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 kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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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.