FALMOUTH — Three candidates are seeking the District 44 seat in the Maine House of Representatives this November, with two political newcomers challenging the two-term incumbent.
Voters in the district that includes most of Falmouth will have a choice between incumbent Rep. Teresa Pierce, a Democrat; Republican Sarah Sandlin, and Green Independent Kate Schrock.
All three candidates say they’re running to make positive change.
Meanwhile, in Maine House District 44, Ed Crockett, a Portland Democrat, is unopposed for the seat representing part of Falmouth and part of Portland.
Pierce said she is seeking re-election because she believes more work is needed to “continually improve our state.”
“I understand how things work,” she said. “I’ve already built the relationships that are needed to get things done.”
Pierce said she’s ready to dive in-depth into issues such as improving education, lowering property taxes, investing in infrastructure and tackling the opioid crisis.
“I also recognize that it’s important for Falmouth business development to grow the economy,” she said.
In terms of property taxes, Pierce said under Republican Gov. Paul LePage there’s been a shift in costs to local communities, particularly for education, which she would like to see reversed. “We need to get the balance back,” she said, between state spending and putting the burden on local property taxpayers.
To address the opioid crisis, Pierce said she’d like to see investment in treatment options for people, so “they can get back on their feet.”
Pierce supports the expansion of Medicaid to 70,000 more Mainers. So far, LePage has successfully resisted implementing the program, even though it was passed by voters in a statewide referendum last fall and ordered by the courts.
“The people have spoken and Medicaid expansion should be implemented,” she said. “Putting more people on health insurance is better for everyone and it’s the right thing to do.”
In terms of statewide referendum that would establish universal home care by imposing a tax surcharge on those making at least $128,400 a year, Pierce said, “while Question 1 address a worthy cause, this referendum is not the right solution. Amending the tax code should not be done via referendum.”
To break through the gridlock in Augusta, Pierce said she would like to see “a focus on real compromise between the governor and the Legislature. We all want what’s best for Maine and to move the state forward.”
LePage is term-limited from running again, so there will be a new governor in the Blaine House and Pierce said she hopes that means there will be “a bigger commitment to finding common ground.”
“People can disagree on policy, but we need civility to get things done and that’s what the people want,” she said. “They want state leaders to find compromise.”
If she’s re-elected, Pierce said she will focus on the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs across the state, “continue my support for improved infrastructure” and making the costs of college, including student debt, more affordable.
Pierce said voters should choose her because of her experience and her voting record. “My record stands on its own and I can hit the ground running,” she said.
Sandlin said she is running for office to continue Maine’s tradition of centrist conservatism. “That concept really guides my political ideology and it’s becoming increasingly uncommon,” she said.
Her heroes, Sandlin said, include former U.S. Sens. Margaret Chase Smith and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans.
With her centrist philosophy, Sandlin said, her goal would be to “not let party politics stand in the way of progress. We need more (state leaders) who are willing to compromise.”
At 23, Sandlin would be one of the youngest members of the Legislature. She sees her youth as a positive.
“Maine really needs innovation. There’s many exciting opportunities, but we really need to be progressive. As a millennial, I have fresh ideas,” she said. “I think innovation makes it possible to do a lot of things without raising taxes. That’s what we can’t keep doing.”
Issues that have attracted her attention, she said, include retaining and attracting young people to Maine, the need for more workforce housing, and the expansion of broadband internet, all of which she called non-partisan concerns.
Sandlin said she is also interested in protecting the environment and in land conservation. She would also like to see more eco-friendly development.
While she understands the need for more home-care options, Sandlin is unsure about the upcoming statewide referendum on the measure.
“This is a complex issue and there’s still a lot that’s unknown,” she said. Sandlin is also concerned that imposing the tax surcharge could hit small business owners especially hard.
In terms of the Medicaid expansion, Sandlin said, “the people have spoken. We live in a democracy and I’m a big believer in looking forward and not back.”
Overall, Sandlin said she believes that “the best ideas come out of talking and discussion, that’s why bipartisanship is so important. Party politics are the enemy of Maine. Listening is huge.”
Sandlin said voters should choose her this fall because “I’m not going to Augusta with any pre-determined ideology. I truly have an open mind and I believe in compromise.”
Schrock said she has always voted, but she wasn’t particularly politically active until after the presidential election two years ago.
She was a big supporter of Democrat Bernie Sanders, a U.S. Senator from Vermont, who lost his party’s nomination to Hilary Clinton.
After seeing how party politics played out in the Democratic primary, Schrock said she began looking for a third way, and that’s when she became a Green Independent.
“I didn’t like what I witnessed,” she said. “I thought what happened was a gross disservice to democracy, so like so many others I began to look for options.”
Schrock said the “massive polarization” that’s taken place since President Donald Trump was elected “is not healthy.” She’s also concerned that the traditional two-party system is “leaving behind the working class.”
And, she said, “I truly believe we’ve arrived at a time when policy decision making has no ethical roots. There are some good people in office from both parties, but polarization doesn’t allow for intelligent and thoughtful policy making.”
“I truly believe in the Green Independent platform,” Schrock added. The party’s focus includes the environment, social justice, gender equality and grassroots democracy, among other issues.
Schrock said she’s most interested in addressing income inequality and the access, affordability and quality of both education and health care. Other important issues, she said, include bolstering infrastructure to withstand climate change.
She’s a big proponent of the universal home care referendum and is canvasing in support of that measure as she’s campaigning for her own election.
Schrock also supports Medicaid expansion and said she would go even further, adopting universal health care.
Like the other two candidates, Schrock said it’s time to “reform the way we do business. Most everybody agrees we have a broken system and we need a return to civil discourse.”
She said one way to do that would be to grow the influence and voice of third parties, like the Green Independents.
“The my-way-or-the-highway, identity politics is not the best way to shape policy or have a multifaceted discussion on our common problems,” Schrock said. “… It might be helpful to have a healthy number of independents in Augusta to create an environment where mediation and compromise can happen.”
If elected, she would lend support to investing in job training programs or creating a micro loans program for small business development. However, Schrock does not support corporate welfare, which mostly comes in the form of tax breaks.
Schrock said voters should support her candidacy because “I will think outside the box and respond to issues from a local perspective. I want to be bottom up, not top down.”
This story was updated add a comment on Question 1 on the state ballot by state Rep. Teresa Pierce.
Residence: 6 Waites Landing Road, Falmouth
Political affiliation: Democrat
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: State legislator
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado; certificate in public leadership from the Harvard Kennedy School; Toll Fellow
Experience: Two-term state representative; serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee; two-terms Falmouth town councilor; former member of Falmouth Education Foundation, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Maine College of Art boards
Website, social media: facebook.com/reppierce
Residence: 100 Clearwater Drive, Falmouth
Political affiliation: Republican
Occupation: Sales representative at L.L. Bean
Education: Bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Richmond
Experience: No political experience
Residence: 267 Foreside Road, Falmouth
Political affiliation: Green Independent
Family: Unmarried, one child
Occupation: Musician and tradesperson
Education: Bachelor’s degree in performing arts from Bennington College
Experience: Bernie Sanders delegate to state Democratic convention