FREEPORT — In his fourth campaign for elected office, Paul “Benjamin” Schulz is again challenging state Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, in House District 48.
Gideon, who also previously served on Freeport’s Town Council, is serving her third term in the district that represents Freeport and part of Pownal, and recently completed her first term as speaker of the House.
Schulz was the Republican candidate in the district in 2014 and 2016, and also ran unsuccessfully for the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors this year.
Gideon said she’s running for a fourth and final term because she has learned how to identify issues facing the district and where there are opportunities for solutions.
Gideon said she’s proud of the work the Legislature has accomplished during her first three terms, but knows there’s more work to be done.
“That is what really drives me more than anything to want to do this work,” she said.
Gideon said her priority is “making sure the state is meeting its obligation and encouraging communities to meet their obligations,” in part by improving the state’s aid to education and revenue sharing.
She’d also like to continue promoting economic development and viability in the state, especially for small businesses and business owners. This includes infrastructure advances, such as reliable access to high-speed internet.
Another top priority of Gideon’s is helping municipalities combat the brown-tail moth epidemic in a “uniform and effective way.”
Gideon said she’s been proud of the work the state has done to ensure access to naloxone for those struggling with opioid addiction, regardless of age.
“There are real people, men and women, who are alive today because of it, and I couldn’t think of a more basic need than that,” she said.
Still, Gideon added, the state needs to do more to offer ongoing support and treatment, as well as education around the epidemic.
Access to quality health care to all residents, Gideon said, goes hand-in-hand with this.
She is in favor of Medicaid expansion and said the fact that Gov. Paul LePage has delayed implementation regardless of widespread support has been “truly confounding.”
“We will finish this job and get it done, but it’s incredibly sad and frustrating that we are still even discussing it,” Gideon said.
The Legislature, Gideon said, has also been working hard to address the population of people in Maine who are in deep poverty, including taking measures to address “Part One” of the initiative which, she said, is an immediate lift out of poverty, and “Part Two,” which aims to keep families out of poverty in part by educating individuals and training them to be part of the workforce. This is something she’d like to continue to focus and expand on, given another term.
Gideon said she does not support Question 1 on November’s ballot – which would establish universal home care for the elderly and disabled by imposing a tax on those making at least $128,400 a year, and would rather see such a proposal vetted through the legislative process.
“I absolutely see the need for providing home care to those that need it,” she said. “The sentiment, I agree with. The actual question is not something I can support.”
Schulz said he’s running to represent the “40 percent of voters (who) don’t fall within the majority party (Democrats).”
“I want to be that voice,” he said, adding that by owning a business and raising his family here he’s made an “investment.”
Schulz’s top priority, he said, is “individual freedom” and the “right for people to choose for themselves.” If elected, he would keep this principle in mind while forming opinions and making decisions.
Schulz said one way individual freedom has been compromised by the state is spending money “frivolously” and taxing so “atrocious(ly)” that residents are forced to move out of the state.
He also said the state imposes unnecessary regulations and “barriers” that make it hard to start and own a business, which, in turn, has a negative impact on the state’s economic viability.
“We need to do away with that and make the government more efficient,” he said.
Schulz said whatever issues the district is facing, such as state aid to education, other districts are “facing the same.” He added that “throwing more money at a problem” is never going to fix it.
In terms of the opioid crisis, Schulz said it should be up to the individual in crisis to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and take advantage of the programs and resources already in place, rather than the Legislature implementing any more.
“You can implement all the programs you want, but unless an individual takes initiative, you’ll never fix the problem,” Schulz said.
He did, however, say schools should start teaching students at a younger age “right from wrong,” referring to the negative impacts of drug use.
Like Gideon, Schulz said he is not in favor of Question 1, but said he is opposed because there are already state and federal programs available to “accommodate these things.”
“Maine has a horrible debt because of health care and (Gov. Paul LePage) has cleaned that up,” Schulz said. “We don’t want us to find ourselves in that situation again.”
Schulz said he is not in favor of the Medicaid expansion because it will “bankrupt Maine.”
“There’s no reason to do it,” he said. “It is just going to be another overreaching governmental program that will destroy our freedom.”
When voting, Schulz said he hopes people will look at the candidates’ moral standing and character, rather than their party affiliation.
“If differing parties really looked at each other, I think we’d find we want the same thing,” he said. “We just have different ways of doing it.”
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Married, three children
Occupation: Speaker of the House
Education: Bachelor’s degree, George Washington University
Political/civic experience: Six years as state representative, two years as speaker of the House; former Freeport councilor, RSU5 school volunteer; served on the boards of Freeport Community Services and the Freeport Economic Development Corporation
Party Affiliation: Republican
Family: Married, three children
Occupation: Computer analyst
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Utah State University
Political/civic experience: Volunteer at Aging in Place Cumberland and Boy Scouts
Website/social media: None