Pierce, Diamond vye for Falmouth House District 44 seat

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FALMOUTH — The election in House District 44 is between an incumbent and a political newcomer who has administrative experience in the judicial branch of government.

Incumbent State Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, of Waites Landing Road, is seeking her second term in the Maine House of Representatives. She is opposed by Republican Kimberly Parker Diamond, of Heron Point Road, who is seeking elected office for the first time.

Pierce, 54, is a former town councilor who twice served as council chairwoman. Diamond, 52, manages a dental practice with her husband. She spent 16 years working variously as a judicial file clerk, case manager and analyst, financial administrator, office manager and other roles both in Maine and Washington, D.C.

House District 44 covers most of Falmouth. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Action against LePage

Following an obscene voicemail left by Republican Gov. Paul LePage for state Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, many in and out of the Legislature have called for some level of action against the governor.

Pierce said she voted for the Legislature to reconvene to discuss possible action agains LePage, which ultimately did not happen. She said legislators cannot censure the governor, but “a letter of reprimand probably would have been well in order.”

“His comments were reprehensible and inappropriate and it does nothing to help Maine,” Pierce said, adding that impeachment should be reserved for infractions such as committing a crime or treason.

Diamond said she is glad the conversation has calmed down, because she had concerns with how any action taken might have been vetted prior to the election. Diamond said she didn’t think LePage’s comments warranted impeachment, and people should wait until the new Legislature is in session to see if lawmakers think any action is necessary.

“If it comes forward and it’s vetted out in the process … and I feel that some level of censure is necessary, I would be very willing to do that,” she said.

Opioid crisis

Pierce said the opioid crisis is one of the biggest problems facing the state. She said there should be a “three-pronged” approach involving law enforcement, treatment and prevention.

Pierce said she voted in the Legislature for a program where doctors must check a database to see what medication a patient has already been prescribed. She also supported a new pilot program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, which aims to find treatment for nonviolent, low-level offenders instead of having them enter the judicial system.

Diamond cited a National Safety Council study that said Maine is making progress in how it deals with the crisis, because it is one of only five states that met five of the six criteria required. The requirements included educating prescribers, having the state medical board issue a guideline to prescribing opioids, along with a state prescription drug monitoring program.

“I’m not an advocate of rushing out there and imposing new legislation until we see how these highly respected options assist the providers and the law enforcement community,” she said.

No. 1 problem

Pierce said the No. 1 problem facing the Legislature is a lagging economy and the need to bring good jobs to Maine. She said has to look at how to replace waning industries with new, upcoming ones, and said a failed attempt to promote solar energy could have created hundreds of new jobs.

Pierce also said expanding broadband service to rural parts of the state is imperative, and would add an incentive to repopulate those areas.

Diamond said the biggest issue facing the Legislature is a lack of civility and an inability to do effective work given the length of terms. She cited former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who left the Senate because she thought she could be more effective elsewhere, which Diamond called “disheartening.”

She said if terms were lengthened, elected officials could spend less time campaigning and more time working on meaningful legislation.

Clinton vs. Trump

Pierce said she would be voting for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Pierce said she thinks Clinton is “qualified, capable, has the temperament to be the next president.” She said Clinton is “not perfect,” but no candidate is.

Diamond said she will wait until the last possible moment to decide who to vote for. She said she’s still watching the process unfold, and that “it seems to keep changing.”

Key local issue

Pierce said infrastructure repairs, school funding and property taxes are all key issues, especially keeping property taxes low and the mill rate flat. She said she wants to ensure Falmouth doesn’t bear the full burden of maintaining all the town’s roads and bridges, and would make sure education money comes back from the state, which would help keep property taxes down.

Diamond said she hasn’t heard from any constituents about specific local issues to take back to the Legislature. On a broader perspective, she’s heard people want more government transparency, which she would work towards.  She said job growth and economic opportunity are also concerns.

Referendum questions

Pierce said she supports all six questions on the state ballot, but doesn’t have strong feelings about any of them. She said she is more concerned with how things get implemented if they pass; it is important, Pierce said, to have good, thoughtful people in Augusta who will work together and compromise.

“I haven’t hitched my wagon to any of (the questions), but I will be voting for them,” Pierce said.

With one exception, Diamond is against all the referendum questions proposed.

She opposes Question 1, which seeks to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product, because she doesn’t want Maine to become a “pot tourism destination.” She is against Question 2, which which would establish a 3 percent tax on household incomes of more than $200,000 to fund education, because she said it would negatively affect small business owners, and thinks the state is already overtaxed.

Diamond opposes Question 3, which would require background checks for the sale and transfer of guns, because she said it penalizes law-abiding gun owners.

As for Question 4, which seeks to raise the $7.50-an-hour minimum wage to eventually $12 an hour, Diamond said she is concerned a quick increase would be “devastating” to small businesses, which would likely have to increase the costs of goods and services.

She is against Question 5, which would establish ranked choice voting in the state, saying it was confusing and would create dissent in an already stressed populace.

Diamond said she is undecided about Question 6, which would authorize the state to borrow $100 million for transportation projects.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.