Election 2016: House 69
House District 69
Towns: Bridgton, Denmark, Harrison
Incumbent: Phyllis Ginzler (R)
Challengers: William Peters (I, write-in), Walter Riseman (I)
After what I thought was retirement and a new life of volunteer service, I ran for, and was elected to, the Maine State Legislature in 2014. I am honored to serve the people of Bridgton, Denmark and Harrison. I retired from Hewlett Packard after a 24-year career in the computer industry, holding a succession of regional, national and international sales management positions. I also taught in a public middle school for 8 years. I hold an MBA in Finance from Babson College. I continue to volunteer in my community as president of the Bridgton Hospital Guild and serve on the Board of Bridgton Hospital. I served as a volunteer patient advocate at Bridgton Hospital’s Patient Assistance Program and a board member of the Bridgton Community Center where I chaired the Funding committee. I have been a homeowner and taxpayer in Bridgton for 36 years. I am married to my husband David, and we have one son and one grandson.
My name is William Peters. I am a 1979 Graduate of Lake Region High School, a student of the constitution, and lover of nature and the outdoors. I have three children, two boys and a girl. I have worked mostly in the electrical field as a young man, spending time in advertising and music. The last half of my life I worked in Facility Engineering. I have 20 years experience as a Chief Engineer working in the Hospitality Industry.
- I have spent vast amounts of time studying the constitution and the structure of our nation. I am very well-versed in science, history and much of the legal system.
- I have taught self defense and anti-rape classes both in Maine and Massachusetts over the years. I have a deep desire to leave the world a better place than when I came to it.
- I was a participant in last year’s Pleasant Mountain Music Festival and a multitude of Cancer Benefits in Maine. I hope to continue to help contribute to community events.
Walter Riseman has spent a lifetime serving people and community oriented organizations. He graduated from Babson College, where he studied Business Administration. He bought the Village Tie-Up, a local business landmark in Harrison, where he also became active in community activities. After owning the business for eight years, he began a new professional career working for Community Concepts, Inc., a nonprofit community action agency, for which he became the Chief Financial Officer. He was responsible for financial and regulatory compliance and, after 23 years, he retired last fall, leaving the organization in the best financial shape it had been in 30 years. He became very familiar with the services provided by the Agency such as Headstart, Transportation, Housing, Business Lending and Rental Housing among others. Building on that experience, he became involved in numerous community activities, including serving as a volunteer board member on the Oxford Hills Growth Council, Fare Share Food Cooperative, Deertrees Theater and most recently Tri-County Mental Health. He has been a business counselor with the Oxford Hills SCORE chapter for over twenty years, helping to provide counseling to area existing and potential business owners.
Walter and Jane Riseman have been married for 26 years, and have a blended family of six wonderful children and six extremely cute grandchildren. They have been foster parents in the past and subsequently adopted two of those kids into their family. After retiring Walter became a volunteer and substitute teacher in the Oxford Hills School District, specializing in the special education component.
Q1. Why did you decide to run for office/why did you decide to become involved in politics?
Ginzler: I have always been an engaged citizen. I was energized when, after the 2010 election, the new governor and the 125th Legislature began to refocus our state government on fiscal stability and job growth. Being involved with Bridgton Hospital, I was impressed that the governor and the 125th Legislature kept their promise to repay the hospitals’ $750M that was owed to them after the broad expansion of MaineCare. It seemed to me that Maine had turned a corner and I wanted to support this new direction.
Also in 2010, Congress passed a highly-partisan law now known as Obamacare. I had followed the issue of health care coverage and was alarmed at the broad Federal sweep of power over the private health care sector. It galvanized my thinking about the power of Washington over our lives, and the shrinking power of each state to withstand Federal mandates no matter how expensive or burdensome. I think that state legislatures can play an aggressive role in preserving state powers.
Peters: I decided to run for office because I see no movement in this state. I see people going to Augusta and voting the party line instead of asking the people for input. This takes more than an e-mail, but true interaction. I finally got frustrated and felt that the only sure way to get someone interested in truly making a difference was to be that someone.
Riseman: I have always been interested in the relationship between government, the people it serves, and the community as a whole. Recent history indicates that traditional politics has seemingly moved from being “of the people” to that of being controlled by big money and power. It seems too often that large corporate influence has led to an atmosphere where big business is “too large to fail” and the everyday citizen is “too small to succeed.” In addition, extreme agendas, personal interests and big egos have resulted in situations where compromise cannot be established. This is why I am running as an Independent and also as a Clean Election candidate. I will not be beholden to big party political or outside power influences. Among my goals are to bring back respect, trust, transparency and accountability to government.
Q2. What strengths do you feel you bring to the position?
Ginzler: First, I bring integrity, instilled in me by my parents and nurtured by teachers and clergy throughout my life. Second, I bring leadership developed by years of managing people to achieve their goals. Third, I am thorough and thoughtful in doing my job and I strive to communicate these deliberations to my constituents. Lastly, I practice a civility that comes from a respect for the debate of ideas.
Peters: I bring the strength of conviction and of the honest desire to bring the “Will of the People” to Augusta to be heard. It is time we inject someone into the fray who is not afraid to ask hard questions of those in power. Hard work and true understanding of underlying conditions is how it is done. I will offer both of these to the position.
Riseman: This is best said by Stan Cohen, a well-known resident in Bridgton. “Walter is a man who understands the needs of others in a personal and empathetic way. That quality, along with his financial, administrative and leadership skills, makes him a strong force for positive change in Augusta.”
Q3. How do you plan to make a difference?
Ginzler: Well, I have already made a difference by representing my constituents every legislative day, making sure that their voices are heard and counted. The 127th Legislature passed the largest personal income tax cut in Maine’s history. This was due to the unwavering solidarity of the House Republican caucus. We exempted military pensions and survivors’ benefits from Maine income tax, in part due to my bill, LD 280. Maine ended its fiscal year with a $93M surplus and a 3.9% unemployment rate that was the lowest in New England and one point below the national average. I intend to continue to advocate for lower taxes and still-needed reforms to ensure that our state’s current fiscal and economic health is not squandered.
Peters: I will make a difference by not only updating citizens with e-mails but by being present at several selectman meetings, town halls and forums throughout the year to update people as to upcoming votes, what we can expect from other government branches and more. I feel it is a voter's right to know what his government is up to and, if elected, I intend to deliver as much of that kind of leadership as is allowed me.
Riseman: During my campaign I have been conducting a community survey of important issues to voters. The survey included 19 different topics. I asked that people choose their top five and to prioritize them. After already receiving over 70 surveys back, there are some clear trends and agreement among district voters about the top five. If elected, I plan on making those issues my working goals.
Expecting party leaders to find agreement on major issues most of the time is not the reality. As an independent I will strive to achieve agreement on both sides of the aisle. This can be achieved by working from the middle out, not the far left or far right in. Looking to find like minds and reasonable compromise is the key to success.
Give your position on the following referendum questions:
Q4. Marijuana legalization?
Ginzler: Not yet. I believe we have more work to do before we exempt ourselves from Federal law. I watched Colorado’s experience and although its tax revenues soared, it also saw an increase in social problems (and the costs associated with them), which was no surprise to the law enforcement, and judicial sources I spoke with.
Peters: I am for legalization to a degree but this particular law seems to have some connection to outside forces. This leads me to believe it is another type of corporate interference in state affairs designed only to line their pocketbooks. I prefer a true citizen-backed law without corporate ties or cash flow as motivation.
Riseman: I currently plan on voting “No.” No doubt times are changing but I believe it is too soon for this measure to become law. There are too many concerns and unanswered questions that need to be resolved. Let’s continue to monitor and work on the already allowed medical marijuana system before we move on.
Q5. Taxes on incomes over $200,000 for public education?
Ginzler: No. This is a tax hike, pure and simple, and would place Maine as the state with one of the highest income tax rates. It would be a big step backward if we want to be competitive for businesses and professional people like doctors to relocate to our state. It is also a terrible way to fund education because it is uncertain from year to year.
Peters: I don't really like the percentage listed, but such a tax might well help lower property taxpayers’ burden if implementation is approached in a responsible manner. If this turns out to be the case I would be for it. If this is just a way to pilfer funds without proper distribution then it would be a wrong-minded approach. I would oppose all such tactics.
Riseman: I enthusiastically recommend a “YES” vote. The most important responsibility in our community is to ensure that all children get a reasonable education. After spending time volunteering and being a substitute teacher in the Oxford Hills School system, I have found out first-hand about the lack of adequate resources resulting from the State’s inability to fund education according to the peoples’ directive. Among the issues, I have personally witnessed multiple classroom sizes of 27 students with one teacher. If passed, this measure will provide for additional funding that could be used to reduce class sizes but additionally school boards could use the funds for non-administrative salaries, additional classroom aides or equipment, or additional programming; all items related to improving education for our children.
Q6. Background checks on gun sales?
Ginzler: No. This referendum places onerous and, in my opinion, useless, regulations on legal gun owners. It does nothing to keep criminals from obtaining weapons. A better approach is to stiffen the penalties for illegal gun possession and consistently enforce the laws already on the books.
Peters: This is a tricky question. One weighs our rights to bear arms in case our government becomes the oppressor against the perceived safety of our citizens. I believe less government is good government. At this time and with this particular law I would have to vote No for the reason of law language. There are too many areas that are vague or need rewording to make it work as it has been presented.
Riseman: Undoubtedly, this is the most controversial of the five questions. This particular measure is designed to close a loophole in current law related to acquiring weapons and under what circumstances they are procured. Federal and State Constitutions do allow for citizens to own weapons. Every citizen has a right to own a gun for protection, recreation or food gathering — no dispute there. Complicating arguments come from the extreme positions taken by both “pro” and “con” gun control advocates and their personal interpretations of the law.
Keep in mind, the provisions of the second amendment were written in general terms and in an era when our society lived in a far different culture. Not only has our society changed culturally over the years, but weapon technology has changed as well, producing situations which are unexpected, unpredictable and increasingly jeopardize the safety of all of us. In many cases it is being caused by individuals who should not be allowed to have access to, or own weapons, because they will seek to do harm to innocent people. If just one innocent life can be saved it is worth closing the loophole. For this reason, I am supporting this referendum.
Q7. Increase in the minimum wage?
Ginzler: No. Today, the median hourly wage in Maine is over $16, exceeding the minimum wage by 113%. That is a result of a free market of supply and demand. Question 4 may hurt more than help those in the work force, especially teenagers and those with limited skills trying to secure their first job. This referendum also places a structural, artificial inflation rate on goods and services. This will hurt seniors and anyone living on a fixed income, and will cancel out any hourly gain for the average employee. The best pay raise we can give all our hardworking citizens is a sharp drop in income tax rates.
Peters: Yes. There is a minimum wage to ensure we do not have people working to only bring home enough to keep the roof over their heads with nothing left for food and amenities. This minimum needs to be adjusted to inflation at times as we have learned from the past, and now this is an act far past due. Let's do this for now and see how it goes when inflation gets adjusted.
Riseman: I will be voting YES. The positive economic impact outweighs the potential negative. Contrary to some reports this proposal does not primarily affect entry-level and teenage workers. It is estimated that the majority of recipients (89%) are over 20 years old, are working full-time, have children and struggle every day to make ends meet. The minimum wage in Maine hasn’t increased in eight years. In other places, where the minimum has been increased, there was minimal impact on small business profitability. More money in the local economy will lead to a more sustainable and healthy economic base and provide additional tax revenues to the State. New sources of tax revenues could mean a lower overall tax burden for everyone.
Q8. Choice voting initiative?
Ginzler: No. This is a complex scheme that adds little to no value to the electoral process. It is also unconstitutional. If Maine citizens wish to replace “plurality” with “majority” in our state law, then we can consider requiring runoff elections that would preserve the “one person/one vote” tradition, which rank choice voting does not.
Peters: No. This kind of voting raffle defeats the true will of the people. This seems to be a bill designed to defeat the “majority wins” system with a cascading popularity contest. Personally, I prefer my vote to go to my best choice not my 2nd or 3rd choice pick.
Riseman: Maine is a State known for its independent thinking and quite often has had Independents running for office along with the traditional party candidates. The result: In the past there have been elections with winners being elected with less than a majority of the total vote, sometimes under 40%. Rank choice voting will assure that our elected officials in Maine will win with a majority of the vote. That is “50% +1,” a relatively easy, fair and simple concept. I support a Yes vote.
Q9. Transportation bond?
Ginzler: I am voting Yes. Our infrastructure is the lifeline to a good economy.
Peters: Well, $100,000,000 is a lot of money and work created of a limited and temporary nature. I hate having to spend such amounts without a plan for creating the revenue to repay such huge debts. We also need work done on inland highways, roads and bridges. The port work described in the bill does not seem that imperative after viewing the area. I would support the bill based on inland improvements but would vote no on the changes to Portland's waterfront. They would be getting the bulk of the benefit from this bill. It seems this city gets state support on every bike trail they want built. Let's bring some of that money to the inland communities as well.
Riseman: Probably near the top of concerns for people in the district is our aging infrastructure of roads and bridges. The bond issue will bring much needed financial resources to help repair our under-maintained system of transportation. It also will create scores of jobs for our workforce. A “win/win” for our State. I plan to vote Yes.
Q10. What do you feel are the three most important issues facing the state, and how should these matters be addressed?
Ginzler: Economic vitality is our number one issue. With it, the lives of Mainers are vastly improved and without it, we face a stagnant future. We must continue to knock down impediments to business and job creation. One example is to change our business-unfriendly liability laws as 44 other states have done. Another is to lower the corporate income tax rate. I also would like to see Maine join 25 other states that have passed Right to Work legislation and who have seen higher paying job growth because of it.
Number 2 on the list is social services for our most vulnerable citizens. We must recruit mental health professionals to our state and increase the number of beds available to treat mental illness. Although the 127th Legislature reduced the wait lists for services for our elderly and disabled, there is more work to be done. The opioid epidemic in our state challenges us to coordinate our efforts and focus our funding on evidence-based treatment programs.
The third priority is the education of our children, preparing them to compete in a world economy. During my first term, I have invested my time and talents encouraging young people to understand their government and to excel in school. I support innovative education programs including online course work. I would like to encourage an increase in the number of charter schools, especially those specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). And, rather than Common Core with its emphasis on testing, I favor the recruitment and retention of highly-qualified classroom teachers to ensure our children graduate with the necessary skills to succeed.
Peters: 1 – The single most obvious problem is the lack of manufacturing jobs.
This is fixed only by addressing several levels of problems. Get companies to bring their factories back. It is the countries that make something that have booming economies these days. All we do is consume. The makers shall always win the day. Kids will stay in a town where they grew up if they could have a good-paying job in a great town where their kids could grow up like they did. The American Dream as they say. We gave all that away with free trade agreements.
2 – Opiates are truly beyond reason in their current popularity. I do not entirely understand how some get so twisted but many are helped along by legitimate prescriptions and perhaps overprescribed in some cases. We have three fronts to attack this problem. Preventative Education, proper addiction treatment, and law enforcement abatement efforts. These must be addressed sooner than later.
3- Energy is another area where the citizenship is being somewhat duped. There are several ways for towns to form co-op energy creation systems at little cost and with currently available grants. There are also a multitude of ways to produce energy. Wind, tidal and solar power are simply just the most well-known. Our energy costs are far above where they really should be. We pay double what the true value given is and I aim to try to fix this with new technologies and open source development.
Riseman: As mentioned earlier, I have been conducting a district-wide survey. Although it has not been finalized, the top three issues to date are: Global Warning/Environment, Health Care Insurance, and Infrastructure.
My plan to address the issues would be to first conduct community focus groups to further refine the issues; second, check current State laws and regulations to see how they align with the concerns; and third, introduce legislation as necessary to bring current policy in line.
Environment: It seems obvious that the people want to protect the quality of our environment and the integrity of our ecosystem. That’s what makes this region so special to residents and visitors. We must do all we can to insure we have done what is necessary to accomplish this goal.
Health Care: The ever-increasing cost of health insurance and lack of progress on expanding Maine Care must be addressed sooner than later. A bipartisan effort will need to be undertaken to best serve the interests of our citizens.
Infrastructure: We need a comprehensive short-term and long-term capital plan to correct the safety and economic impact of an inadequate transportation system in the State. Additionally, we need to develop a top-rate Internet and communication network if we expect to attract new business and jobs to the region.
Final comment: Your opportunity to make any final comment or pitch to voters.
Ginzler: It is an honor to serve the people of Bridgton, Denmark and Harrison. Two years ago you elected me to serve as your voice in the Maine State Legislature. I have faithfully and diligently represented you in Augusta every legislative day and in every critical vote. In the district, I reached out through my weekly updates and monthly Saturday sessions to make myself available to help with individual needs or to discuss issues with you. And I responded to your e-mail or phone calls with what I hope were thoughtful replies or help in navigating our state’s resources. I stayed true to my promises to propose and support policies that promote economic growth, improve the lives of our veterans, protect our second amendment, and strengthen efforts to help the most vulnerable among us. I ask for your vote to re-elect me to the Maine Legislature.
Peters: I would like to thank all the state agencies who helped me, consoled me when I found out I would be a write-in only candidate, and for how they encouraged to me to pursue my goal of representing the areas of my home district at the state level. I ran this campaign with no outside or party money. In fact, I am just a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of guy. A fairly normal Maine life. I have run a person-to-person campaign and with a high hope for word-of-mouth advertising! I can only hope my words and meaning will somehow work their way to the people's ears and eyes. A write-in vote for William Peters brings you a candidate who believes in the constitutional rights afforded to us by the founders and our inherent right to pursue those liberties. I believe that the people sent to public office are sent solely to represent the people's will and are not there to impose their own over that of the people.
I want to bring the context of upcoming laws to the people with town hall meetings updating the communities of District 69 on every possible vote for their input and information. This should always have been the tradition. No more finding out about new laws until after they are made. Thank you to The Bridgton News for their gracious treatment and to the people of District 69 for giving me their time to learn my views on things that affect their lives.
Riseman: I am excited about the future of our region. After serving the community for over 30 years in different capacities, I am ready and willing to represent you as your Independent Representative to the Maine House and move our district forward. I am a proven leader, independent thinker and a team builder, a fair and accountable decision maker, a creative problem solver and last but not least, an empathetic listener.
As a “clean” candidate I have pledged not to take political action or corporate donations and also signed on to the Maine Council of Churches covenant regarding civil discourse which values honesty, truth and civility as core values of government officials.
My work history produced these key beliefs, I am a fiscal conservative but believe we need to work together for the benefit of everyone in our community. From my point of view, this will help produce local, efficient and effective government.
Finally, as an Independent, I will not be beholden to party pressures but will be there to represent you, the members of our district. That’s why my slogan is “Independent for Good Reasons.” Please visit my website www.risemanformelegislature.com for more information.