Election ’14: House District 69


Phyllis Ginzler Republican

Phyllis Ginzler

District Makeup: In Cumberland County, the municipalities of Bridgton and Harrison; and in Oxford County, the municipality of Denmark.
Candidates:  R-Phyllis Ginzler, D-Lisa Villa
Background/Political experience:
Ginzler: Resident of Bridgton (my husband and I have owned a home and paid taxes here for 34 years); I am a retired sales executive with Hewlett Packard; for over 20 years, I held a succession of regional, national and international sales management positions in the computer industry; I also taught in a public middle school for eight years; I hold an MBA in Finance from Babson College; volunteer patient advocate at Bridgton Hospital’s Patient Assistance Program; president of the Bridgton Hospital Guild; serve on the Board of Directors of Bridgton Hospital; board member of the Bridgton Community Center, chaired the Funding and Future Direction committees; this is my first political campaign.
Villa: Resident of Harrison, incumbent; Lake Region Transportation Coalition; Lake Region Development Council; CDBG Municipal Oversight Committee, vice-chairman; GPCOG, Executive Committee; Cumberland County Finance Committee chairman; Cumberland County Charter Commission, co-chairman; Town of Harrison selectman 2006–2012, vice-chairman; U.S. Airways Flight Attendant, 1988–Present; Leading Women for Shared Parenting, member.
Q. Why did you become interested in seeking political office?
Ginzler: I have always been an engaged citizen. I am running for office to offer the voters a choice. I was energized when, after the 2010 election, the governor and the 125th Legislature began to refocus our state government on fiscal stability and job growth. I was impressed by pension reform and workers’ compensation reform, as well as their efforts to pay the hospital debt. However, I was disappointed by the 126th Legislature that spent a great deal of time trying to claw back those gains. I want to continue the momentum of the 125th in areas such as welfare reform, tax policies and energy costs.
Villa: I became politically active after going through a difficult divorce in 2001. Making the transition from a working wife to a single mother was extremely difficult. I learned how the judicial system is stacked against people with limited income. I learned how difficult it was to simply make a living in the Lake Region. But, I also learned how resilient the people here are, and how hard they work to stay and raise their families here. Wanting to get involved, I became involved in the Lake Region Development Council in 2004, and subsequently ran for the Harrison Board of Selectmen in 2006 — and won. I became involved in the Greater Portland Council of Governments, and served on the County Budget Advisory Committee in 2008 and 2009 — acting as chairman in 2009. In many instances, I was the first active participant in these groups from Western Cumberland County. I worked tirelessly for the Lake Region and, in 2010, led efforts to stop the wasteful and misguided bond to expand the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Q. What experiences (life, business, etc.) do you believe make you a strong candidate to serve area residents in Augusta?
Ginzler: Like most people, each chapter of my life has taught me valuable lessons. I am the daughter of a disabled American WWII veteran. My father’s courage, sacrifice and sense of duty have had a profound influence on me. I was a single mom who worked my way through college at night to complete my bachelor’s degree. I believe in hard work and perseverance as a path to happiness.

Lisa Villa Democrat

Lisa Villa

In my sales career, I dealt with customers who expected excellence and demanded results. I was expected to exceed goals and stay under budget. I led teams of professionals through enormous changes in technology and business practices. Success depended on proficiency, hard work and measurable results, a formula that will serve me well in Augusta.
As a teacher, my students taught me that each child has a thirst for knowledge and each is capable of much more than we sometimes expect. I met parents who desperately wanted the best education for their son or daughter and sacrificed for it. Our state government should encourage and fund innovative and competitive education options.
I believe in volunteering in your community. The Hospital Guild, the Community Center, the Lions Club, Rotary, the Masons, the Chamber of Commerce, LEA, our cultural and recreational groups, and, of course, our communities of faith make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. Government cannot substitute for, nor be as effective as, our dedicated volunteers in these organizations.
Villa: My background above gives me an edge up on how what happens on the state level affects us on the municipal level. My background varies from local, regional, county and state committees. I have 10 years of on-the-record experience in government and how it functions. Also, when not in session, I have the opportunity to travel the country and the world to see what is working in other places and bringing those experiences and ideas back to Maine.
Q. There is always talk about politicians being able to “work both sides of the aisle” to tackle various issues. Speak specifically as to what you believe it takes to be successful in this area.
Ginzler: Specifically, it is important to listen, to respect the legislative process, to “do your homework” and to use the art of persuasion to draw the other side to your point of view. The common goal should be to do what is best for the good of all Maine citizens.
Villa: It takes listening to your constituents, understanding the needs of the state. The work we do as legislators has profound consequences for the people we represent. We may not always agree ideologically, but in order to maintain and improve the lives of others we need collaboration. If you have trust in the people you are working with, are open-minded and seek solutions with the bigger picture in mind, there is so much we can accomplish. I was pleased to work with many of my Republican colleagues in the House to write and pass legislation protecting the identity of concealed weapon permit holders — one of those Republican Representatives, Corey Wilson of Augusta, was pleased to endorse me for reelection. That says a lot about my priorities — and putting the safety of my constituents first.
Q. What do you believe are the three major, pressing issues facing Maine and local communities, and specifically address how you would propose to address them?
Ginzler: Good paying jobs, welfare reform and lowering the cost of energy are important to the citizens of Bridgton, Denmark and Harrison. In order to attract businesses to Maine, or to grow business in Maine, we must revamp our tax policies. In order to keep our children from leaving the state in search of good paying jobs, we must rethink the high income tax rate because it makes our state uncompetitive. I also would like to see Maine join 24 other states that have passed Right to Work legislation and who have seen higher job growth rates because of it. Lastly, we are losing our valuable retiree population (who purchase vast amounts of services from our local businesses) to the Sun Belt, not just because of weather, but because Maine taxes pensions. In order to retain our retiree population, we must lower or eliminate the income tax on pensions.
Real welfare reform requires a change in priorities. I believe in a strong social safety net for our most vulnerable citizens who have few, if any, options. Our citizens deserve better support for in-home medical services, nursing homes, and mental health services. For those who are able-bodied, the emphasis should be on transitioning to independence as quickly as possible through work requirements, vigorously enforced. I support the governor’s efforts to cap welfare benefits at five years, and to scrutinize the EBT program and impose stiff penalties for misuse. I oppose welfare for illegal aliens.
Maine’s high energy costs are a drag on business growth and on the family budget. Abundant and clean energy such as natural gas and hydroelectric power are the best options for lowering the high cost of electricity and heating. I support “fast-tracking” natural gas legislation and I support the $500 rebate for heat pumps as part of the Efficiency Maine program. This technology option and others like it can cut heating costs dramatically.
Villa: Energy costs, health care and economic development.
We need a comprehensive energy plan that brings more natural gas to Maine, which will reduce heating costs for thousands and electrical costs for hundreds of thousands.
I would like to use the delay in the expansion of MaineCare to study and explore the best practices of other states as we look to expand MaineCare here in Maine.
We need to continue to focus on Maine’s small businesses as a source for economic growth — and devote new resources and attention to developing the states rural agricultural economy.
Q. While campaigning, what issue seems to be at the forefront of most voters’ minds, offer some examples of comments made, and give your opinion on that subject.
Ginzler: As I have traveled door-to-door in my district, voters often express frustration with the current welfare system. Some have said, “Maine has become a welfare state” or “People come to Maine for welfare benefits.” One fourth of our population is on welfare. Medicaid (MaineCare) is 25% of the General Fund, crowding out other priorities such as education and infrastructure. I want to see a change in our thinking about what is “help” in times of distress and what is perpetuating a dependent, intergenerational, way of life.
Villa: As I’ve traveled the district, attended town meetings and met with voters it has become abundantly clear that the issues and concerns that I’ve stated above closely align with that of my constituents.
Q. How do you plan to keep constituents up-to-date with issues that come before you?
Ginzler: Naturally, given my background, I use technology to communicate, including social media. Many constituents still appreciate periodic legislative updates via mail. I plan to write a regular newspaper column as well. While in sales, I prided myself on being easily accessible to my customers. The citizens in my district will enjoy the same prompt follow-up to their questions, as did my former customers.
Villa: I will e-mail legislative updates monthly and contribute to The Bridgton News, much like our congressional representatives. I was also asked by Ray Richardson to continue as a regular morning guest on WLOB. I’ve come a long way as a public servant and legislator and I’m proud of my accomplishments. I will continue to keep my constituents, boards of selectmen, and businesses up-to-date on what is happening in Augusta.
Q. Finally, answer the following, “I would be the best candidate for this job because…”
Ginzler: I have an excellent record of leadership and achievement in business and in education. I understand the priorities of the people in my district. I have the temperament and the skills to reach consensus in the legislature. Finally, I will be a strong voice, and a vote in Augusta for the taxpayer who is always on the hook for decisions made there.
Villa: I’ve spent the last decade in public service to our region. People not only know me, they trust me. I understand the region’s many needs — and also its assets. I’ve been recognized for my efforts to reform Maine family law, rated “A” by the NRA, helped veterans access health care and worked with MDOT to improve Route 302. I have also had two high-profile bills signed into law by Governor LePage (LD 345 and LD 872). I would like to continue my work and see to fruition current plans in our region and state. It has been an honor serving as your representative, thank you all for such an amazing opportunity.

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