FREEPORT — Democratic state Rep. Sara Gideon, who is seeking a second term in House District 48, is being challenged by Republican Paul Schulz.
Schulz, a resident of Pownal, is new to politics and has never held elected office, although he has volunteered in his own town and in Freeport.
Election day is Nov. 4.
Gideon has lived in Freeport 11 years with her husband and three children, all of whom attend Freeport schools. She was a town councilor from 2009 to 2012, served on the board of Freeport Community Services, and was a member of the Freeport Economic Development Corp.
Gideon, who has a background in advertising, has also been a volunteer in the Freeport schools.
She said the issues she’s most interested in are the ones that affect people every day.
“I think there’s always places and ways we can improve our communities and peoples’ lives,” Gideon said. “Coming together to create policies is an effective way to make those improvements.”
She said three of the issues she’s most concerned about are equal access for education, the cost of health care, and whether jobs are providing enough money. She said she also wants Maine to understand its place in the world.
“I want Maine to be understanding that we live in a global and competitive world,” Gideon said.
Gideon said she thinks students should be given “the tools to be highly skilled workers.” She said the job areas that are competitive need to be more defined and that students should be prepared for these jobs. Overall, she said she wants to make sure that every child receives the best education.
“The primary goal we should be thinking of is how we can ensure that every Maine kid gets a first-rate education,” Gideon said.
Gideon said she thinks every child should be able to go to preschool and that Maine needs to create a more robust public school system. She also said teachers need to be given the opportunity to teach children skills to prepare them for life after school, as opposed to just teaching them how to pass standardized tests.
She also said she wants to work on problems surrounding energy and the environment.
“Climate change is absolutely terrifying and we have to understand that without a healthy environment, nothing else matters,” Gideon said.
She said Maine needs to “work on (energy and environmental) problems that already exist, and slow (their) effects for the future.”
“We need to think proactively about what kind of energy we’re consuming with electricity and heating,” Gideon said.
She also wants to work on lowering the cost of health care.
“We have skyrocketing costs,” Gideon said. “It’s unaffordable.”
Gideon said she hopes Freeport moves forward with its Active Living Plan, and said she supports the proposed METRO bus service extension.
She didn’t say where she stands on the town’s possible withdrawal from Regional School Unit 5, but said she understands why Freeport residents would vote to leave the RSU.
“It’s important that communities feel they have local control and can examine their own school system and budget,” she said.
Schulz has lived in Pownal with his wife and three young children since 2009. He is a self-employed software consultant and currently volunteers as a scout master. In the past he volunteered at the Freeport Community Center and at the Habitat for Humanity build site in Freeport.
Although he is new to politics, Schulz said he believes he can make a difference.
“I really felt like the direction we were headed in fiscally was not sustainable and someone needed to step up,” he said. “I thought I could be a catalyst for positive change.”
Schulz said taxes are an issue of major concern.
“I think our tax burden here in Maine is outrageous,” he said. “I think if elected to the Legislature, I could mitigate that.”
He said the state is burdened by high expenses.
“Maine can’t afford an overly expensive state government,” Schulz said. “We need to look at our taxes and get that under control.”
Schulz said he also wants to look at regulatory excess.
“I’d like to go in and look at these and amend things that are impeding companies and individuals,” he said.
Schulz said he also has concerns about education and thinks parents can do more to get involved.
“I really think parents should have a greater role in the education their children get,” he said.
While he didn’t comment on Freeport’s proposed withdrawal from RSU 5, Schulz said communities need to control their own schools.
“We need to bring the control of the schools back to the local communities,” he said.
Schulz said he is “a real believer in the free-market system” and that the minimum wage should not be increased.
“I don’t think it should be raised. The free market should drive wages,” he said. “A person has the ability to elevate themselves through education and there are so many resources in Maine.”
Schulz said people need to use these resources and look for opportunities to better themselves. He said the state can’t do anything if people aren’t willing to first help themselves.
Like Gov. Paul LePage, Schulz favors greater use of hydro-electric power in Maine.
“I think Maine could simultaneously lower energy costs and keep its commitment to renewable energy by relying on hydro power,” he said.
Schulz said he believes he would make a good legislator because he doesn’t have an agenda and isn’t driven by a desire for a career in politics.
“I’m not part of any special-interest group,” he said. “I don’t want to be a career politician, and I think Sara does.”
Schulz said he is running is because he loves his community and likes living in Maine.
“I’m not seeing this as a career,” he said. “I’m seeing this as a way to help the state of Maine.”