FALMOUTH — Three candidates are seeking the state Senate District 11 seat held by incumbent Sen. Gerald Davis, R-Falmouth.
The district includes Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, Long Island and Gray.
Davis is challenged by independent candidate Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth and Green Independent Party candidate Christopher Miller of Gray.
The Democratic candidate, Cindy Bullens of Yarmouth, dropped out of the race three weeks ago and threw her support to Woodbury.
Incumbent Davis, 74, a retired Portland High School history teacher, has served in the Senate since 2008 and previously served four terms in the state House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006.
Before that, Davis served on the Falmouth School Board. He and his wife, Sandra, have three children and 11 grandchildren.
Davis said his top priority, when looking at what he said could be a $1 billion state budget shortfall, will be protecting the most vulnerable citizens. He said he would like to see more emphasis on structural reforms, including designing a system that allows families and children to escape generational dependency by transitioning from welfare to work. Davis also emphasized the importance of a strong education system from elementary school through college.
When examining the state pension crisis, Davis said the state needs to protect the benefits of those who have already retired.
“The unfunded liability costs, which currently must be paid by 2028, could be modified by legislation creating a more gradual repayment schedule,” Davis said.
When asked if he would support a bill to legalize gay marriage, Davis said he is a Roman Catholic and that he supports the voters’ 2009 decision to keep the current law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Davis said he is an optimist by nature, despite the economic difficulties the state faces. He said he sympathizes with voters challenging the status quo.
“This election, people are paying attention like never before,” he said, adding that he is personally enriched by knowing how hard people in his district work, struggle and overcome adversity.
“We can do much to ensure that the hard-earned tax dollars of District 11 residents address the most urgent priorities and protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Davis said.
Miller, 55, lives in Gray in a solar home he built in 1984. Miller ran for governor in the 2006 Democratic primary and earned approximately a quarter of the vote on a platform of preparing Mainers for the effects of peak oil prices and research shortages.
Miller studied architecture, civil engineering and economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated in 1979. He has two teenage sons and is an active master gardener and a member of the Second Maine Militia.
Miller said the state, many municipalities, organizations and the federal government are functionally bankrupt.
“Our obligations and entitlements – all based on an economy of continued growth and limitless resources – far exceed our ability to fund,” Miller said, adding that the tools of the past, to borrow and grow, will no longer work and will only make matters worse.
Miller suggested shrinking the state government to 25 percent of its current size, with local and county governments expanding with additional taxation and program responsibilities. He advocates at least one Department of Health and Human Services per county and said he would like to see neighborhood schools and school boards have more power and responsibility in place of large, consolidated districts. He said universities should be shrunk and community colleges expanded.
“We need to move from measures of economic activity to measures of happiness and well-being,” he said.
Miller said the state cannot pay the pensions it promised its employees and that he does not think it should, opting instead for default.
He said that the state “must implement single payer health care – if necessary lining up the National Guard on the Portsmouth (N.H.) bridge to stop federal interference.”
Miller said he would not only support legalizing gay marriage, but would also support “legislation to work it the other way, to strip the nearly 1,000 laws and innumerable policies of their ‘pro-marriage’ bias.”
Woodbury, 49, is an economist and program administrator with the National Bureau of Economic Research and served in the state House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008.
He has a Ph.D in economics from Harvard and his wife, Debbie, teaches sixth grade in South Portland. They have three teenage sons.
Woodbury said he would like to completely reinvent the state’s fiscal policies to be sustainable, balanced, future-oriented and with incentives for economic growth.
“Maine’s fiscal capacity is strangled by unfunded liabilities, debts, indefinite future commitments, overuse of tax expenditures and chronic structural deficits,” he said. “The result is a process that is crisis driven, rather than forward looking.”
Woodbury emphasized debt reduction, cutting spending on health-care costs, Medicaid and subsidy programs such as Dirigo, in favor of national insurance exchanges. He said he would not cut school funding, but would instead support charter schools and teacher compensation based on teacher assessments.
Woodbury said he opposes changing the state Constitution, which requires full funding of the state pension program by 2028; he said the state cannot change benefit levels now for employees approaching retirement eligibility. But he supports an overhaul of the pension system for new employees that would increase the retirement age for receiving a full pension.
Woodbury said he would support a bill legalizing gay marriage.
He expressed frustration with the state’s 8.5 percent income tax, its highly regulated health insurance market, which he said drives away competition, and the “punitive attitude with which regulations are administered in Maine,” which he said discourages businesses from coming to the state.
“I truly believe there is opportunity in Maine for a thriving high-income economy, if we would correct those things that make business more difficult and expensive here,” he said.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org