In the race for the Maine House of Representatives seat representing Gardiner and Farmingdale, the chairman of the Kennebec County Republicans is looking to defeat a one-term Democratic representative by campaigning on many of his party’s positions.

Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, is defending her seat against Curtis Ayotte, of Farmingdale, in a district that gained more Republicans because of redistricting but still has more Democrats.

Both candidates said they have the skills to work with people from different political backgrounds, but the two differ in their views on most issues, generally sticking with their respective party’s platform. In 2012, Grant defeated Republican Shirley Hanley by 359 votes, 2,095 to 1,736, when the district included Randolph instead of Farmingdale. Redistricting added 366 Republicans and 295 Democrats, according to state voter data from June.

Grant, 54, owns a writing consulting firm in her hometown and is in favor of expanding Medicaid and raising the minimum wage. Ayotte, 34, an education student at the University of Maine at Augusta and U.S. Army veteran, says he would focus on veterans issues and education if elected.

Grant, as a member of a special committee on the state’s workforce and economic future formed by Democratic leaders last session, said she worked with legislators from both parties to come up with solutions for the state. Their work included proposing a $12 million bond package for additional funding for two small-business loan programs, which will go to voters in November.

She said one of her focuses will be to help adult workers without secondary degrees or certificates get more training to make them more resilient to a poor economy and to attract businesses to the state that need qualified workers.


Grant said when hearing from Maine business owners, the workforce and economic committee learned that having an adequately trained workforce is a bigger worry than energy costs or the tax structure — two issues Gov. Paul LePage frequently cites as impediments to attracting new businesses to the state.

“We have to sell our state better,” Grant said. “We’ve got a lot going for us, and we should be out there as cheerleaders on this.”

Ayotte said one of his top priorities will be advocating for veterans issues and ensuring problems happening at Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country won’t happen in Maine.

He said he thinks the economy is improving, but more work is needed at the state level.

“I think we’re close to getting there, but we need to take a serious look at the amount of spending in our government,”Ayotte said. “We need to cut down on the fraud and waste.”

He said it’s clear that people are abusing the welfare system when multiple electronic benefit transfer cards are found at drug busts. He didn’t have specific ideas for ways to reduce welfare fraud and said departments should look within to find ways to save money. He said he thinks there are areas where the state is needlessly spending money, but he thinks the first step should come from department leaders finding cuts.


Ayotte also said the state has natural resource industries, including forestry and hydropower, it isn’t tapping enough because businesses don’t want to come to Maine for a variety of reasons. If elected, he said he would work with all branches of the government to encourage business development, possibly through tax breaks for new businesses.

On education, Ayotte said he thinks the state should look at consolidating administration costs while avoiding cuts to areas that affect teachers and students. He thinks there should be more charter schools and more school choice allowed.

“By allowing parents to have that option, certainly it’s a benefit to the students and the families,” Ayotte said.

Grant said the state needs to move beyond the argument of how much schools are funded and look at how it is delivering education from kindergarten through 12th grade education. Families living in poor communities aren’t getting a quality education because their schools are being underserved, she said.

Both Ayotte and Grant said the state should look at the cost of higher education and find ways to lower it.

The candidates also agree that the state shouldn’t keep cutting revenue sharing to municipalities. The state is supposed to give 5 percent of Maine’s sales and income tax revenue to municipalities, but that’s been cut down over the last several years.


Grant said the state should be living up to its commitment because the revenue sharing helps municipalities ease the property tax burden on their residents.

She criticized the tax cuts passed in the previous legislative session, blaming the recent cuts in revenue sharing on those tax cuts.

“Attacking your local communities and taking money that’s promised to them by law is just not smart and is not good government,” Grant said. “I think we’re going to be able to get all of that back next session.”

Ayotte said it has been unfair to the municipalities to cut revenue sharing because state law requires it. If it is cut, Ayotte said he think municipalities should be given warning, and the state should set an amount it will decline each year.

“If a program’s not working for both the state and the municipalities, then we should revisit it. If it’s working and it’s just the state didn’t want to pay for it, then we have a problem, and the state’s not living up to its word,” Ayotte said.

The two candidates disagree on whether the state should raise the minimum wage of $7.50 an hour.


Ayotte said the state should not raise the minimum wage because it would only be raising the cost of goods. Education is the key to get people out of poverty, and no one should even be working for the minimum wage, he said.

“Certainly people are going to work in those jobs,” Ayotte said. “The people who are working minimum wage, I would encourage them to be enrolled in some kind of job training. Those jobs are temporary jobs. They shouldn’t be career positions.”

Grant, however, strongly supports raising the minimum wage. She said most Maine-based businesses pay better than minimum wage, so it wouldn’t impact the mom-and-pop stores. The states that have already raised it aren’t seeing the dire consequences some people predicted, Grant said.

“There are a lot of people who work those jobs at minimum wage. Too many Maine people I talk to when I go door-to-door, they’re struggling,” Grant said. “We need an economy that works for everybody.”

The candidates also disagree on whether to accept federal funds to expand the Medicaid program in the state.

Grant, who supported it previously, said she thinks it’s both the most moral and economically sound decision to make. She said the hospitals are suffering because the state hasn’t expanded Medicaid, and the expansion would add money to the economy and create new jobs.


Ayotte said he wouldn’t expand Medicaid with federal funds because there are still waiting lists for developmentally disabled Mainers.

“If we can’t cover our disabled, how are we going to expand that to able-bodied? That doesn’t make any sense to do that,” he said.

The waiting lists are an issue that LePage and Republicans have previously cited when rejecting proposals to expand Medicaid, but Democrats have argued the waiting lists won’t be affected either way. The Legislature included funding to reduce or eliminate two waiting lists for approximately 300 disabled young and middle-age adults in a budget fix passed this spring.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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