Election 2016: House District 67

Susan Austin

Susan Austin

House District 67

Towns: Casco (part of), Frye Island, Gray (part of), Raymond (part of)

Incumbent: Susan Austin, R-Gray

Challenger: Rachel Lyn Rumson

Candidate Bio

Austin: Associate Degree in Science; past community-elected leadership Gray-New Gloucester School Board, Gray Town Council, Pineland Campus Conversion Committee; Worked with Marden’s, Inc.

Present Civic Organizations: Crystal Lake Association Gray-New Gloucester; Ambassador Crystal Lake Ice Fishing Derby; Director Liberty Family Foundation; Maine Wildlife Park advocate; Gray-New Gloucester Summer Meal’s Program; St. Gregory’s Church member/Eucharistic Minister.

Interests: Personal fitness/walking program; recycling/reuse interests.

Married: Ernie Austin, four children, 11 grandchildren

Maine State House of Representatives 2002–2010 and 2014–2016 (traditional-financed candidate)

Labor Commerce Research & Economic Development Committee.

Rachel Lyn Rumson

Rachel Lyn Rumson

Rumson: Rachel Lyn is the program director for a program call the Cooperative Design Lab, celebrating two years of commitment to change, and is building a professional practice in the region called Royal River Collaborative.

She currently serves on the Gray Town Planning Board, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Education Committee and the Town of Gray End of Summer Fest Planning Committee.

After 15 years as an educator, designer and facilitator, most recently with The Resilience Hub and Cooperative Development Institute. I have agricultural, land use and economic ideas about what is possible at a regional scale for the land, for agriculture and for the economy. With an understanding of soil fertility, plants and patterns for arranging land use and housing. I see a future with productive, high-yielding buffers protecting our lakes and rivers, hillsides laden with biodiversity. I see agro-forestry expanding to produce specialty wood materials in Southern and Central Maine, while being held in community land trusts.

In addition, I see orchards and gardens enveloping every schoolyard. I imagine a pathway for economic development that transforms our transaction-based culture to a producer-based culture that supports and reflects the unique character of each Maine community. I see sharing surpluses through well-designed and localized distribution patterns. Most importantly, I dream of engaging fellow lawmakers and citizens in a discussion of how a systems-based approach to policy development can actively bring social and environmental justice closer to all our Maine communities. Together, we can make this happen!

Q1. Why did you decide to run for office/why did you decide to become involved in politics?

Austin: I am running to help people. This seat affords a representative the opportunity to engage, assist, reach out to and enrich the condition of people, young and old. In some cases, the stakes to help are very high and often quite critical. In other cases, the smallest gesture of assistance means everything on that particular day to that individual. There are constituent’s personal challenges and there are state financial/policy initiatives that need weighty, critical thinking with valued decisions. I have been able to give my time and my attention to these things and desire to continue to work for Maine’s future.

Rumson: I have always been interested in community and politics. I love participatory leadership and have dedicated my life to learning and teaching others how to engage people and lead collaborative projects and enterprises. This is missing in politics today. It is all ego, popularity and showmanship, and in my district, fashion. There is not a lot of substance.

People like me and my family are not represented. We work check-to-check, watch corruption happen and feel powerless. We start businesses, build homes, love our families and we are too busy for nonsense politics. We are complex. We love the constitution and value renewable energy. We have guns and we want to be sure there is clean water. We want good jobs and we want immigrants to have them too. We want good competitive schools and we want to teach our kids cooperation too. We hunt, we fish, grow food and see all this economic activity going to the top in a brittle global finance system which turns around and writes checks for our politicians!

We have to plan our future in light of climate change realities in Maine. I am ready. We have to support local economics and we have to sort out veterans’ affairs, school funding, housing, elder care, shift the conversation from health insurance to wellbeing, and radically change our energy options.

I am running because I want to tell our grandchildren that I did not just complain, I took action to change the world for the better.

Q2. What strengths do you feel you bring to the position?

Austin: I served the people of Maine in the House from 2002–2010. In 2014, I felt that I had more to give to the many issues that our state was facing. I ran and secured the seat of the newly-formed District 67, portions of Gray, Raymond, Casco and all of Frye Island. I was fortunate to return to the Labor Commerce Research & Economic Development Committee, which was a continuum of my previous committee of eight years. We have had a very challenging two sessions on that committee this term. It has been fascinating work with specific goals and high stakes for Maine such as Right to Work, minimum wage and drugs in the workplace.

Rumson: I am an activator and a strategic thinker. I have a background in complex living systems and that’s what society is, a system. I want to be of service to something bigger than myself and collaborate with as many people as possible to turn this ship for Maine. We need to be strategic as a body of people at the local level because our political system is designed to keep us baffled and our economy is designed to make the rich richer on the backs of the working class. The middle class once saw upward social mobility, but has dropped back to the position. We are trained with media and politicians today to hate each other, distrust and abuse one another.

My resume is filled with various work experience from teaching and facilitation to business owner, painting houses, cleaning houses, to waiting tables to bartending, to doing nails in a salon. I can relate to people and have a great deal of common sense.

Q3. How do you plan to make a difference?

Austin: I thrive on working to accomplish positive outcomes for Maine. I have a tremendous amount of patience with a sometime impatient/imperfect process. I utilize a, more often than not, calm nature to bring sensible, reasonable thinking to the table. What we decide has significant impact on people’s living and people’s lives! I am ever mindful of that consequence of our vote.

Rumson: I plan to listen and to speak about what I hear talking with a lot of people, not just plot a career pathway for my self-cozying up to special interests or my party.

Give your position on the following referendum questions:

Q4. Marijuana legalization?

Austin: I do support medical marijuana. However, from my years serving on the Gray-New Gloucester School Board, supporting curriculum for good health habits and drug awareness for our students, I find it counter-intuitive to support legalizing this drug for recreational use. Not only has society taken a strong stance on the health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke but, most significantly, we face a severe drug crisis in Maine. We are part of the terrific epidemic that exists across the United States.

Rumson: I will respect the will of the Maine voters on this and all referendums, but I am voting “no” on legalization because it will threaten to undermine medical cannabis growers’ businesses and the research they are doing. It will invite big-cannabis factory farms to our state from around the world and it will change the culture of our communities.

Q5. Taxes on incomes over $200,000 for public education?

Austin: This bill is designed to give more revenue to education. However, this initiative, if passed, places a special tariff upon some professionals and tradesmen who are either here in Maine or want to locate here. Newly-credentialed doctors and dentists will give great pause about starting to practice in Maine when they see this extra tax, especially if they are attempting to pay off hefty medical/dental school loans. This will help defeat the sound plans that the University of Maine and other educational institutions/organizations have started to address the replacement of our aging population in many of the professions and trades, a need that will only spiral into the future.

Rumson: While I respect the principle of not detracting top earners in our state from living here, we simply must change the property tax/school funding mess we are in. It is pitting mature households against new families and drives a wedge through our communities.

Q6. Background checks on gun sales?

Austin: I do not support the background check question. I do not think the question has been portrayed in full transparency to the Maine people and that it will have unintended, negative consequences to lawful gun owners and our sportsmen. This was not written here in our state, not by our lawmakers, has not been vetted by the legislature and does not support Maine’s strong tradition of hunting.

Rumson: I have my grandfather’s gun and I will be gifting that to my son without a background check because we have a constitutional right to bear arms. I am not into the surveillance culture either, and yet selling weapons on Facebook is crazy. We have to stem this flow of weapons trade and so I will vote “yes” on Question 3 and press hard on the legislature to make reasonable provision for families.

Q7. Increase in the minimum wage?

Austin: The ballot question to raise minimum wage implements new hourly rates at a higher cascade than our marketplace can sustain from 2017-2020. It hits Maine’s tourism-service positions hard not only impacting our restaurateurs but unintendedly having a negative impact on wait staff as the tip credit moves away. As that happens, businesses will adjust their staff, their hours and meal prices accordingly to their business overhead. Wait staff testified in our Labor/Commerce Committee that they will lose their ability to earn lucrative tips corresponding to the added service value of their customer’s dining experience. They said thank “you” but “no” thank you. Our committee worked, but did not pass this bill. This question came from a citizen’s initiative outside the Maine Legislature.

Rumson: Yes with a provision for small farms and for low-profit companies to be legislated.

Q8. Choice voting initiative?

Austin: I do not support choice voting. I think it is confusing, costly and questionably a ballot security challenge. The process has been predicted to be unconstitutional in a six-page document written by our Maine Attorney General, the Hon. Janet Mills.

Rumson: Yes, because the reasons against it don’t make a substantive case.

Q9. Transportation bond?

Austin: We are the oldest state in the nation, have the oldest housing stock and I would suggest some of the oldest maintained roads. Our state covers a large area with rural sections that challenge our transportation system. Our roads and bridges continue to need either resurfacing, rebuilding or complete replacement. As an elected official, roads are among the highest calls of concern from our folks; road conditions, road speeds and actual placement!

Rumson: Yes, reluctantly.

Q10. What do you feel are the three most important issues facing the state, and how should these matters be addressed?

Austin: Drugs — Concentrate on the successful treatments and appropriate dollars to support those programs along with additional drug agents.

Education — Address our identified needs for trained/educated targeted professions/trades…i.e. nursing, engineers, logging/timber trades.

Aging — Focus resources on bed/facility/treatments for aging and mental health.

Rumson: Education, local economics and the environment. They should be addressed actively, with policy that is rooted in all three.

Final comment: Your opportunity to make any final comment or pitch to voters.

Austin: I have been and will continue to work, listen, and critically analyze issues while exercising a respectful, thoughtful and creative nature. When times get very tested, I often utilize a sense of humor to shine a few smiles on the issue. I have maintained a 100% Chamber & Committee attendance for 10 sessions, 100% voting record for nine sessions and 99.7 % for one session. This new term may task legislators to exercise a higher measure of patience and good will than usual. I can do that! I hope to see you at the polls!

Rumson: I am a progressive candidate with a libertarian streak. I work full-time in the summer as an innkeeper at the George Perley House and part-time in the winter. I have time for this work if you elect me. If you know me you know I work hard and advocate for people I want to advocate for you in Augusta.

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