When love comes to town

Daniel Parenteau

Daniel Parenteau

And, they’re off!

The 2015 municipal election season in Biddeford has started with a bang, according to this story from the Portland Press Herald.

As someone who has worked professionally on local, statewide and federal campaigns over the last several years, I find all of this somewhat fascinating.

I have been covering Biddeford’s political landscape for nearly two decades, both as former newspaper editor and now as a blogger. I have witnessed more political maneuvering on this side of the Saco River than you can imagine.

But this year’s races are a bit different. There is a groundswell of opinion that says Biddeford needs a clean sweep, from the mayor’s seat all the way down to ward clerks and wardens.

So, because I am a political junkie and a Biddeford native, you can expect me to be keeping a close eye on the developments of these races between now and Election Day.

Today, we start with the race for the mayor’s seat, where two-term incumbent Alan Casavant is facing potential challenges from at least three candidates, including Daniel Parenteau, a self-employed consultant.

As I pointed out previously, this is not Parenteau’s first bid for political office.

Two years ago, Parenteau was one of six candidates for the city’s two at-large city council seats.

He finished in last place with 805 votes, despite support he received from Casavant.

To kick off his campaign, Parenteau has followed Casavant’s lead by creating a Facebook page.

But Parenteau has also gone a step further, deploying a campaign tactic that we generally see reserved for larger-scale campaigns, such as Congressional races.

According to his Facebook page, Parenteau will be conducting a “working tour” of the city. He will spend a few hours every week, working for free at a locally-owned business as a way to connect with voters.

On Friday, Parenteau was stocking shelves at Ray’s Market on the western side of the city.

This, to my knowledge, is a first in Biddeford campaigns.

Parenteau, who talks a lot about being innovative and connected to every day citizens, is putting those ideas into action. His campaign is being innovative, and he is connecting to people at the grassroots level.

It’s a brilliant strategy that positions him as a “man of the people.”

In his last two campaigns, Mayor Casavant used campaign events to collect food for local food pantries. At the time, it was a well-received move that showed Casavant understood the needs of the people.

Today, Casavant’s detractors paint him as a man who is “out of touch with the community.

Speaking of Casavant, the mayor has yet to take out nomination papers, leading some to question whether he will actually seek a third term.

It’s still very early in the process, and most voters — other than the political junkies and those with an axe to grind — will not begin paying too much attention to any of the campaigns until after Labor Day….summer in Maine is just too short.

But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be an interesting political season Biddeford.

 

 

 

Dog Day Afternoon

State Sen. David Dutremble

State Sen. David Dutremble

Like everyone else in Biddeford, State senator David Dutremble is troubled by the allegations of child sexual abuse that has roiled this city for the past several weeks.

On June 23, Dutremble wrote on Facebook: “The more we dig, the sicker I become with my city!!”

https://www.facebook.com/#!/ddutremble/posts/10153347027281590?pnref=story

I called him out on that post because he is indicting the entire city for allegations that primarily focus on two former police officers.

Perhaps Dutremble is upset with the city council that voted 6-2 not to suspend the police chief and deputy police chief.

Perhaps he envies Mayor Alan Casavant’s strong popular support.

Perhaps he is angry with the police chief or the deputy police chief, even though Maine’s Attorney General says they have taken all the right steps during the ongoing investigation.

But one thing is for sure: Dutremble won’t attack the reputation of his employer, the city’s fire department.

His disgust is selective, despite a recent post on the Portland Press Herald’s Facebook page in which a Biddeford man alleged that a “senior fire department official” attempted to molest him when he was a teenager.

Joey GWhere was the outrage? Where was the investigation, the calls for senior members of the fire department to step aside during an investigation? There was none of that. Dutremble was silent.

But he has been very vocal, and has repeatedly expressed his indignation with the Biddeford City Council for doing “nothing” to help the cause of “justice” for the community.

From the council chamber’s podium, Dutremble has expressed outrage and contempt toward the council. And he promised, he would get something done in Augusta.

A career firefighter, Dutremble is by all accounts a good city employee, But a careful look at the legislative session that will soon end calls into serious question his abilities as a legislator.

Who let the dogs out?

Earlier this year, Dutremble introduced a bill (L.D. 107) to name the Labrador retriever as the official state dog. State Rep. William Tuell of East Machias described L.D. 107 as “a waste of time.”

An Arundel dog breeder agreed with Tuell, telling the Portland Press Herald that, “It is stupid. There are so many other issues.”

The Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government quickly killed the bill by a vote of 9-3.

Although Dutremble was not able to pass the dog bill, a new group of his supporters expected him to deliver the goods on a topic about which he has been extremely vocal: the alleged sexual abuse of minors by former members of the Biddeford Police Department.

Now bear in mind, there is no love lost between the city’s police and fire departments.

For the past several months, alleged victim Matt Lauzon has spearheaded the issue of child sexual abuse by two former police officers, and he has been effusive in his praise of Dutremble, at every social media opportunity calling him “courageous” and a “hero.”

It appeared as though Lauzon had found his ideal champion, and that Dutremble had found his ideal cause. Lots of TV cameras, and how can you go wrong trying to help victims of sexual abuse?

The controversy held great promise to cement Dutremble’s reputation as a take-charge legislator who gets things done.

The senator comes out swinging

Dutremble seemed to get off to a very fast start. On May 7, Bangor Daily News reporter Beth Brogan wrote that Dutremble’s legislative staff was “already investigating the existing law and possible changes.”

Lauzon kept the community updated on Dutremble’s progress via Facebook, making it clear that thanks to the senator, Lauzon was meeting in Augusta with the leadership of the Legislature, and that legislative action would be forthcoming very soon.

Each of Lauzon’s admiring Facebook posts about Dutremble seemed to bring an immediate Facebook “Like” from the take-charge and image conscious senator.

There was even a very high profile meeting with Governor LePage on May 12, once again covered by all the TV stations and the state’s biggest newspapers. Pretty heady stuff. Dutremble’s momentum seemed unstoppable.

On May 19, Dutremble confidently strode into a Biddeford City Council meeting, and he was visibly seething. He wasted no time reprimanding the mayor and council for their pitifully poor job performance. It was very theatrical and dramatic. At the same time, he portrayed himself as a bold, decisive leader.

“In regard to state level assistance, I am working, and looking into the best avenue for an independent investigation of the Biddeford Police Department,” he told the council.

While grabbing headlines and severely scolding city officials, Dutremble’s star seemed to be shining very brightly. In fact, one of Lauzon’s staunchest supporters enthusiastically told a city official — in no uncertain terms — that the senator was working hard on a joint resolution from both the Maine Senate and the Maine House of Representatives.

This resolution would enjoy near unanimous support in both chambers of the legislature, the resident bragged. It would call on Attorney General Janet Mills to step away from the investigation of the Biddeford Police Department, and to let the Maine State Police take over the investigation.

With Dutremble having taken charge, the AG’s office would be kicked off the case. Wow, that’s pretty impressive legislative clout.

Bad news for Dutremble

In most cases when nothing happens, that’s not news. But this particular “nothing” will indeed be news in Biddeford.

As of Monday, Dutremble had filed neither a bill nor a resolution. In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Dutremble stated that he was not working on a bill, but rather a “letter.”

letter

A letter to whom?

Hard to believe. After going out on a limb just about as far as you can go, the Maine Legislature will soon recess for the summer and Senator David Dutremble will tiptoe back into town completely empty-handed.

When I first heard about the potential joint resolution a few weeks ago, a colleague of mine called a media person who is wise to all that goes on in Augusta. The reporter literally burst out laughing and said, “That’ll never happen.”

The same colleague has access to a direct line into the Governor’s office, and into the leadership of the Maine State Senate. Calls were made to see how much progress the senator’s resolution had made, and the response from this staffer was shocking.

“Yeah, we’ve heard rumblings that Dutremble is interested in this issue, but nobody’s seen anything in writing,” the staffer said. “Nothing exists, not even a bill summary or just a title. One thing’s for sure, nobody’s touching that with a 10-foot pole.”

Nothing in writing? How could that be?

Biddeford’s senator had repeatedly chastised the mayor and city council in public for “doing nothing,” but he never filed a bill? Not even a bill summary or even a simple bill title?

What about the resolution — that was never in writing, either?

Now, it is possible that Dutremble has spent weeks working on a letter, but another electronic records search was completed by the Governor’s office and Senate staff just two days ago, and that yielded no results. There’s no record of anything having to do with a joint resolution and Senator David Dutremble.

To the likes of Lauzon and his supporters, it must be incomprehensible that Dutremble utterly failed to produce. But to those who understand the basic rules of politics, Dutremble’s shockingly elementary mistakes explain everything.

A failure to communicate

David Dutremble is a state senator. You’d think he’d be astute enough to know that his party is in a life and death struggle, if not with the Republicans, then certainly with Republican Governor Paul LePage.

The Attorney General, Janet Mills, is a high profile Democrat. She and LePage have been in an ugly war on any number of issues. Their battles litter the landscape to such an extent that it’s no exaggeration to say Mills and LePage may be the two most bitter political enemies in Maine.

The only politician in Maine seemingly unaware of this conflict is David Dutremble.

Dutremble apparently thought it was okay to approach Democratic legislative leaders to help pass a resolution that would hand the Democrats a huge political defeat, and hand the governor a huge political victory.

Think about it. Dutremble’s resolution would have removed Mills from an important investigation (thereby calling into question her competence in all investigations). The Governor could take the credit for showing leadership by having the meeting with Lauzon, and the resolution — approved by most Democrats — would give the governor valuable ammo in his continuing claim that Mills is unfit to be AG.

There is no way that any resolution or bill was ever going to be passed, or even brought to the floor of either chamber. It was never going to see the light of day.

Senator Dutremble’s unsophisticated legislative idea painfully illustrated his lack of understanding of how things work in Augusta.

Playing checkers, not chess

Matt Lauzon’s meeting with LePage took place well before the “news” surfaced that Dutremble would get near unanimous support for his bipartisan resolution.

It remains unclear what role Dutremble played in arranging Lauzon’s meeting with LePage. Maybe it was a large role, maybe it was miniscule, but one thing about the meeting is crystal clear: The governor barred Dutremble from attending.

At the time, Dutremble’s naïve supporters were jubilant that the meeting with the governor had taken place. They thought they were on their way to “justice.” All they had to do was keep following Senator Dutremble.

Nobody seemed worried that LePage had barred Dutremble from the meeting. None of them, including Dutremble, seemed to understand the significance of what had transpired. None of them seemed to understand that the Governor and the legislative leaders were playing chess, while Dutremble and some of Lauzon’s supporters were playing checkers.

None of them apparently even considered the idea that LePage gladly took full advantage of a political freebie, personally gift-wrapped by Dutremble.

The governor was able to embarrass a Democratic senator, take another shot at the AG, express concern about sexual abuse and bask in the resulting media coverage — all in one neat little package.

Oblivious, Dutremble pressed on, “crafting” the near-unanimous resolution that seems not to have been written, the non-resolution he promised a trusting constituent was right around the corner.

Outside, looking in

Thanks to his clumsiness during this legislative session, David Dutremble is now on the outside looking in, and that position is probably permanent.

In Augusta, memories are long.

Dutremble’s repeated calls to get the AG’s office “off the case” in Biddeford was a major political faux pas, and the total cost of that mistake to his full constituency is yet to be calculated.

One certain cost is the people of Biddeford now have less influence because Dutremble now has zero influence. That’s a price we all pay.

But the senator also failed to see that in trying to pass this ill-fated legislation, his reputation is now directly tied to the reputation of the man whose cause he has decided to champion.

Every time Dutremble walks into a room to talk about sexual abuse — whether in Biddeford or in Augusta — he is now equated with Matt Lauzon. They are one and the same.

Unfortunately, while Dutremble was plotting to get unanimous support for his resolution, Lauzon and his supporters were running amok on social media and in public meetings.

Word gets around, even in Augusta

Despite many claims that he’s about to go “professional,” Lauzon keeps acting like a junior high school kid.

At a forum hosted by Dutremble, Lauzon publicly speculated that the Biddeford police chief had had homosexual relations with a current police commissioner, and with a former police officer.

Lauzon also intimated that the chief had participated in group sex. He intimated that a Maine district judge had a homosexual relationship with Biddeford’s mayor. He publicly speculated that Biddeford’s mayor, a former teacher at the city’s high school, had slept with his students.

One of Lauzon’s supporters came to a city council meeting, and in the most foul, graphic and detestable street language, proclaimed from the podium his certainty that Biddeford’s mayor and police chief currently and frequently engage in oral sex.

Similar examples of Lauzon’s “dialogue” are legion, but it sickens the stomach to list each instance. And each instance has been a costly chink in Dutremble’s armor.

No matter how valid the cause, no bill will ever be passed in Augusta with proponents who carry themselves in such a fashion.

Matt Lauzon (far left) taunts and tries to distract Mayor Alan Casavant during a press conference.

Matt Lauzon (far left) taunts and tries to distract Mayor Alan Casavant during a press conference.

After one city council meeting, as the mayor was being interviewed by television reporters, Lauzon ducked and hid behind the cameras, popping out like a jack-in-the-box to make faces at Casavant as he answered questions.

Absolutely no filter or maturity. Absolutely no decorum and common decency, and absolutely no common sense.

Unfortunately, to the detriment of a very serious issue that deserves sober and mature discussion, Lauzon and some of his supporters keep shooting themselves in the foot, over and over again, inflicting more and more damage on Dutremble’s political reputation and, more importantly, the pending investigation by Maine’s attorney general.

Not understanding that word gets around, and that the media and many others are completely appalled by the crass and boorish social media dialogue that Lauzon has been fomenting, the senator finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

He can’t turn back now, and Lauzon’s posse has proven that it cannot change its stripes. They, and their behavior, will determine Dutremble’s political future.

One new law, and it isn’t Dutremble’s

It is clear that on the issue of sexual abuse, Biddeford’s senator accomplished absolutely nothing in this legislative session.

Meanwhile, early in the process, Biddeford’s city council asked Dutremble to file emergency legislation that would ease state restrictions on discussing an ongoing criminal investigation.

He didn’t do it.

The city council also asked him to file emergency legislation that would keep convicted pedophiles from living too close to public parks and playgrounds where young children congregate.

He didn’t do it.

And there’s no record of his introducing a joint resolution that supposedly was going to be almost unanimous.

So, what did he do?

He repeatedly berated Biddeford’s mayor and city council for “doing nothing.” Apparently he didn’t notice that Biddeford passed a new ordinance that bars convicted pedophiles from living within 750 feet of a public park or playground where young children congregate. It’s now the law in Biddeford.

Meanwhile, Dutremble’s wife announced that her husband had allowed her to read all the victim statements he has collected, the same confidential victim statements he has refused to hand over to the Attorney General’s office, thereby raising the legitimate question of whether he is impeding an ongoing criminal investigation.

Apparently, Dutremble believes that Attorney General Mills is either incompetent or not trustworthy.

Senator Dutremble doesn’t get to introduce new bills Augusta until next January, and his joint resolution will again have no chance.

One thing’s for sure, with the Legislature almost recessed and his opportunity to make a difference having completely evaporated, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes to the next city council meeting to condemn and berate the mayor and council for not doing enough in their positions as servants to the citizens of Biddeford.

And remember Dutremble’s own words: he is “sick” with his city, which begs the question why would he want to represent us in Augusta?

Considering the situation, Dutremble should be applauded for his desire to get something done. He wanted to do a good deed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But criticizing the council for “doing nothing” and coming home from Augusta with nothing makes him a hypocrite.

Even more disturbing is the idea that Dutremble’s fumble likely impeded the process of justice now being reviewed by the attorney general’s office. It is a lose-lose situation.

David Dutremble is an exemplary city employee but, regrettably, he is proving to be a legislator who can’t get anything done.

As citizens who have been paying close attention to this explosive issue, and considering Dutremble’s lofty proclamations, an explanation from the senator is the very least we deserve.

 

Send in the clowns

donald-trumpSome 48 hours before Donald Trump “officially” announced his candidacy for president on Tuesday, I posted a quip on Facebook that I would be seeking the mayor’s seat in Biddeford.

The idea was jokingly bantered about while Mayor Alan Casavant was attending a party at my home. (Full disclosure: Casavant is serious about seeking a third term, and I support him.)

But my announcement was never intended to be serious.

For starters, I have absolutely no business running for any elected office. I can barely manage my own life, as detailed here.

While my Facebook quip generated some buzz, lots of positive comments and even comments from people willing to help my “campaign,” it was, again, a sarcastic joke.

Now that I think about it, my announcement was actually much less a joke than Trump’s escalator event on Tuesday; and many of us are left to wonder if he is truly serious or just seeking some more attention to further inflate his own ego.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/randy.seaver.3/posts/10204495391008046

Consider for a moment what Trump laid out as his agenda before a group of New York City tourists, some mentally deranged followers and a gaggle of reporters.

He hit all the hot-button topics: immigration, saying we will be build a massive wall between the United States and Mexico. How will we pay for it? Trump said he wold force Mexico to foot the tab through higher tariffs on their imports.

Umm, this is a direct violation of the North American Free Trade Act.

Trumped bragged about his wealth, pointing to what he estimates at a net worth of nearly $9 billion.

He pontificated about his fantastic business career. But riddle me this, how does a man who has filed four bankruptcies amass a fortune of $9 billion, much less describe himself as a savvy businessman? Has he directed any of his fortune to settling old debts with his creditors?

Trump says he will make America strong again, a nice talking point, but one best left for dictators.

For my friends on the right who criticize President Obama for a slew of Executive Actions; the Donald listed out more than a dozen executive actions he would take if elected.

Perhaps he’s been in his mahogany-paneled boardroom so long that he has forgotten the president must work with 535 pesky members of Congress.

Congress controls the purse strings, not The Donald.

More importantly, can Trump’s ego handle the bruising? How will he react when he comes in second, third or tenth in the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary?

Sure, Donald has a certain appeal, and he’s good at tapping into America’s growing resentment against the rest of the world. He excels at fear mongering, but he is anything but a serious presidential candidate.

And who do we blame for this phenomena? This perverse distraction?

Look in the mirror. The vast and overwhelming majority of registered voters don’t cast ballots; we leave that to the partisan fringes, where emotion so often “trumps” logic.

We are a nation more concerned about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner; television shows like Honey Boo-Boo, the tribulations of the Duggar family, American Idol and Big Brother.

We are a nation addicted to bread and circuses. Is it any wonder that we have sent in the clowns to run the country?

Donald Trump has no business running for president. I have no business running for mayor of Biddeford. The difference between us is that one of us knows a joke when we see it.

Why I am a Republican

Republicanlogo_svgFrom time to time, my friends on the other side of the political aisle ask me why I choose to be a registered Republican.

As the 114th Congress begins to ramp up, and because the debate between “true conservatives” and “mainstream moderates’ in the Republican Party once again manifested itself during the selection of House Speaker John Boehner a few days ago, I thought this would be a good time to explain why I am a Republican.

My friends in the Democratic Party do not understand my political preference. Republicans, they say, favor corporate interest over the individual. Republicans, they say, are opposed to marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.

Because I am a moderate who supports both marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose, some of my friends (on both sides of the political aisle) wonder why I would choose to be a member of the Grand Old Party (GOP).

Before we proceed, please note that this post is entitled: Why I am a Republican, not why you should be a Republican.

It should also be noted that I do not speak for my party, and I acknowledge that my views often cause other Republicans to label me as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Maybe it’s because I am stubborn, or maybe it’s because I am a born contrarian, but I really think my allegiance to the Republican Party (although at times embarrassing) has to do with some fundamental core differences between Republicans and Democrats.

I am also emboldened by the statements and core beliefs of President Ronald Reagan that “there is room in our tent for many views.”

Generally speaking, Republicans believe that each person is responsible for his or her own place in society, while Democrats believe it is the responsibility of government to care for all individuals, even if it means giving up some individual rights.

Generally speaking, Democrats favor the centralization of power in Washington, D.C., while Republicans hold dear the 10th Amendment, which calls for limited federal authority and rights not specified in the Constitution be reserved for the states.

On these two core values, I strongly side with the GOP. While I believe some measure of federal regulation, whether it’s the FAA or even meat inspectors at the FDA, is absolutely necessary for the common good, I also believe in the virtue of a limited federal government and the decentralization of power.

In a true Democracy, the majority trumps the minority. In a Constitutional republic, the rights of the individual, even in the minority, cannot be trumped by the majority. In the United States, we adhere a to a delicate balance between these two types of government. (The latter being intended to thwart tyranny, which can include government overreach.)

The case for and against the GOP

Of course, there are times when I find myself at odds with my own party, but after reviewing the 2014 Maine GOP Party platform, it became quickly evident that I more often side with Republicans than Democrats.

For example, one tenet of the Maine GOP platform addresses immigration, saying we “Support the assimilation of legal immigrants into Maine society.”

Another: “The profits of an individual’s efforts and accumulation of private property belong to the individual.”

More:  “Implement a comprehensive energy policy that removes government obstacles and reduces the cost of energy for Maine families and businesses.”

“Welfare is a safety-net for Maine’s most vulnerable”

“Parents – not government – are most capable and responsible to make decisions in the best interest of their minor children, including medical, disciplinary and educational decision.”

There are many others, and you can read the full text here.

Although I agree with the majority of the Maine GOP’s platform, there some key places where we part ways, including language regarding abortion, the definition of marriage and calling for the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, among a few others.

The case for and against Democrats

In fairness, I also reviewed the Maine Democratic Party’s 2014 platform.  2014 MDP Platform

I found myself at odds with a majority of the tenets contained in that platform, including the nice-sounding but ill-advised “livable wage,” and increasing the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage does not, in my opinion, “lift people out of poverty” rather it simply adjusts the height of the floor and removes incentive to advance.

The Maine Democratic Party believes that health care is a “fundamental human right.’ this logic is flawed because a “right” is not something that must be provided by obligation from another person or entity. “Rights” do not come with costs, and someone has to be paid to provide healthcare, whether it’s skilled nursing, facilities or medical equipment. For more of my thoughts on this topic, go here.

Democrats also support the ill-advised concept of so-called “net neutrality,” as if the government needs to be involved in regulating the internet. For more of my thoughts on this topic, go here.

The Maine Democratic Party opposes tort reform, a giant gift to trial lawyers and a sure-fire way to drive up costs in the private sector.

The Democrats also favor increasing the number of terms that a legislator can serve. Frankly, I think eight years is plenty and we don’t need professional politicians in Augusta.

The opposing party also opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, a project I vigorously support. (Pipelines are much safer than trains; and that oil will be shipped one way or another)

The Democrats also believe that a greater portion of tax revenues should come from the income tax, calling sales taxes regressive. I believe the exact opposite.

Democrats believe it is “appropriate to impose higher taxes on sin taxes. I smoke cigarettes and drink beer. Enough said.

Among many other things, Democrats believe that government pensions should be exempt from income taxes. As the spouse of a government worker, I concede that my opposition to this is not self-serving. Then again, I think we should all strive to be a bit less “self-serving.”

Now, I do find myself in agreement with many of the Democrats core principles, but I am also wary of the feel-good language and the dangers of good intentions. Democrats support workplace safety, a strong education system, marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.

So, in the end there are inherent strengths and weaknesses in each party.

But when I do the math, it turn out that I am a Republican, even if in name only.

 

 

 

 

 

A hidden message

Maine_Capitol_Building_ba9aaba7950196e822e4_1My friend Alan Caron has some sage advice that each and every newly elected member of the Maine Legislature should read.

Alan’s column regulary appears in the Portland Press Herald, and an excerpt of his latest piece  ( Last election had a hidden message for Maine’s leaders) can be found here:

“Given the many challenges Maine faces today, nothing is more critical to our future than a nonpartisan, commonsense economic plan.

We’re a small state with limited dollars that’s in bad need of new economic energy. We spend more on government, as a percentage of our incomes, than just about any other rural state in America.”

If you want to read the full piece, you can find it here.

Just another new kid in town

Nate Wadsworth

Nate Wadsworth

Last week, I introduced two new legislators who are both Democrats from Biddeford.This week, we take a trip to the other side of the political aisle and the town of Cornish to meet Nathan Wadsworth, a young man who has been an acquaintance of mine for almost a decade. Nathan’s father, Jack, owns and operates Wasdsworth Woodlands, a family owned and operated company. I first met Nate and his dad while working various stints in the Natural Resources Building at the Fryeburg Fair year.

Now, the younger Wadsworth will be spending much of his time in Augusta as yet another rookie legislator.

He was gracious enough to answer my short survey about his hopes and goals for the next legislative session.

What are your top three priorities as a freshman legislator?

1) Vote for our economy first, especially any legislation affecting jobs, growth and taxes

2) be visible with my new constituents by attending functions in my five towns.

3) figure out how I can help best.

What is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?

Currently, our economy is the biggest issue facing [the state]. The governor has brought us back from the abyss but there is still a lot more work to do.

What, if anything, can the Legislature do about it?

The legislature can do a lot about this issue with bills focused around tax relief, energy policy and job growth.

Do you support limiting the number of bills that a legislator can submit during a session?
I’m new to the process here so I’m not sure if the number of bills need to be limited. I do know if someone has 30 bills they internalize those costs by trying to promote all of them and it would be a difficult job. If were still in session in July then I will probably say there should be a limit.

How important will bipartanship be during the upcoming session?

Cooperation is going to be everything with a very evenly divided legislature. I have libertarian leanings so I should be able to find common ground with the other side of the aisle.

 

We were only freshmen

Democrats in Maine and across the country took a drubbing during last week’s elections, but there were a few bright spots, including the city of Biddeford, where State Senator David Dutremble easily fended off a challenge by Republican James Booth; and where two political newcomers held their party’s seats in the Maine Legislature.

In fairness, it’s not especially hard for Democrats to win elections in Biddeford.

In the western part of the city, voters overwhelming chose Ryan Fecteau over Republican Debbie Davis to represent them in the House of Representatives, holding the seat that is currently occupied by Democrat Paulette Beaudoin, who was barred from running again by term limits.

And Democrat Martin Grohman easily won a three-way race in the central part of the city to hold onto the seat that is now held by Megan Rochelo.

Fecteau and Grohman will both be sworn into office in December, joining several other freshman legislators from both sides of the political aisle.

We asked Fecteau and Grohman to tell us about their priorities. The following are their un-edited e-mail responses.

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

What are your top three priorities heading into your freshman year?

1. Focusing on ways to encourage and support the return of young people to Maine and also retain those that are still living here/going to school here.
2. Pulling Maine out of nearly dead last (currently 49th) as it concerns homes heated by natural gas (only 4 percent of Maine households) – careful attention to seniors who are especially vulnerable of fluctuating energy costs.
3. Pushing to fund education at 55 percent as mandated by voters. Currently, the failure to meet this mandate pushes the burden to the hyper-local level: property tax payers.
What do you think is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?
Losing young people and families to neighboring states. Thus losing a skilled work force (in turn deterring businesses from locating here), future entrepreneurs, innovators, and a means to expanding the tax base.
What can the Legislature do, if anything, about that issue? 
We must set ourselves from neighboring states by providing incentive to move to Maine. Whether it be a program to assist in paying off student loan debt or creating /funding incubators for the creation of start-ups, the programs must be aggressively advertised across the country. Young people are burdened by student loan debt, they are mobile, and they are looking for opportunities!
Would you favorably consider a bill that would limit the number of bills a legislator could introduce?
I am not sure. Have not experienced or heard of any troubles with the number of bills introduced. The length of the legislative session is obviously a tight window for presenting and passing legislation; it would seem understandable for there to be a density of legislation despite the number of legislators. More focused on legislation that will positively impact people.
How important is bipartisan cooperation going to be during the next session?
It will be critical. Folks did not cast votes on Tuesday for gridlock; they voted their frustrations. They want results. A do-nothing legislature, gridlocked by partisanship, will not deliver the results that people are looking for. We need legislative leadership from both parties who are willing to work together for the best interests of Mainers.

Martin Grohman

Marin Grohman

Marin Grohman

What are your top three priorities heading into your freshman year?

Probably just to do the best job I can to represent Biddeford well.  Residents are interested in property tax relief, road and bridge infrastructure, and education.  And of course I’m a business guy – I want to see businesses grow, careers grow.

What do you think is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?
I’m really interested in expanding access to health care.  Let’s think about a hypothetical parent, a single parent, mother of four, let’s call her Linda Smith.  Now if we cut her off of health care, you might think we’ve saved the State money.  But if she shows up at the ER, one of her kids shows up at the ER, we’re all going to pay for that one way or the other.  And in a world of epidemics and communicable viruses like Ebola, I don’t think having sick people without access to health care is going to work.  Plus, denying access to health care for ideological reasons just doesn’t make business sense to me – as I said, I’m a business guy.  Anyone in the health care business will tell you getting ahead of the problem saves money.
What can the Legislature do, if anything, about that issue? 
Man, I have no idea!
Would you favorably consider a bill that would limit the number of bills a legislator could introduce?
Probably not – I’d have to study it.  I think coming up with rules and regulations in reaction to a single case or a moment in time tends to cause problems.  But I’m willing to listen.
How important is bipartisan cooperation going to be during the next session?
Look, I’m new.  I’m a rookie.  I’ve served on a lot of boards, done some fairly high level stuff, national, international.  But I’ll have to learn the ropes.  That said, I kind of doubt I’ll just cast every vote along party lines, and hopefully my colleagues will value my viewpoint as I value theirs.