Three people are vying for the Senate District 14 seat on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The district, which stretches across southern Kennebec County, is represented by Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, through this year, but McCormick has opted not to run for re-election.

The election will be the first appearance on the district ballot for Joe Pietroski of Winthrop. The past president of the Maine Bankers Association said he chose to run as an independent so he would not be obligated to follow the dictates of a party caucus. He cites his skill at strategic planning and his desire to take on common-sense issues as his strengths.

Republican Bryan Cutchen of West Gardiner said his decision to run stems from a career in public service. He returned to Maine after retiring as a rear admiral in the Navy and as a flag officer at the Pentagon, and was approached by the Republican Party about seeking the District 14 seat. Cutchen said that during his career, he was able to bring together people of diverse backgrounds to work toward a single objective, and he managed both people and budgets – skills he said will serve him well if elected to the Legislature.

Shenna Bellows, a Manchester resident and the 2014 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, said she brings her record of building consensus across party lines to achieve a shared objective to her bid for the Senate seat. Bellows, who served in the Peace Corps and was executive director of the ACLU of Maine, is now a consultant to nonprofits, helping them identify their core missions and develop budgets. Bellows said she wants to see people work together for the best possible vision of Maine’s future.

All three candidates identify property taxes as a top concern across the district.

Pietroski would like to see property tax relief come in the form of an expanded homestead credit. This year, state lawmakers expanded the credit for qualifying property owners who are enrolled in the program from $10,000 to $15,000. “I would quadruple it,” he said.

That would allow homeowners to retain more of their own money and help them keep up with the rising cost of living and provide a little more financial security.

For Bellows, the state could be more fiscally responsible.

“We need people who are willing to work hard to identify potential savings and identify what cuts could be made,” she said. That could free up funding for education and help to keep seniors in their own homes. Specifically, she said, the state could close loopholes, like the one in the Maine New Markets Capital Investments program that allowed a New Hampshire investment company to collect millions of dollars as an incentive to invest. The investment wasn’t made, but the incentive was paid out.

Cutchen, who employed zero-based budgeting when he administered a multibillion-dollar budget at the Pentagon, said that approach would require state agencies to be realistic in their needs and would serve as a control on the amount of money that has to be raised through taxes. Zero-based budgeting is a method in which all spending has to be analyzed and justified again for each new budgeting period, rather than just updating or revising the prior period’s budget.

All three candidates have seen the impact of the state’s opioid crisis through talking with voters, witnessing the rise in property crimes and seeing the limited resources available for those seeking help with addiction.

Cutchen, who worked in drug interdiction while he was in the Navy, said people tend to focus either on treatment or enforcement. “You need equal pressure on both sides,” he said.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency is doing a “fabulous job” and it needs to have adequate resources, he said. He also said Gov. Paul LePage has done a good job in putting limits on prescribing painkillers, and that treatment needs to be available for people who want the help.

Pietroski has a four-point plan to deal with the state’s drug crisis. “I can’t stand not helping someone,” he said.

Education, medical intervention, rehab services and providing adequate resources for law enforcement to cut off the supply of illegal drugs are the pieces of his plan.

“I also support the use of Narcan,” he said of the widely used antidote for opiate overdoses.

Bellows said dealing with the drug crisis will require expanded treatment options.

“There really aren’t enough treatment options out there,” she said. “I have met grandparents who are trying desperately to get their children or grandchildren into treatment, and it’s just not available.”

Law enforcement also needs the resources to deal with the effects of the drug trade, including pervasive property crimes.

“It’s a complex issue that’s going to need a coalition of treatment providers, law enforcement and elected officials of both parties,” she said.

In Manchester alone – where she lives – there have been two drug-related murders, an overdose in a local gas station and a robbery in a local bank. “There’s something wrong when all that is happening,” she said.

Cutchen favors investment in needed infrastructure and wants to ensure that the state’s veterans have strong support.

Pietroski is running to restore the cost of living increases within the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, to work on issues such as stemming the spread of Lyme disease and to be sure programs are available for special-needs students and adults.

Bellows wants to work for seniors, children and veterans, find ways to help students deal with the growing burden of student loans, and support the local food economy.

They each say they can work with LePage, who has not always had good relationships with the Legislature as a whole or individual lawmakers of any party.

And they say civility is needed in doing the public’s business.

“Voters … want to see people work together,” Bellows said.

 


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