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BRUNSWICK — State Rep. Matthea “Mattie” Daughtry, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Michael Stevens in her bid for a second term representing District 49.
The district covers east Brunswick, including downtown commercial and residential areas and rural neighborhoods near Durham and Freeport, as well as the neighborhoods adjacent to a proposed Downeaster passenger train layover facility.
As Maine’s youngest female legislator, Daughtry, 27, said education and youth issues are two of her top priorities.
Maine has failed to develop a “long-term” strategy on how to keep young people living and working in the state, Daughtry said, noting she worked on the issue as co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s bipartisan youth caucus.
A graduate of Brunswick High School and Smith College, Daughtry owns a nonprofit consulting firm and works as a freelance writer and photographer. She lives on Everett Street in downtown Brunswick.
Before running as a replacement candidate for the Democrats in 2012, she worked in Augusta for the progressive nonprofit Maine’s Majority, best known for its “61 percent” bumper stickers.
Daughtry won a three-way race in 2012, with 45 percent of the vote.
In the Legislature, Daughtry sits on the Education Committee and sponsored or cosponsored many bills aimed at changing the state’s charter school laws.
The current charter school funding system sets up a competitive structure that gives resources to one school at the expense of others in a “race to the bottom,” Daughtry said.
She wants the state to fulfill its responsibility to fund 55 percent of public education and include a state budget line item for charter schools, rather than funding them with tuition payments from local school districts.
Virtual schools need to be considered cautiously, especially if they operate on a for-profit model, Daughtry said.
“Anytime a shareholder’s bottom line is involved in a child’s education, it is a recipe for disaster,” she said.
With only 10 charters available, the state should focus on adding “brick-and-mortar” schools that fill an education niche, she said.
Daughtry also attracted attention during a legislative fight over a bill she submitted to guarantee Brunswick and Topsham local representation on the board of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.
Although the bill ultimately failed, Daughtry said the experience was “a great lesson in state government.”
The combative tone of the discussion surrounding the proposed Amtrak layover facility has been disappointing, Daughtry said, adding that she dislikes the attitude that has been taken toward her constituents who oppose the station.
The Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to undertake a full environmental review of the proposal should be used as an opportunity to change the polarized debate, she said.
Growing up on Maquoit Bay, Daughtry said she counts preserving marine resources as a top priority.
“We need to be doing more,” to address pressures on marine ecosystems and aid commercial fisheries by working with people “on the front line” to address the problems, she said.
A newcomer to politics, Stevens said he is a conservative who has seen the negative effect of liberal policies in his home state of California.
“I don’t want Maine to drive off the same cliff that California has,” he said.
Stevens, 49, works as a school bus driver for School Administrative District 75 in Topsham and as a night auditor at the Comfort Inn in Brunswick. He lives with his wife and two sons on Perry Drive.
He and his family moved to Brunswick four years ago; before that he lived in New Hampshire and California. Stevens holds degrees in accounting and criminal justice.
“Like many Mainers, I’m working two jobs just to make ends meet,” Stevens said, emphasizing the need for well-paying opportunities in the state.
While acknowledging he faces a tough race against an incumbent in the long-time Democratic district, Stevens said he is committed to his shoestring campaign.
“I’m definitely at a disadvantage,” Stevens said, “but just because of that doesn’t mean I’m going to throw in the towel.”
His political involvement was sparked by the failure of Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal for an “Open for Business Zone” at Brunswick Landing, where workers would not have been required to pay union fees.
Stevens said the bill would have brought big companies into the area and created necessary jobs.
“I think it’s un-American to force people to belong to anything they don’t want to,” he said, adding that as a legislator he would press for right-to-work legislation similar to the bill proposed by LePage.
Legislators should also be examining ways to cut back on waste, fraud and abuse in public systems, including welfare and workers’ compensation, Stevens said.
Specifically preventing undocumented immigrants from collecting public assistance could save a “substantial amount of money,” he said.
“We’re essentially rewarding people who are breaking the law, and I have a real problem with that,” Stevens said, adding that he agreed with “punishing” towns and cities that continue to offer assistance to undocumented immigrants.
If elected, he said he would like to serve on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, and would propose changes to make punishments a real deterrent to crimes, he said.
“Too many people are essentially getting a slap on the wrist,” he said, stating that crimes like telephone fraud should be considered more serious offenses.
Stevens said he would also like to sit on the Education Committee. While the state could do more to aid education, the answer isn’t necessarily to “throw more money at the issue,” he said.
The candidate said he supports charter schools, and “the more competition the better” in education. While no real alternative to the current way charter schools are funded has been put forward, he said he would consider supporting a new plan if it made sense.
Stevens said he has to do more research about the Amtrak layover facility before deciding where he stands, he said.
Marine resources are another area he is “not terribly familiar with,” Stevens said, although he would analyze bills proposing changes to fishing and resource regulation carefully to make sure proposed changes made sense, and were not just burdensome regulations.
“I don’t want to do anything that would harm Maine’s economy,” he said.