Both candidates for House District 54 are disappointed by attack ads in their race, but there’s a twist.
They’re more upset with their own parties for criticizing their opponents than the attacks lobbed against them, they said.
Republican incumbent Susan Morissette, 43, faces Democratic challenger Catherine Nadeau, 54, to represent Winslow and part of Benton. Morissette, who has served one term in the House, is running on a record of fighting prescription drug abuse, strengthening domestic violence laws and an effort to curb bullying. Nadeau, a longtime town councilor in Winslow, has made education the cornerstone of her campaign.
Both candidates have been attacked through postcards and mailers, but neither one of them had anything to do with it, they said. The mailers originate from the state-level political parties.
Morrissette knew she would be the subject of attacks this year because she’s the incumbent and she was prepared for them, “but when I saw stuff coming out about my opponent it made me angry, because it’s my campaign and I don’t play like that.”
One attack is particularly off base, both candidates said. A postcard from the Maine Republican Party targeting Nadeau features a photograph that was copied from Nadeau’s Facebook page, but isn’t her.
“It’s my cousin,” Nadeau said of the erroneous image. “She doesn’t even live in Maine.”
Nadeau said that her party has also mailed ads attacking Morissette, but she wishes the Democrats hadn’t.
“That’s not me,” she said. “That’s not what I’m about.”
Instead, both candidates said they have a bipartisan outlook.
Morissette is not a fan of “nasty politics.” She identifies as a Republican, but she views herself as a Winslow resident foremost, she said.
“You run as a party, but when you get in there, you have to represent your towns,” she said. “There are hard decisions that you make, but the bottom line is taking care of your district.”
During her two years at the State House, several big news stories out of Winslow and the region were cause for action, Morissette said. In June 2011, domestic violence on Marie Street led to a murder and suicide. That same summer, the synthetic drug “bath salts” was rampant in central Maine. Then, in April, a pharmacy in Winslow was robbed of prescription opiates, amid a record number of similar robberies statewide. The robbery shook Morissette, who is the only state representative to serve on Maine’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force.
“I visit the Rite Aid in Winslow on a regular basis, and many times I have my kids with me. The thought that they were robbed for opiates in the middle of the day, with our neighbors of all age groups in the store, it blew me away,” she said.
As a member of the task force, Morissette serves as chairwoman on the Diversion Alert subcommittee, which provides information to health care professionals to help them determine whether patients are legitimately in need of controlled substance prescriptions, according to the state website.
During the height of the bath salts epidemic, Morissette said, she worked to ban the drug through emergency legislation. In the wake of Winslow’s murder, she also worked toward the creation and passage of four laws to protect victims of domestic violence.
If re-elected, Morissette will continue working on an anti-bullying bill that hasn’t been voted on yet, she said.
Nadeau pledges to work in a bipartisan fashion if elected to the State House.
“You need to vote with your heart. You don’t need to vote with your party,” she said. “I plan to look at two sides of each issue; I plan to do my homework before I vote on something.”
While most candidates are focused the economy, Nadeau said she’s taking her campaign pitch outside the box.
“Everyone wants to hear about jobs and the economy, but education is really where we’re being hit,” she said.
Nadeau said the crux of the issue is the state’s requirement to pay 55 percent of school funding within each district — a requirement the state government has failed to meet.
“I don’t mind paying my fair share for the school through my taxes, but I want the state to pay its fair share,” she said.
Nadeau believes that teacher positions and core educational programs are threatened by lagging school budgets, and public education is ultimately the key to a strong economy. Schools need to develop a well-trained workforce and state colleges need to help students find job placements, she said.
Nadeau has served on the Winslow Town Council for 10 years. Before that, she served on the town’s zoning board for 10 years. Nadeau is also an outspoken critic against consumer fireworks, which became legal in Maine on Jan. 1. She serves on a safety committee that has proposed limiting fireworks use in Winslow to weekends and holidays, and restricting their use to properties greater than an acre. The council tabled the proposal in August.
Nadeau said there’s a simple reason behind her bid for the State House.
“I want to bring Winslow’s voice down to Augusta. I want to protect our fragile town. That’s my main goal,” she said.
Ben McCanna — 861-9239