BRUNSWICK — Two incumbent state representatives said they are seeking second terms to continue work they’ve started.
District 50 Rep. Ralph Tucker, D-Brunswick, and District 51 Rep. Joyce “Jay” McCreight, D-Harpswell, are both unopposed on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Tucker is a former town councilor, chairman of the school board, and district court judge. He sits on the Legislature’s Environmental and Natural Resources, and Insurance and Financial services committees.
McCreight spent three decades as a social worker, over half of that time in South Portland public schools. She sits on the Judiciary and Marine Resources committees.
Tucker said the top problem facing the Legislature is “how to deal with the governor,” who is blocking “all the substantive issues we want to get to.” For Tucker, in particular, those are smarter environmental regulations, increased funding for public schools, and preventing cuts to social services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which supports individuals and families who are affected by food insecurity.
McCreight said Maine has to pass better health care measures, like expanding Medicaid. She said her experience in the 2012-13 grassroots campaign to expand Medicaid inspired her to run for her first term in the Legislature.
McCreight said, “We are going to look at all parts” of the opioid problem, stressing that prevention, treatment and education are of the highest priority. She would advocate for community-based models that keep addicts seeking treatment close to their support networks such as families and friends; right now, she said, people are leaving Maine in order to get proper treatment.
McCreight and Tucker said law enforcement leaders have done “a fantastic job advocating for good policy,” in McCreight’s words; they both pointed to the push for more treatment options and the availability of Narcan, an emergency antidote used to reverse opioid overdoses.
The strongest penalties should be for those trafficking the drugs, McCreight said, “but (penalization) doesn’t do any good without treatment.”
Tucker agreed that the state needs to take a treatment-focused, balanced approach: keeping Narcan and clean needles available in the short term “so people don’t die in the process” of getting clean, and expanding Medicaid and insurance options to make treatment accessible for those without means.
“We’d be getting almost a million dollars a day to fund care,” if Gov. Paul LePage accepted more federal Medicaid, he said. “It’s federal money we’re just ignoring.”
McCreight said health care initiatives matter the most to her: enhanced senior services, mental health resources, hunger prevention, and substance abuse programming are several of the issues she finds most pressing.
Recently, and with the help of a constituent who has personal experience with the issue, McCreight assembled a mental-health coalition that is “looking at various ways to be more proactive and ready” to push policy in her second term. Though in its formative stages, the group has met three times since spring, she said.
Tucker put clean mining regulations at the center of his first term when he advocated against LePage’s petition for revised rules that he believed would have threatened groundwater; the House defeated the proposal. He said he plans to continue that fight, especially in light of a recent public hearing that rekindled the issue on both sides.