The candidates for the Maine House of Representatives district representing Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Perkins Island and most of Richmond both support increasing revenue to municipalities but differ greatly on other issues, including whether to raise the minimum wage and expand Medicaid in the state.

The House District 55 race pitting Republican Brian Hobart, a farmer and Bowdoinham selectman, against Democrat Alice Elliott, an administrator at Colby College, is Hobart’s third attempt at the seat.

He lost in 2006 to Seth Berry, who is now the Democratic House majority leader and is term-limited. In 2004, Hobart lost by 30 votes to the Democratic incumbent, Deborah Hutton.

Hobart, 60, a retired public works director for Lisbon and former Air Force and charter pilot, said his municipal experience and his work crafting budgets as a selectman in Bowdoinham makes him a more qualified candidate than Elliott.

“Initially I agreed to run to give people a choice, but as we’ve progressed in this campaign, it’s obvious to me that I’m the most qualified for the seat and can do the most in this district,” Hobart said. “My roots run deep in all three towns. I’m in touch with the people.”

Elliott, 50, of Richmond, promotes civic engagement as associate director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College in Waterville. In her position, Elliott helps connect people in the community to people in the college to help solve public problems, she said. The work includes supervising a mentoring program for children in the community and organizing a competition for students at colleges and universities across Maine and coastal New England to come up with a solution to the infestation of green crabs along the coast.

Elliott said her years of experience working with diverse groups to solve public problems would serve her well in the Legislature.

“It’s very much about identifying issues that need to be addressed and working with people to come up with a solution,” she said. “It’s a lot about hearing people and bringing together disparate groups around a common issue.”

Hobart said the biggest issue for the district is property taxes. Reductions in municipal revenue sharing and funding for education from the state has strained local budgets, he said.

“The municipalities are struggling to keep up without raising taxes. It’s a no-win situation with the way that the state is operating right now, pushing all the burdens on to the towns,” Hobart said.

Elliott said she’s not opposed to changing the way the state provides revenue to municipalities, but the state needs to give the communities adequate time to prepare for the changes. The sudden reduction in state aid has squeezed the middle class, she said. Elliot also thinks it’s time to look at the state’s entire tax structure to see if there are ways to make it more efficient and responsive.

Elliot said one of her top priorities will be to constantly look at ways to spur job growth. She said it’s necessary to look at how new technologies such as 3-D printing will impact current industries and how they can be used to spur the state’s economy.

The state needs to be investing in infrastructure that will put it in a good position for the future, Elliott said. For example, building fiber-optic cable networks, as the town of Rockport did earlier this year, could help bring in more knowledge-based companies, she said.

“We need to attract those kind of business because I think it will be less volatile. Manufacturing is so up and down,” Elliott said.

Another of Hobart’s priorities is to review the Maine Department of Health and Human Services because he said the state is known as a “welfare destination.”

“It’s our duty to make sure no Mainer goes hungry,” he said. “That’s our duty, but it isn’t necessarily our duty to provide welfare recipients with luxuries.”

Hobart doesn’t have specific ideas for welfare reform, but he said he’s a good listener and open to any suggestions.

Hobart’s against more spending on Medicaid, but he said he would consider expanding the program with federal funds if the expansion ends after the federal government stopped funding it at 100 percent, as was proposed in a bill co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Roger Katz and Thomas Saviello last legislative session.

Elliott said she strongly supports expanding Medicaid and expanding access to family planning. Expanding Medicaid makes good economic sense, she said, because the state will later have to pay more for people’s health problems.

The candidates differ substantially on whether the state should increase the minimum wage, which is $7.50 an hour.

Elliott said it would be better if Congress increased federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but she’s in favor of raising it in the state. She said it’s a sad fact that the minimum wage hasn’t kept up with inflation and that the government ends up paying anyway to help people who don’t make enough money.

“I’d much rather spend money to help people live,” Elliott said. “To me, that just seems like it’s a solution that helps people keep their self esteem and keeps them in the workforce.”

Hobart, on the other hand, opposes raising the minimum wage because he said it’s designed to give young people a chance to learn work ethic.

“If people are raising a family, and they’re working at minimum wage, then they’ve made a lot of bad choices,” he said.

When he hires workers at his farm for part-time work in the summer, Hobart said he usually pays workers more than minimum wage, but it’s based on the work they do.

“There are some people that just aren’t worth more than minimum wage because they haven’t learned a work ethic,” Hobart said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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