A former Lincoln County Democratic Committee chairman is taking on three-term veteran Rep. Deborah Sanderson in a bid to represent House District 88, which includes Chelsea, Jefferson, Whitefield and part of Nobleboro.

James Torbert, 70, of Whitefield, said he was urged to enter the ring after another potential candidate backed out.

“I realized that at my age and stage of life, the relevant question wasn’t ‘Why me?’, but rather ‘Why not me?'” Torbert said. “I have a clear stake in the future of this region because I have three grandchildren growing up next door to me, and it would be truly un-American to let my opponent run unopposed again.”

Sanderson, 53, a Republican from Chelsea, is looking to continue her work in the State House.

“With three terms under my belt serving on the Health and Human Service Committee, I have a broad understanding of where we were and what direction we should continue to take to ensure the core mission of Maine’s social services programs (is) solid and helping Maine’s most vulnerable citizens appropriately,” she said. “In the last three terms I’ve advocated for and supported increased funding for our nursing homes, wait lists for disabled and home health agencies who are instrumental in keeping individuals in their homes versus in a facility level of care.”

Sanderson said while progress has been made, “there is still a long way to go to ensure fiscal stability for these programs.”

Both candidates responded via email to questions about their stands on issues.

Torbert said he would promote farm and food hub sectors to create jobs.

“Likewise, we need to encourage local entrepreneurs and small businesses to remain in place by increasing access to the broadband information highway in rural areas and by investing in our overall transportation infrastructure,” he said. “I want to ensure that the state lives up to its long-deferred obligation to fund 55 percent of local education costs.”

When it comes to health care, Torbert said he wants the state to accept federal money to expand MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Sanderson said her goals for all Mainers mimic those for her family: “to live in a state where there is opportunity for success and fiscal stability to raise a family, a natural environment to enjoy the outdoors either from a sportsman heritage perspective or a recreational perspective, and to know that as we age, community supports for seniors are in place to keep us at home near our families and friends in our communities.”

Both candidates want to avoid another deep divide between Republicans and Democrats in the upcoming 128th Legislature.

“We need to be governed by a determination to solve the problems we all face by mutually searching for common ground, not by ultimatums, threats, and insults,” Torbert said. “We need to acknowledge each other’s priorities and begin by working on those we share, even if they don’t rank equally high on our respective lists.”

Sanderson said the system would work better if legislators worked together to get things done.

“While both parties do have ideological differences on a few issues that are difficult to bridge, I do feel it’s important to note that the vast majority of bills that come before the Legislature are a product of broad bipartisan support,” she said. “Unfortunately, the media only focuses on where we differ versus the good work we do together.”

Both candidates also offered ideas on handling the state’s opioid crisis and for aiding people with mental illness.

“We obviously need to identify, investigate, and prosecute drug traffickers at both the federal and state levels,” Torbert said. “However, more than half a century of a ‘war on drugs’ has failed because of its almost exclusive focus on attempting to deal with the supply while criminalizing the disease of addiction.”

Sanderson, ranking member on the Health and Human Services Committee, said there’s no single solution to the crisis and suggested strict controls on prescriptions and greater accountability for treatment programs.

“Just throwing more money at a problem isn’t the answer,” she said. “We need to know where the tax dollars being spent are having the greatest impact and success.”

Torbert said he’s spent three months knocking on doors and listening to voters and heard repeated concerns about property taxes, the welfare system and lack of a access to affordable health care.

He said one way to relieve property taxes is to raise the meals and lodging tax.

“Six years ago, shortly after we retired, my wife and I fulfilled a long-time dream of taking a two-month road trip around the lower 48 states in our little Ford Focus, camping out and staying with friends and relatives when possible, but checking into motels and dining out when we needed to,” Torbert said. “We often encountered higher meal and lodging taxes than we have here in Maine, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for another visit because of them.”

Sanderson said she’s been able to help constituents with a number of issues, including an effort to combat Lyme disease, which is a particular concern in Lincoln County.

“We have several people afflicted with this terrible disease, not only in our district but across the state and it’s an honor to be on the forefront of opening doors to treatment for these individuals,” she said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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