HARPSWELL — A local businessman is challenging incumbent Rep. Kim Olsen, R-Phippsburg, in state House District 64, which includes Harpswell, Phippsburg and part of West Bath.
Jeremy Saxton, a native of the area, said he decided to run because he wants to see his communities grow and prosper.
“I want to see these communities represented accurately in Augusta,” the Democratic candidate said. “I have a good feel for the tone and tenor of these communities. And I believe I am the person for the job.”
Saxton is married and has two daughters, including one who attends Harpswell Community School. He said his wife Amy Watson Saxton has assisted legislators in the House Democratic Office with research, press and constituent issues for more than 10 years.
Saxton said he has opened two restaurants and assisted with the start of another one. He now works with his family at the Dolphin Restaurant and Marina in Harpswell.
“I have been through the local and state permitting process several times, so I feel like I have experience enough to say what works and what needs improvement,” Saxton said. “I know that I can look at a business regulation bill and provide a frame of reference to what a business owner experiences.”
Olsen said she joined the 2010 House race after the original Republican candidate, David Moser, withdrew following the GOP primary.
“It was not something I thought about previously, but as a parent and a small business owner, I knew I had to do it,” Olsen said.
The community made a commitment to her when she defeated challenger David Chipman, she said, which is why she is running for her second term.
Olsen is married and has two children. She runs a homebuilding business with her husband.
In the Legislature she has served on the Marine Resources Committee, and she is also on the Lobster Zone Council for her region as a legislative liaison. Olsen said she is also involved with Mobilize Maine, a private/public/nonprofit partnership geared towards facilitating economic development in the state.
Olsen said legislators need to be able to work together in order to get things done.
“During the course of my first term, I have worked very hard to be fair, consider all details of the bills presented and effectively communicate with all of my colleagues and the community,” the incumbent said.
While Saxton said he supports increasing educational programs with business partnerships and issuing more bonds for better economic opportunities, Olsen said changes in taxes, regulatory and energy policies will improve Maine’s business environment.
“Maine has, for years, ranked as one of the highest taxed states in the nation,” Olsen said. “At the same time, we have been very generous with our entitlements and spending, and are highly regulated and currently pay terribly high energy rates.”
She said supporting business in Maine will require a “collective effort from many facets, not just one.” Olsen also said that finding balance between supporting the worker and the employer is “paramount to our success.”
Saxton said he likes the direction community colleges have taken in building partnerships with local businesses and building programs around future industries.
“These are well-paying jobs that will be the base of our economy in future years,” the Democratic candidate said.
He said he also supports “research and economic development bonds that fund cutting-edge technology and initiatives that will diversify Maine’s economy.”
“I was troubled by the governor’s move to delay issuance of the bonds,” Saxton said, “because I feel like we cannot delay investments that will speed our economic recovery.”
Saxton and Olsen both agreed that Maine’s welfare programs need to help lift people out of poverty and not keep them there, but their approaches vary.
The Democratic candidate said he believes in “a safety net, not a hammock.” Saxton said he has met several former welfare recipients who have turned their lives around with the proper investment.
“I want to encourage work by removing barriers,” Saxton said. “Whether the person needs help with child care, transportation or job training, if we want folks to be productive members of society we may need to invest a bit in them to get them there.”
He continued: “It is one of those things where I think we will pay a little in the beginning or a lot the end – take your pick.”
Saxton also said the fraud and waste in the programs should be reported.
Olsen said the state needs to find a way to keep people on welfare who really need it, while creating incentives for others to find a job and drop out of the system.
“Yes, we have been very generous with our entitlement spending in comparison to other states, but the problem cannot be solved by simply cutting,” the incumbent said. “We’ve got to offer incentives for independence and tailor our programs so that they support without enabling and truly serve those who most need our help.”
The current system discourages welfare recipients from finding a job, and that needs to change, Olsen said.
Saxton and Olsen both said they support the development of alternative energy sources, but they also said all facets of that development need to be considered before the government makes a larger investment.
“Gently ‘parenting’ these energy sources through the use of taxpayer money could be a wise, long-term investment,” Olsen said. “But failure to consider all of the facets involved could be counterproductive and costly. Supporting alternatives is good, we just need to do it in the most cost effective and responsible manner possible.”
Saxton spoke in similar terms.
“Government incentives have a place in persuading people to create or use other forms of energy, but until it is more affordable and accessible it will be difficult to diversify as quickly as we’d like,” he said.
Olsen said she won’t be voting in favor of Ouestion 1, the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage.
“I think it’s unfortunate that our government insists on injecting itself into our private lives. (…) I am not opposed to civil unions or to giving couples the same benefits as a traditional married couple would have.”
Saxton, however, said he will vote yes to allowing the state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“I am 100 percent for marriage equality and will be voting yes on Question 1 in November,” the Democratic candidate said. “I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife and two daughters who have been there for me through many of life’s challenges. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Election Day is Nov. 6.
Rep. Kim Olsen, R-Phippsburg