TOPSHAM — Democratic leaders in Maine’s Senate and House of Representatives unveiled their vision for making the state a more attractive place for young families to live and work during a forum Tuesday evening in Topsham.

The event at Mt. Ararat High School was attended by more than 60 people. Democrats talked about building a state where young families and business can plant roots. They called their vision “A Better State of Maine” and said it contains ideas for making Maine an attractive place for young people and individuals to build long and prosperous lives.

Legislators pointed out that Maine’s population is aging and the state needs to retain and attract younger workers.

“Maine is losing its young people as they are forced to look for opportunity elsewhere,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport. “We need solutions that help young families build their lives in Maine and that revitalize our economy. One cannot happen without the other. The consequences for our state are dire if we remain on this trajectory.”

Though very little mention was made of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the Democrats said their long-range vision is intended to bring Mainers together after what has transpired since late August – a period they described as one of the most tumultuous ever in state politics.

The legislators were referring to a series of incidents involving the governor. On Aug. 24, LePage made a comment at a town hall meeting in North Berwick that more than 90 percent of the drug dealers arrested for bringing heroin and other narcotics into Maine are black or Hispanic. He told the audience that he keeps a scrapbook of news clippings with mugshots that prove his point.


A couple of days later, LePage called Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, and left a crude and threatening message on his cellphone in response to a television reporter’s suggestion that Gattine called the governor a racist. After that, LePage told reporters that he wished it were 1825 and that he could have a duel with Gattine.

The national media picked up on LePage’s remarks, and some legislators urged that LePage be censured or removed from office. The governor has since apologized to the people of Maine for his remarks and has promised to seek spiritual counseling.

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland; Assistant Senate Minority Leader Dawn Hill, D-York; House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick; and Gideon were the featured speakers at Tuesday’s forum. They told the audience the state needs stronger leadership, but instead of attacking LePage, they focused on policy issues and plans they feel are needed to move the state forward.

“We can’t solve problems by focusing on the issues that divide us,” Eves told reporters after the 90-minute session. “I’m sick and tired of partisan politics and bickering, and I know my neighbors and constituents are as well.”

When asked if the forum was an election year ploy to help Democratic candidates win contests in November, Alfond denied that it was.

Alfond said that after more than month of controversy caused by LePage’s remarks, “Maine people want to hear something of substance.”


Hill said “A Better State of Maine” was merely a vision. She said funding for some of the ideas in the plan will have to be hammered out in the next legislative session, which begins in January.

Democrats said they will work with Republicans in the next legislative session to invest more funds in infrastructure – specifically to modernize roads, bridges, ports and rails and expand access to broadband networks throughout the state.

Democrats also want to reinvigorate downtowns and village centers – they cited Portland and Bangor as leading examples of success – to support the lifestyle young people demand. They said another high priority is helping fishermen and farmers get products to market through the creation of regional food hubs.

“We’ve had a tough month in Maine,” Eves told the crowd. “But tonight is not about the governor’s antics and behaviors. It’s talking about the Maine that we all know and love.”

In response to Tuesday’s forum, the Maine Republican Party issued a statement with the headline, “Maine Democrats Need to Get Real.”

Republicans claimed that the Democrats unveil a new economic revival plan with a catchy name every two years.

“For a Party who so often decries election year politics, it would seem that Maine’s economic health only matters in the few months leading up to Election Day,” Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said in the statement. “It is safe to assume based on the past two economic plans, ‘Better Maine’ will become yet another catchy slogan of the past come November, and sadly a defunct plan for the people of Maine, who will once again be abandoned by the Democratic Party.”

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