SCARBOROUGH — Town Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent state Sen. Amy Volk in Senate District 30.
The district includes most of Scarborough, plus Gorham and Buxton.
Caterina, 61, is finishing her first three-year term on the council and owns and operates the Maine Real Estate Network’s Caterina MacLean Group. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maine and a master’s in social work from Boston College.
The No. 1 problem facing the Legislature, according to Caterina, “is a chief executive who often seems more interested in attacking people at news conferences than he is in working with the Legislature to make change.
“I cannot control (Gov. Paul LePage),” she said, “but I can surely make certain that I am doing the hard work necessary to represent the interests of the people in this district.”
Caterina also said legislators “need to start working in the best interest of the people who elect them rather than the special interests who contribute to their campaigns. I am a Clean Elections candidate (and) this program should be expanded and encouraged in Maine.”
Caterina said she would support action by the Legislature to hold LePage accountable for his behavior, which most recently includes leaving a threatening voicemail for state Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, and saying that those pushing for an increase to the state’s minimum wage should be jailed.
“His public comments and actions merit a strong response by the Legislature,” she said. “However, I think the best use of the Legislature’s time is passing bills that help the people of Maine and that strengthen our economy.”
As for what the Legislature should do about the state’s opioid crisis, Caterina said funding should be found “for the myriad types of treatment that are necessary to treat the substance-abuse disorder marked by opioid use.”
She added that while there is “no one perfect treatment modality, they all require adequate funding. I have been a supporter of Operation HOPE in Scarborough since its inception. The police personnel who run this program will be the first to argue that more needs to be done to make sure that treatment is covered by insurance to the maximum amount possible. Finding detox beds in-state is near impossible. More needs to be done.”
Caterina said she would be voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
Caterina supports most of the six referendum questions that residents will be voting on statewide, and said that when it comes to ranked choice voting (Question 5) and the legal use of recreational marijuana (Question 1), “I will support however the people vote.”
She’s a supporter of Question 2, which would increase the income tax on those earning more than $200,000 if the state fails to fund education at 55 percent. She said, “I strongly support fully funding public schools in this state. Strong public schools are the backbone of a strong economy.”
Caterina also favors Question 4, which would increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.
“I fully support the gradual increase to the minimum wage. Hardworking Mainers deserve a raise,” she said.
And, even though Caterina is a gun owner herself, she supports Question 3, which would require expanded background checks for specified gun sales.
“I have couple of small tweaks that could be made to the bill that would address transfers while hunting and on gun ranges,” she added.
In addition, Caterina said, “I support all of the bond issues” (Question 6).
“I am running for Senate District 30 because I think that elected officials should be responsive to the needs of our families and communities,” she said. “We cannot keep asking towns to pass increased property taxes for middle-class families, seniors on fixed incomes, and small-business owners while corporations and big businesses receive tax breaks.”
Therefore, Caterina said, “We need to take a close look at tax policy in this state and make adjustments to make sure that everyone is paying their fair share. This means restoring municipal revenue sharing, examining the income tax and restoring true circuit-breaker programs.
“Additionally, we need to view public education as an investment in our future. Funding public schools at all levels is a priority if we are to strengthen our economic vitality,” Caterina said.
“Finally,” she said, “we need to return the state Legislature to the people. I chose to run as a Clean Elections candidate because I do not want to owe special interests anything if I am elected to this position.”
Volk, 47, served two terms in the House before being elected to the Senate two year ago. She most recently co-chaired the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.
She has also served on the Judiciary Committee, the State Workforce Board and the Citizens Trade Policy Commission. In addition, if re-elected, Volk has been invited to co-chair the Legislative Caucus on Aging.
She has a bachelor’s degree in human development from the University of Maine and is a mother of four. She’s also a small business owner, whose husband, Derek, is the president of Volk Packaging, a manufacturing company in Biddeford.
Volk serves on the board of directors of The Root Cellar in Portland, and is a founding board member of Maine Connections Academy, the state’s first virtual charter school. She has volunteered with the Scarborough Softball Boosters, the Scarborough Cheering Club and Moms in Prayer. She is on the welcome and worship teams at The Rock Church.
Addressing the issue of disciplining the governor for what many see as outrageous behavior, Volk said, “My criticism of and concerns about the governor’s comments have been quite public, and I would vote in favor of a proclamation of censure from the Legislature.”
“As elected officials we should seek to be strong examples of civility, modeling healthy communication for all Maine’s citizens, but especially our children,” she said.
As a candidate, Volk said she has adopted the standards of conduct from the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Those standards include being respectful of others in speech and behavior, taking responsibility for personal behavior, speech and actions and promoting civility in political discourse.
Volk said she does not believe “we are doing enough to combat the rise in heroin addiction and overdoses in our communities. Every death linked to substance abuse disorder is a tragedy for the user’s family, friends and for all of Maine.”
She’s proud of the steps the Legislature took last session to limit the prescription of opioids, to put more drug agents on the streets, and to increase resources for addiction treatment and prevention.
But, she said, “We also need to ensure that our young people have hope (for the) future. Hopelessness is the most dangerous precursor to drug addiction.”
Volk said the No. 1 problem facing the Legislature is the state’s aging work force.
“The Legislature needs to ensure that our children have opportunities to live and work in Maine,” she said. “I love what our community colleges and our state university system are finally doing. They are listening to the business community and economists and, best of all, are working together.”
Overall, she said, “We need to foster an environment that encourages job creation. As a lifelong Mainer and (small business owner), I understand the importance of improving Maine’s economy and creating an environment that encourages job growth.”
She believes that one thing that has stymied economic growth is high energy costs, which “have played a key role in devastating the northern Maine paper mills and (which) threatens businesses in southern Maine, as well.”
Volk would not say who she is supporting in the presidential election.
“My focus is on making Maine the best place possible to live, work and raise a family,” she said. “This has been a very difficult election on a national level and my constituents are extremely frustrated with their choices. When (knocking on doors), I remind people that what happens in Augusta impacts their lives more directly than anything that happens in Washington.”
On the statewide referendum questions, Volk said she has concerns about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and is also concerned that the gun control measure goes too far.
“I believe it is important to note that Maine has one of the highest rates of gun ownership per capita and yet has a remarkably low rate of gun violence,” Volk said. “I do have concerns (that) this year’s ballot measure on guns goes too far in limiting transfers of weapons, such as hunting rifles, among family members and friends.”
She does not support the education funding proposal, fearing it would drive out Maine’s top income earners. She also does not support raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, although she did support a prior bill to raise it to $10.
“The referendum mandates too much, too soon for job providers and would likely be an enforcement nightmare for the Department of Labor and a source of confusion to small business owners,” she said of the current minimum wage proposal on the ballot.
Volk does not support ranked-choice voting, arguing that it “makes casting a ballot more confusing and complicated. In the words of Gov. Brown (of California), ‘At a time when we want to encourage more voter participation, we need to keep voting simple.’”
Volk supports the bond measures that would result in increased investment in roads and bridges, as well as in research and development.
Volk said that population growth seems to be one of the areas of most concern to constituents in Senate District 30.
“Gorham, Scarborough and Buxton (are) experiencing a period of rapid growth. To anyone who is familiar with our area, this should be no surprise. With its natural beauty, strong schools, college campus and proximity to Portland, it is a great area to work and raise a family. Along with that growth, however, comes challenges,” she said.
Among those challenges are increases in property taxes, which “creates a hardship for those who are struggling financially and are now being asked to surrender more of their hard-earned money to keep their homes.
“The rise in property taxes is especially difficult for the elderly, many of whom are living on fixed incomes. For seniors who have owned their homes for 10 years or more, I would support a significant increase in their homestead exemption.”