Town councilor and banker face off in House District 106
FREEPORT — A town councilor and a bank manager will vie to replace the term-limited representative in the state House District 106 election.
Rep. David Webster, D-Freeport, cannot run for re-election after representing Freeport and part of Pownal for four consecutive terms, opening up the race to new candidates.
Democrat Sara Gideon and Republican Jody James, both first-time candidates, are looking to fill the vacancy.
Gideon is vice chairwoman of the Town Council and has worked on various committees and boards, including Freeport Community Services. She also has a background in advertising, and previously worked as an account executive for USA Today. In June, she beat out two other candidates in the Democratic primary to become the party's nominee.
James is the branch manager for Key Bank in Freeport and is a third-generation business operator in the town. He also has worked for now-retiring U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. James became the new Republican nominee after the initial candidate, Benjamin Martin, dropped out of the race this summer.
James said his approach to Maine's economic development rests on the idea of letting the market play things out, something regulations, taxes and bureaucracy prevent.
"I think we've seen a lot of capital flowing into Maine, but there's a lot red tape for getting access to those funds and getting that capital into hands of entrepreneurs," he said.
"Reducing taxes to keep businesses here and trying to get rid of income tax altogether would create an incentive to get people to want to move to Maine."
People and businesses respond positively to incentives such as tax reductions, which ultimately foster job growth in Maine, he said.
Gideon said she wants focus on future-oriented industries that are viable and compatible for Maine.
"We're really built as an economy on the backbone of small businesses here," she said. "I think that what we really want to do is look at those global industries of the future, like technology, clean energy and information technology, and figure out how can we help our existing small businesses grow into those sectors and help new ones emerge as well."
Gideon points to the tidal turbine launch in Eastport as a model to follow. Creating closer ties with business and education would also be part of her plan to help promote job growth, she said.
Although dependence on the social welfare system has become an "epidemic," James said, he does not think now is the time to start cutting the programs.
"We need these programs, we just don't want it to become a way of life for people," he said. "It's something that needs to be addressed, but it's not realistic until you get the economy turned around."
James said in the meantime, government should create incentives for people "to get back on track and to get off the government dole."
But Gideon said the state does not spend too much on social programs and thinks the focus for reducing poverty should be on education.
"There's been an identification that we're spending too much on welfare, but instead of tackling the real problems, we're simply cutting people off and probably creating more problems," she said.
"We need to make sure we continue to invest in education that is going to help break the cycles of poverty."
Gideon said she would like to see funding restored for early education and to create public pre-kindergarten education across the state.
Alternative energy development in Maine is important to both candidates, but they have fundamental differences on how that development should be encouraged.
Gideon said her first priority in energy is to promote programs that support efficiency and conservation to lower energy costs.
"Before we start thinking about making an alternative plan with alternative energy, we should be looking at how government might be able to help on state and on a federal level," she said.
She said she supports incentives for people to weatherize their homes and would likely support some subsidies for the development of alternative energy sources, but would be careful about how that money was spent.
"I think everything we do needs to be with an eye toward 20 to 25 years in the future, and it has to be done with the strongest environmental foundations laid in place," she said.
Natural gas is an important energy source, she added, but it should not be relied upon too heavily.
James supports all forms of alternative energy, but doesn't support any forms of subsidies.
"We are in the midst of an energy boom in this country and I think we should look at all forms of energy," he said.
"My thinking is that I'm a huge proponent of the free market and what I'm not for is picking winners and losers and subsidizing industries that (the state) prefers."
Natural gas is an energy source with potential, he said.
"I'm a huge proponent of natural gas," James said. "We have an abundance of that in this country. It's a much cleaner fuel source and it's something that we control. We're not held hostage."
Although the process of extracting natural gas by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has been shown to pollute the water and air, James dismisses those claims.
"With natural gas, and where we are in history, I think the jury is still out on fracking," he said.
On Question 1, the referendum about same-sex marriage, the candidates are at opposite poles.
James said he will "certainly vote against it," but thinks same-sex couples should have the same rights as married couples.
"My personal belief is this is between a man and woman," he said. "I wouldn't deny them any benefits or rights that we have for married couples. Who am I to force my views on anyone? It's up to the people to decide."
Gideon said she will vote yes on Question 1.
"I believe all people have the right to marry," she said. "It's pretty much as simple as that."