HARPSWELL — Incumbent state Rep. Joyce “Jay” McCreight, D-Harpswell, is being challenged in November by first-time candidate Sean Hall, a Republican from Harpswell, in the race for House District 51.
McCreight was elected in 2014 to represent the district, which covers Harpswell, West Bath and a small part of Brunswick. Hall works as a firefighter and EMT, as well as a lobster boat sternman.
As a military veteran and former science teacher, Hall said he has led a life of public service, so politics seemed to be a “natural progression.”
“I see what’ s going on in Augusta and nationally, and I think we’re promoting legislation that is getting away from the Maine values and the things that have made me fall in love with this place where I live,” he said.
He added a key issue for him is education, and said he thinks more emphasis needs to be placed on teaching students “how to think” instead of what to think, to make them active learners.
He would also like to see vocational programs expanded, and noted the need for more in-state skilled tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers.
The commercial fishing industry is also important to him, and he said “looking at alternative sources of revenue” for fishermen and diversifying the type of species that are being fished is key.
Exploring aquaculture and making the process to obtain an aquaculture lease less restrictive could also help, he said.
As an EMT, he said he has seen the devastation that opioids can cause, and said it is an issue both parties need to work together to solve.
In the same vein, he said he thinks on both the state and federal level, mental health care needs to be more accessible. Mental illness, he said, can have a “cascade effect” leading to addiction, homelessness and criminal behavior.
Because he is a “newcomer to politics” with no track record, Hall said he knows it might be hard for people to make an assessment of his values.
“I just encourage people to contact me if they have questions and to look at the incumbent’s voting record,” he said. “If someone’s voting record does not align with your values, then I think it might be time to look for alternatives in your representations.”
Having worked as a social worker for 30 years, McCreight said the opportunity to advocate on a “macro level” is what drew her to the Legislature in 2014.
In deciding on a third run for the District 51 seat, McCreight said she was inspired by having a “remarkably successful second session.”
She said she often gets ideas for legislation from her constituents. One instance she is particularly proud of arose from correspondence with a lobsterman from Harpswell. McCreight said he was “very ill” and concerned about paying bills.
She and the constituent worked together for months and met with the commissioner of marine resources, talked to other lobstermen, and came up with a two-part bill.
The first part of the bill made an existing medical waiver for lobstermen more flexible, and the second proposed a new medical waiver for those that are terminally ill.
The first half of the bill is now law, she said, and instituting the terminal illness waiver is one of the tasks she plans to work on if re-elected.
McCreight, who was House chair of the Opioid Task Force, also put forward a bill advocating for Youth Mental Health First Aid training for health teachers.
The key to fighting the opioid crisis, she said, is to implement a holistic approach, which she referred to as a “three-legged stool.”
“You need prevention, you need treatment, and you need law enforcement,” she said. “I think we’ve learned over time that law enforcement alone is not gonna do it, and prevention programs have not been successful alone.”
Instituting what she called “wrap-around” services for those in recovery, she added, is also important. The model not only allows people to get the medication they might need, such as suboxone, but also counseling and peer support.
Improving substance use disorder and mental health treatment is important to McCreight, as is restoring the safety net to help families avoid falling into crisis.
Ultimately, she said it is “incredibly inspiring” to be able to bring change through good policy.
“Everything I’ve done has been in response to needs of the community as opposed to something I made up out of thin air,” she said. “My agenda is to be an advocate.”
Residence: Orr’s Island
Family: Married, two daughters
Occupation: Firefighter/EMT, lobster boat sternman. Former middle school science teacher, Army veteran
Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Southern Maine, Master of Science, Saint Joseph’s College
Political/civic experience: Volunteer firefighter, member of American Legion and Knights of Columbus.
Website/social media: None
Party affiliation: Democrat
Family: Married, two adult children, four grandchildren
Occupation: Social worker/clinical counselor
Education: Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Master of Science in Education, Clinical Counseling
Political/civic experience: Two-term state legislator, founding member of Harpswell Aging at Home, Orrs and Bailey Island Fire Department volunteer, secretary for Gun Point Road Association, school and community volunteer
Website/social media: https://bit.ly/2Nw0ISl