SCARBOROUGH — The two candidates in House District 28 both have years of public service behind their bids.
Republican Linwood Higgins, a former longtime state legislator, faces Town Councilor Christopher Caiazzo, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 election. The pair is seeking to replace outgoing Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
Higgins, 70, of Scarborough, said the partisanship now seen in Augusta and Washington is very different from when he served as a representative from 1974-1990. Higgins described himself a moderate Republican.
“I would work on bipartisanship. There is no reason for it not to happen; people are drawing lines in the sand. You are elected to represent the people and accomplish something rather than holding a session over until Christmas,” he said.
Higgins was born and raised in Scarborough. He earned a degree in economics from the University of New Hampshire in 1970 and returned home after his father died to operate the family excavation business.
In 1972, in his early 20s, Higgins was elected to the Town Council. He served two terms on the council and set his sights on the State House, where he later served eight terms.
When asked what prompted him to run for office again, Higgins said, “I love politics and people, and I love public service. You feel like you’ve accomplished something. It’s the most rewarding thing I ever did in my life.”
When he left politics nearly three decades ago, he said, he knew at some point he’d be back.
Higgins is semi-retired and breeds and races standardbred horses. “It keeps me busy, but not hardly enough,” he said of the work.
Higgins said there are many issues that deserve attention, but he hears from people most about the lack of progress in Augusta and Washington.
“Everybody is so partisan; they have picked a side and nobody wants to compromise,” he said, adding it is a whole different atmosphere than when he served.
“I’m a huge fan of the legislative process, not that it works all the time, but I always feel there are three branches of government for a reason,” he said of tackling issues.
He said with citizen’s initiatives and referendums, there needs to be information on how policy through that mechanism will be funded. He said the issues voted in by referendum should have been addressed by the legislature, which missed an opportunity to implement the law the right way.
“Each one of the referendum issues that passed had to go back and be reworked to make it meet the Constitution or meet other parts of the law,” he said.
Higgins served on the Appropriations Committee and in the party leadership during his past tenure as a legislator. He said one of his goals is maintaining the financial health of the state, on which there has been progress, adding there should be a surplus at year’s end.
He thinks some money should be used to pay off high-interest bonds, or invested in projects that will pay a return instead of funding expanded programs.
In referencing his past experience, Higgins said he is proud of his record, including work to ban billboards from the highway, and ensuring companies paid excise taxes where vehicles were housed, not where the corporate office is located, which generated significant and ongoing money for Scarborough.
Higgins’ campaign is privately financed and, according to the Maine Ethics Commission, he has raised no money as of Sept. 12.
Christopher Caiazzo, 48, has served locally on the Board of Education and as a town councilor. Now, he’s prepared to take a second crack at serving at the next level after falling short of ousting Sirocki, who was an incumbent in 2016.
Though he is running as a Democrat, Caiazzo said he is fiscally conservative and he does not take the party’s platform as gospel, adding he can be independent when reviewing proposals.
While on local boards, Caiazzo served on the finance committees, where he said he garnered a good understanding of the budgeting process and the challenges that face Scarborough, both budgetary and social. He said the School Board and Town Council now have joint finance meetings to codify and solidify the relationship of the bodies, despite cultural and legal differences.
Caiazzo says his priorities are varied. “There are so many issues to focus on, a whole litany of things – opioid addiction, education, health care – it all affects the town and the state,” he said.
State funding of education at 55 percent is attainable, he said, adding a budget is the expression of community desires, and it’s an issue of making it a priority at the state level. Caiazzo said he is not in favor of a targeted tax to reach 55 percent, as he feels a fair tax code must be constructed for everybody and not target specific groups.
Caiazzo said the School Department and town budget are largely funded by property taxes, which he called regressive. He suggested better reform with income tax, “not to drive a wedge between classes, but to fund the programs we need,” he said.
Another issue Caiazzo said requires attention is the opioid crisis. He praised the Scarborough Police Department’s Operation HOPE addiction outreach program, but said tackling the issue is not the function of local law enforcement. He said a three-pronged approach — education, treatment and better restrictions on prescribing habits – is needed to more effectively address the epidemic.
With Scarborough being one of the oldest communities in Maine, Caiazzo said he struggles with the economics of denying Medicaid expansion in the state. He said people who go without insurance or care are more of a burden in the long run, and said the return warrants the investment in the program’s expansion.
Caiazzo has qualified as a clean elections candidate and has raised $6,235 as of Sept. 12, according to state campaign finance information.
Party Affiliation: Republican
Family: Significant other, three sons, four grandchildren
Occupation: Semi-retired horse breeder, former business owner
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of New Hampshire
Political/Civic experience: Two-term town councilor, eight-term state legislator
Website/social media: https://www.facebook.com/HigginsforMaineHouse
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Wife and two sons
Occupation: Regional sales manager for Franklin Electric Grid Solutions
Education: Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Maine Maritime Academy
Political/civic experience: One term on Board of Education, one term as a Town Councilor
Website/social media: None