In recent weeks, it has become very clear that one huge difference between republican and democratic candidates is in how they listen to voters and use the information to shape their plans once elected. Last evening at the Somerset County Democratic Meeting, those of us running shared insights and experiences from the field. It wasn’t a surprise that health care-affordability and availability, to be specific, come up at almost every door we hit.
All of us are hearing stories that shock, sadden and worry us. In my last ad in The Rolling Thunder, I shared four examples of people who have had to give up or postpone important treatments or screenings because of no health insurance or an extremely high deductible. For each of those examples, I believe there are at least ten more I haven’t heard yet. Is my opponent hearing any of these? Is he responding with anything other than the party line? His campaign literature leads me to think not.
I’m not promising that my being elected will change availability or affordability, but I do believe that a collective of new, compassionate legislators at state and national levels will bring about positive change. YOUR part in that is to help me, Sue Mackey Andrews and Jeff Johnson get elected on November sixth. Once you do your part, we can do ours.
I haven’t posted recently because Beth and I have put most of our energy into campaigning. We’ve met more than 150 residents in Cambridge and are now meeting folks in Ripley.
1-Everyone seems eager to be heard, whether they’re Dems, independents or Republicans. It seems that conversations with conservative voters are longer and they seem to be eager to voice concerns. Even the most ardent 2nd amendment supporters are uneasy about semi-automatic weapons and bump stocks. We can agree that things are bad and no easy solution lies in sight.
2-Folks in Cambridge have a lot of free range chickens and fewer ticks.
3-The state’s refusal/inability to reimburse rural Maine towns for taxes lose through the tree growth program is hurting our part of Maine a lot.
4-The addiction crisis is far bigger than most citizens realize. I’ve talked to people in Ripley, Cambridge, St. Albans and Hartland who all have first hand knowledge of the extent. Discarded needles and drug deals are common and law enforcement seems to be overwhelmed.
5-School funding, bullying, inadequate services for special needs students and a return to teaching useful life skills are all issues mentioned by people I talked to. One sixth grader who was listening while I chatted with her mom, whispered in Mom’s ear. Her mother told her to tell me and she said school safety was on her mind every day.
6. I greeted one woman and when I asked what was her biggest concern, she hesitated before telling me her 18 year old step son had terminal cancer. How do you respond to that? I was able to express my sadness at her situation and noted that nothing I could say or suggest could be more important than her sorrow.
7-Kids need more attention when they lose interest in reading or getting some form of higher education. One woman told us her thirteen year old wanted to be a game warden, but wasn’t interested in school. I suggested she borrow Kate and Roger’s A Good Man With a Dog and see if he would read it.
8-Milk prices and the survival of dairy farms is big up here and points out how much of a disparity there is between the two Maines. One woman said farmers who go out of business get hit a second time because they have to pay a capital gains tax on each cow when they sell them.
9-Jobs are a big concern. Many we talked to work multiple jobs, travel 1-3 hours daily and have little or no health insurance.
10-Retirement security is a big concern. We have a disproportionate number of retired citizens and few have anything other than social security to rely on. Some are terrified that Trump and the Republicans in Congress will cut what they do get.
11-I don’t think people realize how hard farmers work. We saw a number of large cornfields that hadn’t been cut. we were told that two brothers ran a big dairy operation and when one had a heart attack, the other couldn’t pick up the slack and wasn’t able to hire help.
12-There’s plenty of frustration on both sides of the aisle regarding what’s perceived as able bodied young folks getting undeserved benefits. It seems almost everyone has a family member or knows someone fitting that description. I have what I believe is a viable way to deal with that, but more on it later as I’m still in the information-gathering stage.
13-Listening and understanding are my best tools in the campaign and many relate when I say I’m hoping to go to Augusta and work with everyone in the legislature.
I was terrible about oral hygiene when I was a kid. That, coupled with soft teeth and no availability of fluoride, led to many cavities by the time I graduated from high school. I’ve been paying for those lapses ever since and I joke that the amount of money spent on my teeth since age 21 could buy a decent sports car. As a result, I’m aware of the sad state of teeth in rural Maine. In addition to the cost (and insurance, when/where available doesn’t cover that much anyhow), the scarcity of dentists the further from Portland you get, makes for a logistical nightmare, especially when transportation and time off at work are issues.
I asked my new dentist (although he’s been in practice for 43 years) what he thought was the biggest challenge to rural dental care and how could it be fixed. He said lack of clinics was his biggest concern and establishing them would make a huge difference. BUT, he continued, unless you can identify long term funding and can show those involved in providing it, that you know what you’re doing, it’s a waste of time. As the conversation continued, he amplified on his thoughts by saying that adopting the standardization model the Maine Dept. of Education has come up with for building new schools, or something similar, would be necessary. Otherwise, you run the risk of building too much, too fancy, or too costly to maintain and eventually end up defeating the purpose. That got me thinking about what franchises like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts do. They build on essentially the same footprint for all new stores. This allows them to know costs up front and the structures are erected pretty quickly.
My dentist wasn’t aware of any state where such a model is in place for rural areas, but the conversation got me thinking and as time permits, I’ll be searching for any research or data on states or Canadian provinces where such a plan is in place. Stay tuned for more on this.
The editorial in today’s Bangor Daily News Sums up perfectly why I’m strongly advocating for a welcoming and even aggressive immigration policy for the State of Maine. I grant you that many in District 105 react negatively when they first hear my stance, but after a couple minutes of conversation, many are willing to rethink this. I believe one of the problems is the constant bombardment they encounter regarding illegal immigrants. If we had a more rational and barrier-free policy, I suspect more ‘illegal’ immigrants would have been able to play by the rules. Waiting years for the paperwork necessary to be accepted is not only cruel, it’s dumb. Anyway, please read the editorial and let me know what you think.
I was involved in a meeting yesterday at the middle school where citizens from Hartland, Palmyra and St. Albans got together with the RSU 19 administration and Dave Pelton, real estate developer for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP). Two topics were up for discussion. First was getting everyone on the same page regarding funding and support for the Irving Tanning Community Center (ITCC) so use of and access to the building can continue. This is important for all three towns as many recreational programs for kids take place there.
Also discussed was what happens to the elementary school on Elm Street now that it has been closed. It needs a new roof on the older portion, must be heated whether used or not and RSU 19 would like someone to assume responsibility/ownership. Our town manager and the selectmen have worked very diligently along with a group of citizens to find a viable use. One possibility is for KVCAP to buy the property for a minimal amount and rehabilitate it so it could be used as senior housing. Should this happen, it would be a win-win for everyone. While everything is at a very early stage and there is no guarantee it will happen, Everyone at the meeting was heartened by the possibility. As things stand, however, much of the public money that funds building projects like the one envisioned here, comes through Maine State Housing and they’re focused on putting a significant portion of their money in projects in or near Portland. If elected, I hope to influence the flow so it’s more equitably allocated and Somerset County doesn’t get left behind. Actions like the one noted in today’s Bangor Daily News editorial certainly don’t help that goal.
This is just a starting point. As I chat with people in District 105, I’m sure I’ll learn plenty about things I’m unaware of. Below are quick thoughts on various issues.
1-Healthcare: It’s a mess and too costly. I think a single payer system has promise. I’m intrigued with what Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon are exploring.
2-Guns: I own some, hunted for more than 50 years, but NO ONE should have automatic weapons and arming teachers is just plain nuts.
3-Reproductive rights: We have no business legislating what/how someone decides to prevent or terminate a pregnancy. I find it more immoral that insurance covers erectile dysfunction medication at a time when others are balking at covering birth control prescriptions.
4-Global warming: It’s real, we may be too late to reverse it, but we sure should try. I also think we should use the research capabilities of the university system to figure out what crops/forestry enhancements we can try in Maine as the climate warms.
5-Education: College is too expensive. Our community college system is a valuable resource and we should provide teachers with adequate resources to do their job…And they shouldn’t have to be medication specialists, social workers or quasi-law enforcement officials. Teaching is a full time job as it is.
6-Immigration: First off, we’re a shrinking and aging state. The job issue in Maine is a Catch 22–We need jobs, but jobs won’t come to Maine or be created without a viable work force…And a lot of our kids leave as soon as they graduate. Most immigrants are not terrorists. Many have skills and a desire to embrace the American dream. There is also a big difference between spending money and investing it. I believe that inviting immigrants, subsidizing their acclimation and helping them get a job skill will pay off big time in the future. It will allow vacant houses to be restored, add to property taxes and increase a shrinking school population.
7-LBGTQ rights: I’m a very strong supporter of equal rights and treatment for every and any person regardless of race, color, creed or gender orientation.
More coming as the campaign progresses.