The two men vying to be the Republican candidate for the House District 83 race in hopes of unseating a first-time Democratic legislator are both first-time candidates themselves.
Curtis Ayotte, 34, of Farmingdale, is chairman of the Kennebec County Republican Committee and a full-time student at the University of Maine at Augusta. Scott Williams, 21, is a city councilor in his hometown of Gardiner.
The winner of the June primary will face Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, for the seat, formerly known as District 59, representing Gardiner and Farmingdale. Redistricting last year swapped Randolph for Farmingdale.
Williams said one of the most important issues facing municipalities and the state is the reduction in revenue sharing. Gov. Paul LePage last year proposed eliminate revenue sharing, which provides municipalities with part of the sale revenue brought in by the state. The Legislature ended up only cutting it by a third, but the reduction results in additional budget cuts or property tax increases on the local level.
In Gardiner, the city manager proposed a city budget for next year that would increase taxes by 5 percent, and the anticipated school budget would bring the total tax hike to 7.5 percent. If the state funded the full amount of revenue sharing it’s supposed to, the proposed city budget wouldn’t increase taxes.
Ayotte said he doesn’t yet know if he would support restoring revenue sharing, but he would be in favor of the amount being more stable.
“It’s just shifting cost one way or the other. There’s no benefit to seeing it shift back and forth like that,” he said.
Williams, who described himself as moderate, said he would like to see more funding for roads and education, but he doesn’t thing more money for schools is the answer. “I think the entire way we go about teaching kids need to be revised,” he said.
Williams said the Common Core Standards, educational benchmarks in reading, writing and math that have been adopted by 45 states, including Maine, is one of the problems with the education. He said it doesn’t make sense and is far too complicated.
Ayotte, who served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army, said he wants to be a champion for not just the district but also for all veterans. He said he would have supported the bill last year allowing military recruiters to wear uniforms in schools, a bill that was initially opposed by most Democrats. A similar bill became law this year.
Ayotte said he think the state has to do a better job of finding ways to cut the budget without harming services. As an example, Ayotte said he’s seen things being sold at state surplus auctions that could be repaired, such as tables with missing legs that could be replaced by other tables being sold.
The two candidates differ on one of the major issue in the last legislative session — whether to expand Medicaid in the state with federal funds. Multiple attempts to expand MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, fell short, including a compromise bill from Republican Sens. Roger Katz and Tom Saviello that would have established a managed care system. The expansion would cover people who don’t qualify for subsidies for health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act and aren’t covered by Medicaid.
Ayotte said he wouldn’t have voted to accept federal dollars to expand the program.
“I think we need to fix what we have before we expand it. I liken it to putting new tires on a vehicle that doesn’t run or is running poorly,” he said.
Williams, on the other hand, said he would be in favor of expanding Medicaid with federal funds, although he thinks the federal health care law should be scrapped altogether.
“I’m not a supporter of Obamacare, to be honest. I think it’s a real big mess. It needs to be looked at again,” he said.
Instead, Williams said the state should look at the health care systems in Japan and England and find ways to implement something similar in the U.S. However, both countries have universal health care systems, and England actually has a single-payer system.
Redistricting looks to have given the GOP a slight edge in the district by adding 21 Republicans and taking away 46 Democrats, according to August 2013 state voter data.
In 2012, Grant defeated Republican Shirley Hanley by 359 votes, 2,09 to 1,736.