammons.

Rykerson, who has served in the Legislature for six years, said he was coming into this year’s race asking if the state is doing enough for its children, as far as education, healthcare and social services. Howard said he is “repaying a debt” to the state of Maine, because it was there for him in times when he needed it. In addition, he’s running a campaign on zero dollars, “to get money out of politics.”

Meyer said she made her career as a nurse and operates a small organic farm with her husband. She’s running on a foundation of “active listening, critical thinking, collaboration, and compassion,” she said.

Estes, currently a York selectman, is the owner of Estes Oil and Propane. He said he’s become frustrated by the state government’s dysfunction and wants to bring it “back to normal.” Lawrence touted his history of bipartisan work, but he currently sees a dichotomy developing in government. He said he wants to bring “proven, positive leadership” to Augusta.

The candidates discussed what it will take the stop the “brain drain” in Maine, by attracting and retaining young people to pursue careers.

“I think we need to start educating our kids in middle school and high school on all of the ways we can arrive to a satisfying career,” Meyer said, noting training programs need to match job demands.

Estes said his business has struggled in hiring skilled technicians, but always gets response for apprenticeships. “We need to bring back apprenticeships, vocational training and bring the trades back into your community colleges.”

Lawrence said he sees two different economies in the state, coastal and rural, and the needs of both are simply not the same. “What we need to do is just not create the technical training, we need to have a regional targeted plan for economic growth.”

Rykerson said he supports that idea that if a student stays in Maine for their career, their student debt is erased. The state also needs to work on its broadband issues, he said.

Howard raised issue that the Legislature shoots down much of what the people want. He said it’s the citizens on the ground who should be coming up with solutions to the workforce crisis.

The candidates were asked about climate change; its current and future impacts to the state.

Rykerson is supportive of carbon pricing; a revenue neutral carbon pricing scheme that would provide return to consumers.

Howard said the state currently allows industries from out of Maine to come in and take control of natural resources and exploit them. “We take a hard line and we say no, we need sustainable industries,” he said.

“Under the LePage administration, we have missed opportunities to innovate,” Meyer said.

Estes said he’s been working with a company that has developed a product made from trees that can be used in diesel engines. “We’ve proved we can replace heating oil in this state with this product,” he said.

Lawrence said not only has the state failed at energy initiatives the last several years, but it’s gone backwards. He said he would focus on solar power, wind projects and energy efficiency.

All candidates primarily agreed they either would not, or were not ready to, support a ban on assault-style weapons.

Meyer said she grew up with her father as a lifelong sportsman. “Guns were a way of life in my home,” she said. “I don’t fear the safe use and ownership of guns. That said, gun violence is a public health epidemic.” Meyer said the state needs to take smaller steps like red flag laws and background checks to move towards improved safety.

Estes, a self-proclaimed hunter, said he supports “taking guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Lawrence said he wants to focus priority on safer schools and public buildings. He previously supported a red flag bill that would allow a court hearing to determine if an at-risk person should possess firearms or not.

Rykerson said he “would definitely work towards limiting the number of rounds that can be shot per minute, because that’s a dangerous thing.”

On gun safety, Howard explained, is where the Green Party “strikes a difference.” He said he never wants to see another school shooting or innocent person harmed by a gun again, but, “do you do that by picketing, by trying to get the Kittery Trading Post to stop selling guns?”

Howard said boycott actions by Democrats typically result in increased gun sales. He urged Republicans to take back the NRA, and Democrats to stop picketing.



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