At the Polls: Senate District 13
Senate District 13: Bridgton, Harrison, Naples, Sebago, Fryeburg, Denmark, Brownfield, Porter, Hiram, Baldwin, Norway, Paris, Oxford and Otisfield.
The Candidates: With incumbent David Hastings reaching his term limit, the candidates for Senate District 13 are Republican James Hamper and Democrat Dennise Whitley.
Their Positions: The News asked the candidates the following questions (answers arranged alphabetically):
Q. Gridlock is a problem, so how do you propose to overcome partisan politics?
Hamper: I will approach this the same way I did in the 125th Legislature and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. As House chairman of ENR, I dedicated my time and efforts to making the 13-member committee work together. I was determined to not treat the other party members as I had been treated in the previous four years that I served on ENR. As chairman, you set the tone and direction of the committee work and that tone was hearing all sides of the issue, keeping all members informed and taking the time to listen to members concerns about particular bills. Many hours were dedicated to working with the committee members on both sides of the aisle to reach a consensus on some bills. When the second session was finished this year, I had committee members, from the other party, come to me and tell me that this was the best two years they had spent on that committee. I will continue this practice.
Whitley: There is no time to waste on divisive partisanship when the 126th Legislature convenes. For the past 12 years in my role as the Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, I have worked with Democrats and Republicans and governors to pass many public health laws, such as the creation and continuance of the fund for a Healthy Maine and the tobacco control and prevention laws. I believe in collaboration and compromise and I would use these important tools as a Senator.
Q. What characteristics would you bring to the position that would make you an effective politician?
Hamper: As I stated above, I will bring consistency and personal integrity to the position. I do not change with the wind. I have eight years experience in the State House and will serve all of my district with all that I have, as I have done before.
Whitley: I strongly believe in collaboration, not confrontation and I bring a good dose of common sense. My experience as a marketing/public relation professional has given me the skills to write and speak persuasively. I am able to view issues comprehensively and have the capacity to think and plan strategically. I have solid experience in healthcare management and policy, which is crucial to the health of Maine’s citizens of all ages and to Maine’s fiscal health.
Q. What do you believe are the three major issues facing the state, and how would you propose to address them?
Hamper: Jobs, jobs and jobs. Last year, during the summer and fall, I made an effort to ride my motorcycle on every road in Senate District 13, that’s 14 towns. I rode on about 85% of them, and by doing so I surveyed the district. We need to improve the employment situation, not only in western Maine, but in all of Maine. I will approach this in the same manner that I have in the past, that is making sure state government sets up favorable conditions for employers to locate here and for those who want to start a business. Reduction in taxes, more affordable health care, consistency in workman’s comp and unemployment insurance and environmental regulations that work with business.
Whitley: 1.) Maine’s economy and jobs. Maine’s economic crisis caused by the lack of employment opportunities, especially in western Maine: craft a realistic strategic growth plan for the new reality of the service driven economy with definitive timelines and with the public and private sectors collaborating to create a climate conducive for entrepreneurial, small businesses to get established and thrive. This, in turn, will attract established businesses to locate in Maine. Every tourist dollar has a sevenfold return to the economy. I was in favor of the creation of new 400 jobs in Oxford County by giving early support to the Oxford Casino.
2.) Education. Maine children must have quality education at all class levels; high school graduates and adults must have access to affordable vocational and college educations. We must not let our public school systems’ funding be drained by diversion to charter schools if we allow education funding to follow each student. The Maine Community College system and the Maine University system must find ways to collaborate and complement each other to affect cost savings that stabilize tuitions at an affordable level for Maine residents.
3.) Health care access and cost. The LePage administration and the legislative majority, faced with high health care costs and steep increases in insurance premiums, relied on dropping coverage for people on MaineCare, fought national health care reform, and passed Public Law 90, which has redistributed insurance rate premiums to older payers and those living in rural areas, like western Maine. This law benefits young people in southern Maine and reduces risk for insurance companies, but does not promote the health and economic well-being of western Maine, or the state as a whole.
Before the current administration started, Maine was well positioned to take advantage of the cost and quality benefits of the Affordable Care Act; I will work legislatively to bring Maine back to the point that we can enact a Maine-based insurance exchange as soon as possible. Public Law 90 must also be evaluated and adjusted so that people in rural Maine and the elderly are not targeted. I will also work to evaluate the cuts to MaineCare recipients so that those who need health services can receive them.
Q. What will you do to better serve your constituents in western Maine?
Hamper: I will serve all as always. I will be available as always for that phone call at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning or the call at 10 at night. With eight years of experience, I am well versed in the amount of time that is dedicated to serving.
Whitley: Early on, I will hold Listening and Learning meetings with my House counterparts within the District to accommodate all 14 towns and I will continue to be accessible to my constituents. I will use my bipartisan experience of 12 years working with the legislature to fight for issues important to Maine people and I will be a strong voice for western Maine.
Q. How do we balance the needs of people (such as health care, education, etc.) while trying to balance the state’s budget?
Hamper: Social programs, education and the state budget are all creatures of the same need, and that is money. We cannot fund any of it without money and if people are not working there is no money. Our state needs more people working, generating an income and therefore paying taxes. Not only are government programs funded, but the individual then becomes more self-sufficient and in need of less help from the government. So it all goes back to jobs, jobs, jobs and the need to get our economy going.
Whitley: The legislature must look at people’s needs that are funded through the state’s General Fund in totality, develop a bipartisan process to assign priorities and at the same time assess the state’s revenues to make sure that all streams of existing revenue are being enhanced; putting partisanship aside, evaluate potential new revenue sources and implement where feasible.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Next week, The News will carry candidate profiles of House Districts 97, 99 and 103, as well as polling information and a look at referendum