DURHAM — State Rep. Paul Chace, a Republican, and Democrat Sarah Hall are matched in the Nov. 8 Maine House District 46 election.
House District 46 covers Durham, North Yarmouth and part of Pownal.
Chace, 49, a pharmacist, is seeking his second term in office. Hall, 47, a lawyer, is a second-term member and vice chairwoman of the Durham Board of Selectmen.
Regarding the Gov. Paul LePage’s recent statements about drug traffickers and the voice message he left with Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, Chace said that, given no finding of legal wrongdoing by the governor, he would not at this point support legislative action against LePage. (Earlier in September, legislative leaders could not agree to a special session that would consider taking action against LePage.)
The governor has been criticized for a voice mail he left last month with Gattine, who had been critical of LePage’s statements that drug traffickers arrested in Maine are mostly black or Hispanic. Chace said that if the secretary of state or attorney general “found something” that would legitimize action against LePage, he would support it.
“But at this time, I don’t see that as possibility,” he said. “He made reprehensible remarks, but at this point I don’t see anything that we can do.”
Regarding the opioid crisis in Maine, Chase said health care must be the focus in the next Legislature. Emergency funding authorized this year to address the opioid problem expires in 2018.
“We have to really focus on patient health care,” Chace said. “In the 1980s and ’90s, they were strict about pain management, then there were new pain-management guidelines. Doctors ‘pre-medicated’ so patients could avoid pain. Now we’re seeing the results of that.”
Chace said that the Legislature must help health-care providers “work their way out of this mess” and increase enforcement of drug laws.
“But the bill we passed restricting opioid dispension was too strict,” he said. “Doctors didn’t go to school to say ‘no’ to people, they went to school to treat people. They need a policy. But it needs to be practiced and not be overbearing. Somebody who has cancer needs their meds and they shouldn’t be restricted. Someone with a broken arm is a different story. It’s a difficult problem.”
The No. 1 problem facing the Legislature, Chace said, is its inability to work together.
“It’s pretty partisan,” he said. “Good bills sometimes die over partisan issues, and we need to overcome that.”
Chace said that the most important local, or constituent, issue that he plans to tackle is property taxes.
“I ran two years ago on a platform of reducing local property taxes,” Chace said. “But we’re cheating on our own local property taxes. It’s our schools. When you live in a town like Durham or Pownal, and those towns can vote against something like a new gym in Freeport, and lose, it’s not fair, because people in Pownal and Durham pay more per household than Freeport. The state formula needs to be changed.”
In the presidential election, Chace said he favors Republican Donald Trump.
Chace is opposed to all six statewide referendum questions.
On Question 1, which legalizes and regulates marijuana, Chace said, “We don’t do anything better for children or society by legalizing marijuana, tax influx or not.”
On Question 2, which establishes a 3 percent tax on household income over $200,000 to create a state fund for public education, Chace said: “The people earning $200,000 or more own the coffee shops and other small businesses.”
Chace said that Question 3, which requires specific background checks for gun sales and transfers, is “overbearing.” He cited as an example that someone could get in trouble loaning a gun to a friend without a background, check.
“In my opinion, it’s a solution looking for a problem,” Chace said.
He said he opposes Question 4, which would increase the $7.50-per-hour minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, because “you can’t hire a student who is looking to enter the work force at $10-$12 an hour. The minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. And you will have to increase prices to do that.”
Chace said that he owned Old Port Pharmacy in Portland for four years, and needed to hire entry-level employees, who sometimes were high school students.
“The market sets the threshold,” he said. “This is not fair to business.”
He said he is “absolutely against” Question 5, which would establish statewide ranked-choice voting.
“One person, one vote. That’s the way it is. It isn’t even legal in the Maine Constitution,” he said.
On Question 6, calling for $100 million in bonds for transportation projects, Chace said he had difficulty with the question, because the Department of Transportation isn’t sufficiently funded in the state budget.
Hall said she was not a member of the Legislature dealing with the issues of LePage’s conduct, and thus not privy to caucus discussions. She said she doesn’t want to act as a “Monday-morning quarterback,” but is disappointed by the lack of civility in political discourse.
Hall favors a comprehensive approach to the opioid problem.
“I think that we’ve got to take a multi-pronged approach,” she said. “Increase access to in-state treatment and rehabilitation, including setting aside funds for low-income Mainers, as well as (for) law-enforcement on the distribution and sales end. I think it’s a combination of treatment and law enforcement. I think funding is always the issue.”
Hall agreed with Chase on the No. 1 problem facing the Legislature.
“The single largest challenge is functional government,” she said. “Partisan politics has eclipsed merit or efficacy. It’s not limited to Maine. We have partisan gridlock on the national level.”
The most important local issue that has come up during her talks with voters, she said, is the rising cost of property taxes. Full funding of municipal revenue sharing and full 55 percent funding of state aid to education would help in that regard, she said.
Hall pointed out that her opinions on the referendum questions reflect those of a private citizen, and not as a representative.
“I’m not representing a district,” she said. “If I’m elected, those questions will already have been answered.”
She supports Question 1. “I think there has been full research on the medical benefits,” Hall said, “and that the amount of law enforcement and the amount of judicial time and expense tied up on small possession cases could better be spent on larger problems.”
She is opposed to Question 2. “Education is the most important investment and should be funded accordingly,” Hall said, “but Maine voters already have spoken and voted to fund education at 55 percent, which has never happened. I’m concerned that rather than adding to educational funding, it will be creating a different source at the expense of the highest earners.”
She said that Question 3 is the toughest one for her.
“Ultimately, I support background checks, and I do believe that we need to take a broad look at the epidemic of gun violence, with particular attention to mental health issues,” Hall said. “Some burdensome and unenforceable language is in the referendum, but it can be used as a starting point regarding gun violence.”
Hall supports the “incremental increase” toward a livable wage to help more people out of poverty, and also supports ranked-choice voting, saying it would increase opportunities for the emergence of third-party candidates, she said.
She also supports Question 6.
“I drive around the state enough to know more work is needed on our roads and bridges,” Hall said.
In the presidential election, Hall isn’t quite sure who will get her vote.
“I’m likely to support Clinton, but would like to hear more of what the independent candidates have to say,” she said.