CAPE ELIZABETH — In a second attempt at elected office, George Van Syckel of South Portland is challenging incumbent state Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, for the seat representing District 29.
District 29 includes South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough.
Millett is serving her third term in the Maine Senate. She said she decided to run again because there are “still many challenges and opportunities we’re facing as a state” that she’d like to continue to work on.
Further, Millett said given a fourth and final term, her experience would help her “strongly represent” District 29 and the state as a whole.
“It takes a while to get up and running on the legislative process and how to get bills through successfully,” she said. “I have that deep understanding … It’s been such an honor serving. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Her number one priority, Millett said, would be working to get more affordable and accessible health care to more Mainers, noting she is in favor of Medicaid expansion.
“I’m hearing more and more over the number of problems our friends and neighbors are facing with health care … and stories of out-of-pocket expenses,” she said. “It’s crazy and suffocating to families and businesses.”
Other priorities Millett sees at the state level are the environment, the opioid crisis and workforce development.
She said part of the struggle by employers to find qualified employees can be attributed to Maine’s aging population, as well as getting young adults the education they need to succeed in most of Maine’s industries.
“Not all of our high school graduates are going on to higher education and getting the education that would address the needs of our employers,” she said. Millett noted many who do end up dropping out do so because the cost of higher education is a barrier.
“We also need to look at our career tech programs and make sure their equipment and instructors are sufficient,” she added.
In terms of the opioid crisis, Millett said the state has been “nibbling away at” the issue, but needs a “chief executive” that will partner with lawmakers to find solutions.
The biggest issue facing District 32, Millett said, are high property taxes, which could be lowered by increasing state funding for education and revenue sharing.
“We also need to beef up property tax relief programs,” she added.
Millett said she wasn’t taking a public stance on Question 1 on November’s statewide ballot, which would provide home-based help to seniors and people with disabilities, but said she’s been referring to the League of Women Voters of Maine Voter Guide.
In 2016, Van Syckel ran for the House seat in District 30, which represents most of Cape Elizabeth, but was defeated by Rep. Kimberly Monaghan.
Van Syckel said he decided to take another stab at the Legislature after he was asked to by Senate President Michael Thibodeau.
“I think I represent the foundational values of the country,” Van Syckel said.
Specifically, Van Syckel said, noting that he “grew up poor,” he would like to be a defender of the weakest and poorest in society.”
His top priority, Van Syckel said, is elderly care, such as providing quality housing for seniors.
“This would have a domino effect,” Van Syckel said. “If there’s quality housing for them, that will free up a lot of homes for the younger generations.”
In District 29, Van Syckel said he’d like to see an emphasis on youth and their potential.
This could be done in part through smaller class sizes and focusing education on the basics – reading, writing, arithmetic and history – rather than “pouring money into super schools” that put such an emphasis on extracurriculars like athletics, which, Van Syckel said, “is basically teaching our kids to play the lottery.”
Van Syckel said he adamantly opposes anything that creates a greater tax burden for Mainers, including state referendum Question.
“I’d oppose with all my strength anything that creates a quasi-government committee that controls all of that money,” Van Syckel said.
He doesn’t think Medicaid expansion is a “moot point,” but thinks it needs to be re-evaluated and looked into further. Further, he’d like to “cut out the middle man in health care,” so providers are dealing directly with their patients.
Van Syckel said he also thinks taxes, such as excise tax, prevent individuals and businesses from coming to and/or staying in the state.
“We regulate and regulate and regulate … (and) those who survive the regulation are taxed out,” he said.
Van Syckel said he’d also like to emphasize the importance of promoting agriculture in the state of Maine as one of its key industries.
“My beliefs are historic and in the best interest of everyone in the community,” Van Syckel said.
Residency: Cape Elizabeth
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Family: Married, two children
Education: BA International Relations and BS Business Administration from American University, MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago,
Political/civic experience: District 29 senator 2012-present; Cape Elizabeth School Board 2004-2011, chairwoman in 2010, Finance Committee chairwoman 2006-2008
Residency: South Portland
Party Affiliation: Republican
Family: Five children
Occupation: Broker at Bill Dodge Auto Group, chaplain South Portland and Cape Elizabeth Police Department
Education: Masters degree
Political/civic experience: Intern Senator Mark Hatfield Republican Oregon in Washington D.C.
Website/social media: www.facebook.com/vansyckelforsenate/