Hopefuls for Maine Senate District Seat 25 and House District 67 faced off at a moderated candidates’ forum in Gray on Tuesday. Sponsored by Gray Community Television Channel 2, the forum was moderated by volunteer Brad Fogg who provided questions in advance and solicited audience questions that night.
Susan Austin and Bonnie Titcomb Lewis are vying for the house seat for District 67 that covers most of Gray, all of Frye Island and portions of Raymond and Casco.
In her introduction, Lewis shared that she served eight years in the Maine Senate in the 1980s, explaining that she was inspired to get involved when Citizens Against Nuclear Trash (CANT) was founded to fight a proposal to store the nation’s nuclear waste in canisters underground in the Sebago Lakes Region. After several years in the private sector, she hopes to return to public service, commenting on her website, “I am a Democrat. You might be a Republican or a Green or an Independent. Although we might carry different party banners, I, too, love my country — as much as any other citizen, and while I often vehemently disagree with the governmental “powers that be”, I refuse to use my differences of opinion to cause harm to the institution that allows me the privilege to dissent.”
Susan Austin served in the State House for eight years until fulfilling the term limit in 2010. She introduced herself as a lifelong Gray resident whose commitment to family and the community inspired her into public service. She explained that in addition to her work in the House, she has been very involved with the Liberty Family Foundation, Crystal Lake Ice Fishing Derby, the Gray New Gloucester Optimists, and most recently was one of the founders of “She Leads”, an organization to inspire, educate and encourage women to seek public office.
The two women fielded questions about individual challenges to towns within the district, how to create jobs, welfare to undocumented citizens and photos on EBT cards. Ultimately both agreed that creating jobs and nurturing businesses are some of their primary concerns, however, their approach to attaining those goals differ.
District 25 Senate candidates Cathy Breen and Cathy Manchester followed Austin and Lewis. In addition to Gray, the district includes Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Long Island and part of Westbrook.
Breen has served for six years on the Falmouth Town Council and touted her ability to work cooperatively to achieve practical solutions to issues. She noted that the Falmouth municipal portion of the budget was flat during a good portion of her tenure there and that it only increased due to school and county assessments. She felt that her greatest accomplishment on the Falmouth Council was the crafting and ultimate enactment of the Land Acquisition Referendum. The referendum served to preserve the long range vision for the town to control sprawl through land conservation and planning.
Manchester, in her introduction, noted her tenure on the Gray Town Council, her distinction as the first female police chief in the State of Maine, and her long history of entrepreneurship and work ethic. She has owned and operated a Keller Williams franchise in Gray since 2003. As she explained her desire to encourage job growth and the necessary skilled workforce, she emphasized, “I know what it’s like to meet payroll every week.”
The women fielded an array of questions reflective of the ones posed to the House candidates, and again agreed that the economy, health care and education are critical issues for the state. As one might expect their methods to address the issues do differ, however both indicated that the partisan polarization needs to stop and that they would both work toward that end if elected.
In closing, Breen shared her three priorities: A strong economy, world class schools and quality affordable health care. Manchester emphasized that she has no agenda other than to serve the citizens of the district with a philosophy of, “Listen, work, care.”
Due to a scheduling conflict, the forum for District 45 candidates Mike Timmons and Dale Denno had to be postponed to a future date. Tuesday’s forum will be rebroadcast on GCTV @ in Gray, visit www.graymaine.org for the schedule or contact Town Hall at 657-3339.
Over the next several weeks, The Windham Eagle will be conducting and publishing interviews with all the candidates who are vying for seats to represent Windham, Raymond, Gray and New Gloucester, so stay tuned.