HARPSWELL — Incumbent state Sen. Everett “Brownie” Carson, D-Harpswell, is being challenged by Brunswick Republican Diana Garcia in Senate District 24.
Carson is seeking his second term representing the district, which includes Brunswick, Freeport, Harpswell, North Yarmouth and Pownal.
First-time candidate Garcia, president and CEO of Maine Solutions Federal Credit Union in South Portland, said last week she is running to give voters a choice.
Carson said the importance of the next two years and beyond is to rebuild “effective, efficient public services” for Mainers.
Two issues of primary importance to him are instituting a “much more robust and accessible” pre-K system, he said, as well as create a more comprehensive state health care system.
A member of the Health Care Task Force, Carson said establishing a new health care system requires a two-pronged approach: containing health care costs such as prescription drug prices, and designing a system that is all-inclusive.
In the same vein, Carson said he thinks the most important thing he did in his first term is passing a bill to restore the state’s public health nursing service, which was enacted over Gov. Paul LePage’s veto.
He also sued the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for a failure to hire public health nurses.
“Public health nurses and the whole public health infrastructure doesn’t have a lot of constituency because most of it flies below the radar,” he said last week. “And it is so valuable.”
He does not, however, support Question 1 on the state ballot, which asks voters to support a Universal Home Care Program to help seniors and people with disabilities, regardless of income. The program would be funded by a new 3.8 percent tax on individuals and families “with Maine wage and adjusted gross income” above the amount subject to Social Security taxes.
“To try to kind of insert a piece over here in a health care system that is already fragmented, that already has so many issues I think it’ll take a lot of oxygen out of the room,” Carson said. “(It would) force people to deal with that.”
Instead, he said, he hopes the Health Care Task Force will work next term to design and “figure out the funding for” a more complete health care system.
“We’re in a pretty polarized environment, and people want a choice – they feel really strongly one way or the other,” Garcia said. “I just don’t really like a situation (when) I go to the ballot box and there’s one candidate … so I felt like it’s something I can do.”
She said education is a “huge” issue for her, and she is not a proponent of a proficiency-based diploma requirement in schools. She also thinks there is a need for “attention and improvement” statewide on how child abuse and neglect cases are handled.
In terms of expanding Medicaid, Garcia said she does not support it, but is also not an advocate of “leaving things the same as they are” right now.
“I think there needs to be competition to not just lower drug prices but make medical care itself more competitive, to allow people to shop for the services they are receiving,” she said.
She also said she “wholly against” statewide Question 1, and said though she understands there is a consensus that home health-care providers are “underpaid for what they do” she would like instead to see a marketplace solution.
Garcia said in response to the opioid crisis, she would like to see law enforcement have the resources to catch traffickers and prosecute them. She also supports educating young people and better, medically supervised programs for those in recovery.
Ultimately, she said she wants people to know she listens to both sides “respectfully” on the issues.
“I am not going out and fundraising and doing all the things that a traditional candidate does, but I’m basically saying ‘Hey this is something I’m willing to do,'” she said. “… And if you want this as an alternative I’m willing to step forward and do it.”
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Married, two grown children
Occupation: Retired, former executive director of Natural Resources Council of Maine
Education: Bachelor of Science, Bowdoin College, Juris Doctor, University of Maine School of Law
Political/civic experience: State senator, one term
Party Affiliation: Republican
Family: Married, two grown children
Occupation: President/CEO Maine Solutions Federal Credit Union
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business, Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Southern New Hampshire University
Political/civic experience: North Yarmouth Academy Board of Trustees, Maine Credit Unions for Ending Hunger, Special Olympics