PORTLAND — Seeking her third, two-year term in the Maine House of Representatives, Democratic State Rep. Denise Harlow puts a lot of stock in her independence.
“I’m a dissenting voice a lot of times, I think we need people to take a stand,” said Harlow, 43, the daughter of former City Councilor, Mayor and House member Charles Harlow.
Political newcomer Samuel Chandler, 26, is running as a Green Independent with a strong desire to help those he thinks have been left behind by budget cuts and underfunded services.
“People are not looking for politics that are about fighting to win, but for listening to the needs of the people.” he said.
Republican Richard Dodge, 62, is not campaigning as actively as his opponents, but said he will be a strong supporter of Gov. Paul LePage.
“You need to live within your budget, just like your family does,” he said of state government.
He also took a swipe at Catholic Charities, and its refuge resettlement efforts.
Harlow, Dodge and Chandler are running for the seat in House District 36, created from data gathered in the 2010 U.S. Census. The district covers the north and west ends of the city, to the Falmouth and Westbrook boundaries.
“We are all people and you should be trying to do the best for your constituents,” Harlow said. “We need to be really careful we treat each other the way we should be treated. If we do, there will be better policy results.”
Harlow, of 36 Broadway, has coached high school cross country teams and tutored students. She is currently a caregiver for her family.
As she concentrates on helping the state’s population find ways to age at home while getting needed services, Harlow said she will continue to view things from a statewide perspective.
“I think everything is a statewide issue, everything we do affects the rest of the state. But people in the Legislature do look at southern Maine differently,” she said.
Harlow said tax credits for home care for older Mainers, similar to existing child care credits, could be a first step to help middle-income people remain at home, while family members working as caregivers can get some assistance.
Saying she would consider a local-option sales tax to help relieve property tax burdens in municipalities, Harlow also said taxation questions were misdirected at times.
“It seems we are pitting people against people and we are not looking at large corporations,” she said. “As long as we keep talking about taxes as a dirty word, we are just pitting people against each other.”
Harlow said she would like to strengthen state clean election laws, but also objects to candidates who use Clean Election funds while they operate political action committees for fundraising.
“Money plays such a negative role in our campaigns, a lot of people don’t want negative campaigning done on our behalf,” she said.
Harlow supports more funding for the University of Southern Maine, but said changes in what is offered may still be in order.
“There’s a lot more going on there internally than we know. Because it is not necessarily seen as a traditional school, we may be overlooking it,” she said.
Harlow said she has enjoyed being a member of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee for her two terms, and would be interested in serving on the Education Committee.
While Natural Resources may not seem the best fit for a city legislator, Harlow said it was educational and helped shape her outlook on working with other legislators from all parties.
“I think it is important to be true to what you believe, while also being open to listening,” she said. “I like the idea of shaping public policy, but I also like being able to challenge my own beliefs.”
A pre-school teacher who also works at a day care center, Chandler is a part-time nanny and plays jazz piano. He said his work experience colors the issues he will emphasize if elected.
“I’ve seen a lot of ways our damaged DHHS and social service programs are misserving people,” he said. ”I want to see full employment and full funding of programs so people are served.”
In making his first run for elected office, Chandler supports moving the state to a single-payer healthcare insurance system he said will save money by reducing bureaucracy and profit motives found in private insurance.
He also advocated a more local approach.
“(It) is a much stronger and much more sustainable system to have providers in each locality,” he said, “and a big move away from the state social service net.”
Chandler, of 26 Poland St., supports legalizing marijuana and said marijuana and hemp cultivation could provide tax revenues and support small farmers.
He favors doubling the state minimum wage from its current $7.50 per hour, saying the increased wage would put more money into the economy.
Chandler earned his music degree from USM and said administration there has not been listening to students and faculty while considering how to solve budget problems.
“There was a huge moment of people becoming disenfranchised,” he said. “It’s the cuts transposed against the administration taking the money for themselves.”
If elected, Chandler said he would like to serve on the Legislature’s Taxation or Health and Human Services committees. He wants more progressive income taxation reaching through higher income levels and changes to the real estate transfer tax.
Chandler said he wants to be a voice for the changing population in his district and the city.
“One of the big things I am really looking to represent in Portland is the needs and voices of our refugee population,” Chandler said. “A whole voice of people who are not being represented yet.”
This is especially true in education, where the demands on Portland schools are not recognized enough, he said.
“One of the things I really get fired up about is when our schools are treated the same as other communities in the state,” he said. “Communities that are coming from completely different backgrounds should not be graded the same way when testing or evaluating.”
Because Green Independents do not accept corporate donations, Chandler said he will be more beholden to his district.
“There is a need for a more direct citizen and people’s party,” he said.
A resident of 1281 Forest Ave., Dodge finished eighth in the first round of Portland’s 2011 ranked-choice mayoral election.
Dodge, a registered Maine guide who also runs lobster bakes from May through September and has sold commercial real estate, said he had not intended to run after the June 10 primary assured the Republicans they could put a candidate on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Dodge, who also oversaw after-school programs for the Westbrook Housing Authority, said he would advocate local control and individual rights if elected.
He said he supports LePage’s efforts to reduce fraud and abuse of social assistance programs, and said he would support more after-school programs for at-risk youth by seeking volunteer help and corporate support for staffing and equipment.
“That would be on my agenda, too. It is not just Portland and Westbrook, it is everywhere,” he said.
Dodge also said he supports eliminating drug laws beyond the use of marijuana for anyone 18 and older.
“The war on drugs has gone on since I was a child,” he said. “We have been beating a hasty retreat after spending billions. I don’t think the government has a need or right to step in when it comes to your personal consumption.”
Noting he pays his employees almost double the state minimum wage, Dodge said it is now too low.
“I believe in a minimum wage, but I don’t even know how you can afford to go to work on $7.50,” he said.
Dodge called for an end to the state and federal approach to taxation.
“I think it is ridiculous. Why are we sending money to Augusta and they are sending it back to Portland?” he asked. “Why is it up to the discretion of the state to say how our money is spent? I think towns are better equipped to assess their needs.”
He said he would like to serve on the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs or Inland Fisheries and Wildlife committees.
“I would be asking why we’d take all this money from the towns,” he said.
Dodge said he welcomes immigrants to Portland, but not the expectation of taxpayer assistance in getting them settled.
“I think the people at Catholic Charities who bring these refugees here ought to be arrested,” he said, “because they bring them here and don’t provide for them. If you are going to bring someone here and provide for them, it is a wonderful thing.”
Bonnie Bagley, Catholic Charities of Maine associate director, responded that the agency does help legal refugees assimilate in Maine.
As one of “nine major resettlement agencies” working for the the U.S. State Department, and the only such agency in Maine, Bagley said Catholic Charities assists refugees by helping them get health care and screenings, getting children into local schools, enrolling adults in English language courses, and working to get them jobs with area businesses.
Bagley said there may be some confusion about who the agency assists, because immigrants seeking asylum status are not considered legal refugees and are ineligible for the agency’s assistance.
Information on agency services can be found on the Catholic Charities website.
Maine House District 36
PORTLAND — Democratic state Rep. Richard Farnsworth’s bid for a second consecutive two-year term in Maine House District 37 is all but assured after Republican Jonathan Pfaff withdrew from the race last month.
Farnsworth, of 55 Old Mast Road, was chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee in his last term. He previously served two years in the House in the late 1990s.
Maine House District 37 covers the southern and western portions of the city to the South Portland and Westbrook boundaries.
Maine House District 36