Sharp contrasts in House District 47 rematch

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YARMOUTH — In a rematch from two years ago, incumbent Democratic state Rep. Janice Cooper is being challenged for re-election by Republican Rick Snow in House District 47.

Cooper defeated Snow in the 2014 election to win a second term.

Cooper, 70, has lived in Yarmouth for 19 years and is a retired lawyer. She also worked as a staffer for former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, for nine years. Before that she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for 10 years as a legislative staffer. 

“The only difference (from 2014) is that now I’m more well known in the community and (constituents) know where I stand,” she said.

Snow, 57, grew up in Yarmouth and has been living in town with his family since 2000. He is the owner of Maine Indoor Karting and is the former director of the Bureau of Labor Standards in the Maine Department of Labor. 

Snow said he can win the election by bringing Republicans and Democrats together.

“I want to get away from the separation we feel as a nation and work across the aisle,” he said. “There’s an us-versus-them mentality that needs to be alleviated.”

District 47 includes Yarmouth, Chebeague Island and Long Island. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Action against LePage

Both candidates said they disapprove of Gov. Paul LePage’s recent racially inflammatory comments and a threatening voicemail he left for Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. However, they had different opinions about whether action should be taken against the governor.

Cooper said impeachment should be considered because the voicemail from LePage was “outrageously inappropriate” and “a threat of violence.”

“I think his behavior was inappropriate and dangerous enough that we should look into it further and take action if appropriate,” she said. “We can’t just say, ‘oh that’s Paul LePage.'”

Snow said LePage’s voicemail was “inexcusable” and “horrific,” but added that there’s been “a lot of animosity from the Democratic party.”

“We should work with both sides to move forward,” he said.

Opioid crisis

Regarding the state’s opioid crisis, Cooper said the legislature should spend more money on “treatment that works” and “medication that reduces cravings.”

“We ought to spend the money and spend it in ways that are effective,” she said. 

Snow said there needs to be more rehabilitation centers where drug addicts can stay and get help. He added that more needs to be done to keep drugs from entering Maine and the country.

“We need to focus on our border security to prevent opioids from coming in through Mexico,” he said.

Both candidates agreed that the root of drug addiction needs to be addressed.

“It’s not a question of will power,” Cooper said. “It’s a disabling disease.”

Snow agreed saying there needs to be stricter penalties for drug dealers, not drug users.

“All it does is make a felon out of someone with a medical issue,” he said. “Those individuals need help.”

No. 1 problem

According to Cooper, the number one problem facing the legislature is “reaching a consensus on the important matters that come before us.”

“There’s a pretty sharp divide between parties on how to solve problems such as job creation, the drug crisis, and health care,” she said.

Snow said the biggest problem is budget constraints.

“We’ve seen a big increase in our budget and our population isn’t growing,” he said. “The current expenditures of the state are too high. We need to get our spending priorities in order.”

Key local issue

When discussing issues local to Yarmouth, the two candidates agreed on what the number one concern is – property taxes.

“The one I hear most from people is property tax relief,” Cooper said. “It’s a hard tax to pay, especially if you are on a fixed income like most seniors are.”

Cooper said local and state governments need to reduce the reliance on property tax.

Snow said Yarmouth has “kept a steady budget,” but that property tax is still a major concern.

“Every town has an ever-increasing property tax due to increasing school budgets,” he said. “We need to look at consolidation at the municipal level.”

Clinton vs. Trump

When asked who she plans to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, Cooper said not only is she voting for her party’s nominee, but that she’s voting for her fellow alumna: Hillary Clinton was one year behind Cooper at Yale Law School.

“I think she’s incredibly smart and well-prepared,” Cooper said. “There’s nobody that can top her on her understanding of policies and issues.”

Cooper added that Republican nominee Donald Trump is “woefully unprepared and his manner is inappropriate.”

Snow on the other hand, says he supports Trump, but only because he’s the party’s nominee.

“I didn’t support Trump through the primaries, but now that he’s the nominee I plan to vote for him,” he said.

Citizen initiative

Cooper and Snow disagreed on the six statewide referendum questions that will go before voters on Nov. 8.

“I favor them all,” Cooper said, before backtracking to say she’s against Question 1, which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as an agricultural product.

In contrast, Snow said, “I’m voting no across the board.”

Cooper said she doesn’t support the legalization of marijuana because then it’ll be “more available to underage smokers” and could be “a gateway substance” for some people. Snow agreed and said, “We have significant issues with drugs already.”

For Question 2, which would establish a 3 percent tax on household incomes of more than $200,000 to fund education, Cooper simply said she supports it. Snow said he opposes it “because it’s taxing growth.”

Cooper said she is strongly in favor of Question 3, which would mandate specific background checks for the sale and transfer of guns. In her response, she referenced the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed.

“The gun issue is one I’ve cared a lot about since Sandy Hook,” she said. “I thought surely America was ready to take steps forward.”

Snow said he opposes Question 3 because “it’s not constitutional.”

“It’s a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t currently exist,” he said.

For Question 4, which would increase the hourly minimum wage to $12 by 2020, Cooper said she supports it because she once worked as a waitress.

“I know how tips work,” she said. “You make a lot of money if you work in the Old Port (in Portland) in the summer, but that’s it.”

Snow said he opposes raising the minimum wage because of the effect it will have on small businesses. 

“We should focus on increasing access to higher paying jobs and training people for those jobs,” he said.

Cooper said she supports Question 5, which would establish ranked-choice voting across the state, and Snow said he opposes it because “it is constitutionally illegal.”

Question 6, which would issue $100 million in bonds for transportation projects, has Cooper’s support because “that’s a fraction of what we need.” Snow said he supports improving infrastructure, but opposes the question because he hasn’t seen enough action from the Maine Department of Transportation.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.


I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • Bill Gardiner

    First, the suggestion of impeachment by Cooper is purely partisan, as is her voting record. And the cost to play this partisan game is a total waste of money. Lawyers have already wasted time and money on this “wild goose chase”. That is pure partisanship. “Independent” voters should see how independent she has been in Augusta. The first amendment applies to citizens AND elected officials, including Republican Governors. The impeachment process for non PC speech is the vote ! (The impeachment process of Clinton was based on actions, NOT speech )
    The referendum questions do offer stark contrasts between the candidates. Cooper’s answers suggest she believes that all people should pay for the experiments of those “smarter than you” elites. Her #1 concern is lack of consensus. Read that as consensus on spending more money, that the government can always add what is wanted, whether it is convoluted and costly or not. Forget inexpensive enforcement.
    Frankly, her support of referendums is her “recourse” when she and her team are unsuccessful in their legislative roles. They will gladly defer unsuccessful outcomes in YOUR legislature to out-of-state supported referendums. And now she will support all of them, except #1. But we are a REPRESENTATIVE democracy. Elections decide our representatives, THEY create our laws. And those representatives constantly hear from constituents with suggestions – demands – to sponsor particular legislation. Referendums are basically a “do-over” for failed bills. Those who demand referendums should work to elect representatives for their causes. If the representatives of the entire state do not pass the legislation they individually support, try again next session.
    Finally, the comments to those referendum questions from Snow should be recognized as being from a man who has seen government from inside (State Director of Labor Standards) and owns a family business ( Maine Indoor Karting ) with many employees. I like that mix of experience. He has seen the impact on businesses of “simple legislation” that soon becomes a sausage made in the private offices of bureaucrats interpreting the intent of laws. As a business owner, he feels their negative impact. As a “Director bureaucrat” himself, he hated to witness your government WASTING lots of money creating burdensome regulations for business, some not even fully enforceable. He knows the referendums will do more of the same.
    I am particularly glad to see Snow opposes rank choice voting. Will the courts not confirm the constitution of Maine will remain in force??? But at what legal costs and time?? I don’t like the fact that Cooper is willing to spend the money on this dead-end legal battle. I’m glad they both oppose the marijuana question. The regulations would be crazy in their complexity. Will the enforcers weigh the plants growing on windowsills ? Will driver and passengers each be allowed 2.5 oz??
    Snow has seen from his role inside government and his role as a real world job provider that unintended consequences from “feel good” legislation may be unintended, but they are real ! And they are really costly ! We cannot afford to spend money on these “imported referendums”. I really like Snow’s recognition of the costly consequences of past and present legislation (including bond spending ! ), and his desire to prevent them before they create regulatory actions that pinch us all. And one specifically will harm the jobs picture in Maine. He knows from first hand experience at his own business, where he and his wife “sign the front” of those paychecks!
    On the other hand, Cooper has been reading and writing and supporting “feel-good” experiments for a lifetime. What is her experience with the unintended consequences in the real world of regulatory overreach OR creating jobs ? ?

    • EABeem

      Only Maine residents vote in citizen-initiated referendums. I know conservatives hate majority rule, but if the referenda pass they are the law. Janice Cooper has been a fine representative for Yarmouth and she will continue to be after she is re-elected. She understands the will of the people even if Republicans, who want a dictatorship of the minority, do not.

      • Jimmy_John67

        That’s odd Ed, I seem to recall an awful lot of Democrats decrying the majority rule referenda process after the results of the 2009 referendum to repeal same-sex marriage as well as the 2010 referendum to repeal the changes to the tax code. The Democrats seemed to very much favor the “dictatorship of the minority” in those situations. The reality is that both Democrats and Republicans hate the referenda process when they are on the losing side and love the process when they win. It changes from year to year depending in the Ballot questions. The only thing that doesn’t change, it seems, is your spite filled heart towards those who do not share your opinions. You were doing so well the past two weeks, but alas as the old saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Or, as in this situation, you can’t teach an old bully compassion and tolerance.

  • truther

    If the first sentence had mentioned that Rick Snow plans to vote for Trump it would have saved me the trouble of reading the rest of the article.