A Bowdoin Republican who hopes to reform the state’s welfare programs and an Arrowsic Democrat who sponsored a successful solar power bill while serving in the Maine Senate two years ago are competing for the Senate District 23 seat on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Guy Lebida, a Republican who ran his own construction and excavation company for several decades, hopes to represent the district, which includes Dresden and all of Sagadahoc County, having defeated incumbent Sen. Linda Baker, of Topsham, in a primary election last June.

Lebida is running against Eloise Vitelli, a Democrat who won election to the Senate in 2013 during a special election and served there until losing to Baker in the regular election the following year.

Vitelli works as the programming and policy director of New Ventures Maine — known for many years as Women, Work and Community — an organization that provides career development and financial literacy training across the state and advocates for policies that promote economic security.

Vitelli, 68, said she is running again to continue the work she started in the Senate two years ago. She supports the expansion of early learning and workforce development opportunities, as well as initiatives to assist small businesses, encourage the use of alternative energy and improve access to health care.

“I believe strongly in the role that small business plays in our economy, and I want to promote entrepreneurship,” Vitelli said. “That’s not to deny the important role that some of our larger employers play.”

During her time in the Legislature, Vitelli sponsored a bill that became law and directed the Maine Public Utilities Commission to study the value of solar energy in consultation with a range of interest groups, including environmentalists, utilities and the solar industry. The measure also directed the state to ensure that solar power benefits ratepayers and reduces Maine’s reliance on oil.

When it comes to reducing energy costs, Lebida says he supports the development of solar energy on its own market-based merits, but he opposes the state subsidizing any type of energy development — particularly wind power — and supports removing a 100-megawatt cap on hydropower generated in Maine.

“I’m against subsidies in any form. I don’t like the government getting involved,” said Lebida, defining himself as a “constitutional conservative” and saying he agrees with most of the policies backed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

LePage “does need to have a filter in everything he says,” Lebida added, “but everyone needs a filter, some civility.”

Lebida, 60, was a first lieutenant in the Maine Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before owning and running a building company for 38 years. He has been a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association. He now owns and manages Bowdoin Pines Manufactured Housing Community.

That business experience has informed many of his views about public policy and balancing budgets, Lebida said.

One cause that’s important to him is welfare reform. After the state approved a ban on the use of EBT cards at liquor stores, gambling facilities and adult entertainment businesses in 2012, Lebida said it only makes sense for the cards to be banned at all ATMs.

That’s because anyone with an EBT card — which is how the state disburses funds for food support and Temporary Assistance For Needy Families — could withdraw cash and patronize one of the places where the cards are banned, Lebida said, adding that he knows federal guidelines would complicate any attempts to restrict their use.

“The whole EBT system was devised to buy nutritional food and necessities, and we need to get back to that,” Lebida said.

Lebida says he opposes all the referendums on the ballot this November, as well as the general process of using referendums to authorize large-scale borrowing by the state. He also supports increasing the state’s rainy day fund in order to improve its credit rating.

“It’s just something our kids and grandkids are going to have to pay,” he said of the bond measures. “It should be planned for in the budget.”

Asked what policies she would support in the Legislature, Vitelli hesitated to go into specifics, saying she first would want to ensure any referendums that are approved this fall are implemented “positively.”

But Vitelli said she generally would agree with legislation that expands public support for pre-kindergarten programs, alternative energy and retirement programs for employees of small businesses. She pointed to the ongoing opiate epidemic as an area of particular concern and said she would welcome any opportunity to expanded MaineCare under the Affordable Care Act approved by Congress in 2010. LePage has vetoed multiple bills that would have done so.

That’s not the only point on which Vitelli disagrees with LePage. While he has proposed eliminating the income tax in Maine, she believes the tax system requires a healthy mix of revenue from income, sales and property taxes. Vitelli also said LePage has demonstrated a lack of civility in his personal attacks on lawmakers and “done damage to the state’s image.”

If elected, Vitelli said, “I believe I can reach across the aisle and listen respectfully and work with people with many different views to come to the center. This has been such an unusual election cycle. My central view is, we can do things in our state when we work together.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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