Senate District 23 candidates Lebida, Vitelli no strangers to politics

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BATH — After state Sen. Linda Baker, R-Topsham, lost the District 23 primary in June, the Republican who defeated her and the Democrat Baker ousted two years ago will face off in next month’s election.

Former Sen. Eloise Vitelli, an Arrowsic Democrat, was elected in a special election in 2013 and defeated by Baker in the following year’s regular election. Guy Lebida, a Bowdoin Republican, narrowly bested Baker in this year’s primary election.

Senate District 23 includes all of Sagadahoc County and the Lincoln County town of Dresden. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Lebida, 60, is married and has four children and nine grandchildren. He owns Our Father’s Business – a construction and excavation company – and Bowdoin Pines mobile home park.

Lebida was a 1st lieutenant in the Maine Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was chairman and a member of the Planning Board in Bar Harbor, where he owned, built and developed Stone Haven Cottages and Condominiums.

He chaired the Republican Committee in Bowdoin until March, and is an executive board member and vice chairman of the Sagadahoc County Republican Committee. Lebida also works with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which helps veterans throughout the country who wish to farm.

Vitelli, 68, is married and has two children. She is director of program and policy at New Ventures Maine (formerly Women, Work and Community), served on the Maine Economic Growth Council for 20 years, and was president of the Midcoast Economic Development District.

Vitelli, who served in 2012 on the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, also served on the Community Development Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Arrowsic School and Regional School Unit 1 Transition committees, and the Maine Human Resources Development Council.

She received the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award in 2006, was named Women’s Business Advocate of the Year in 1997, and was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995. Vitelli was also president of the state Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

Action against LePage

Asked whether he would support any action by the Legislature against Gov. Paul LePage following the angry, obscene voicemail LePage left for Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, Lebida said, “I think all parties should be answerable to civility, all around. It’s not just one person.”

“I’m sick of all the bickering and fighting on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “And I think people should treat one another nicely and be civil to one another.”

Vitelli said some action is warranted, but that “I don’t know what that would or could be. I’ve tried to follow what the options are, and we seem to have run up against the fact that our constitution and our laws don’t provide us many avenues.”

But she called LePage’s behavior “very disturbing,” adding that “as the representative of all of us, he’s done a disservice to the state.”

Opioid crisis

Concerning Maine’s opioid crisis, Vitelli said, “I fully believe that we need to continue on the path of prevention, treatment and law enforcement. That three-legged stool is critical.”

She praised Brunswick-based Midcoast Hopsital’s “effective approach,” noting that “they get people early.”

Symptoms and causes alike must be treated, Lebida said, noting that he believes “a large part of the cause is dependency on generational welfare.”

He also said the use of electronic benefit transfer cards at ATM machines to get cash has to stop. “I think that’s fueling a lot of the family breakdown, and the drug use,” he said.

No. 1 problem

Asked about the biggest problem facing the Legislature, Lebida noted the importance of educating the public about what is being voted on in Augusta, which in turn will “change the voting pattern by the politicians.”

“The vast majority of the citizens in Sagadahoc County agree with me on the issues,” such as EBT card usage and stopping welfare from going to non-citizens, he said. “When the people see how the politicians are voting in Augusta, which I plan to do by publicizing each vote … that’s what’s going to change Augusta.”

In her one year in Augusta, Vitelli said, “my experience … was that the people in the Legislature, for the most part, are there because they want to get things done, to move the state forward. … That’s what we need to maintain and remember.”

The relationships that develop, and compromises made, are “really how it should work, and I will do my best to contribute to making that be the way that does work.”

Clinton vs. Trump

While he is voting for Donald Trump for president, Lebida said, “I don’t agree with” the Republican candidate. “The majority of the people in Sagadahoc County I talk to are scared about the whole presidential run.”

Vitelli said she supports Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Key local issue

An increase of good jobs in Maine is one issue Vitelli said she would like to tackle, along with providing the education and skills people need to fulfill those jobs. Property taxes and health care are two other key issues she hears about most from constituents.

Lebida said he would like to see a certain percentage of signatures required from each county before citizen initiatives can be approved at the state level, “so that just one or two counties aren’t driving … referendum issues. All the Maine people need to be represented.”

Citizen initiatives

“It’s remarkable that we have quite so many citizen initiatives on the ballot,” a sign that the Legislature, and government as a whole, “has not been able to address some of these very important issues,” Vitelli said.

Lebida said he opposes all six statewide referendum questions going to voters in November. Vitelli expressed support for all six, but had reservations about some of them.

On Question 1, which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product, Lebida said, “We don’t have an accurate way to test the toxicity levels while operating vehicles. I’m very concerned about the safety of my fellow drivers, and the pedestrians.”

Vitelli said she wants to ensure that “plenty of education” would accompany passage of the question, “and that we pay attention to our small businesses and farmers that may be impacted.”

Lebida is against Question 2, which would establish a 3 percent tax on household incomes of more than $200,000 to fund education, because “it is going to drive a lot of businesses out of Maine. … We already don’t have enough high-paying jobs in Maine; why would we want to drive more of them out of here?”

Noting the importance of funding education, Vitelli said, “it’s a sign that the Legislature has sort of failed to get this done, that we have to see it as a referendum.”

On Question 3, which would mandate specific background checks for the sale and transfer of guns, Lebida said “this is infringing upon our rights to bear and keep arms.”

“I think it’s a good idea to close loopholes … there are some gray areas in what’s written that need to be cleaned up,” Vitelli said, noting, for example, that gun owners should not have to “go through extra hoops” to lend a hunting rifle to a family member.

Concerning Question 4, which would increase the hourly minimum wage to $12 by 2020, Lebida said restaurant servers make more in tips than they would through a higher minimum wage.

Vitelli said she has “absolutely no problem with (Question 4).”

Question 5, which would establish ranked-choice voting across the state, is not only confusing but unconstitutional, “and it’s taking away the votes from voters, too,” Lebida said.

“I think it does add a layer of complexity to our voting that I think we’re going to have to pay attention to,” Vitelli said.

Lebida said he always votes against bonds, and opposes Question 6, which proposes borrowing $100 million for transportation projects. “These bonds should be in the budget process,” he said. “When we put these out for bonds, they’re mortgages. We’re mortgaging our children and our grandchildren.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.



A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.