The Republican incumbent representing House District 112 is being challenged for his seat by a retired attorney from Phillips.

Barbara Chassie, a Democrat who has no political experience, is running against one-term incumbent Thomas Skolfield, of Weld, who also has served for two terms on the Weld Board of Selectmen.

The candidates are vying for the seat that represents Avon, Carrabassett Valley, Carthage, Kingfield, Phillips, Sandy River Plantation, Weld and the unorganized territories of East Central Franklin and South Franklin in Franklin County; and Anson, New Portland and Starks in Somerset County.

Chassie said she initially was motivated to run for the seat because she did not want Skolfield, whom she called the nicest Republican she’s ever met, to run unopposed. But after talking to voters over the course of the campaign Chassie said she’s eager to help the residents of District 112 solve their problems.

As a retired attorney who practiced for 35 years, Chassie said she is used to helping people solve their problems using the law. “There isn’t a whole lot different in what a legislator does,” she said.

After retiring from the Maine Parks Service after 45 years and moving back to Weld, his hometown, Skolfeld said he too was motivated to re-enter politics to be a problem solver for his constituents.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with and helping people,” Skolfield said. “When I retired, I kind of missed that problem solving.”

Both candidates cited the economy, jobs and taxes as some of the biggest concerns facing residents living in the district; however, they differed on how these problems can be solved.

Chassie said that a change must be made in the way the state calculates the property tax relief credit to ensure that elderly homeowners living on a fixed income can get adequate assistance from the credit.

“Our elders deserve to be able to live out the rest of their lives in their own homes,” Chassie said.

Skolfield said when a vote that will affect property taxes comes up in the Legislature, he always thinks of how the vote will affect his elderly constituents. However, Skolfield said the only way legislators have control over property taxes is through school and county funding at the state level; the remaining percentage of property tax bills is municipal costs. With mills and other businesses leaving the area, Skolfield said, municipalities should be frugal in their spending so property owners are not burdened by excessive property taxes.

Taxes and regulations on small business are a problem, according to Skolfield, who said that small businesses are how the area can generate good jobs in the wake of jobs that were traditional to the area leaving.

“I’m a big, big believer that this state’s way out of this mess is to enhance and encourage small businesses,” Skolfield said. “The big mills aren’t coming back, but we need to encourage small businesses and make that easier to fathom.”

An increase in the minimum wage, as written in this year’s ballot referendum, would hurt small businesses, according to Skolfield, forcing business owners to cut jobs instead of create them. Instead of hurting businesses with regulations, Skolfield said, legislation that would help businesses and therefore create jobs is needed. Skolfield cited a bill he co-sponsored in the last legislative session, which eliminates the tax on fuel for equipment being used in the woods industry, as business-friendly legislation.

For Chassie, job training and focusing on education is how she proposes to reinvigorate the work force. Chassie said a program that subsidizes tuition for low-income adults for either college course or training programs could help people who are out of work, especially if the program is focusing on where there is a demand in the job market.

“If we match these training programs with job availability, we can get those people to work,” Chassie said.

She also saids that transportation for people who do not have reliable transportation in rural areas is another barrier to employment that needs to be addressed. Chassie favors raising the minimum wage, which she said would result in fewer people to need government assistance.

Another political issue on which Chassie and Skolfield differ is the expansion of MaineCare. Chassie said such an expansion would be a boon not only for residents in need of access to health insurance, but also would be an economic relief for the medical profession.

Skolfield, however, is opposed to MaineCare expansion, citing health care premiums that are scheduled to rise under the national Affordable Care Act.

“I refuse to agree to buy things, and make commitments, so that my grandchildren have to pay off the debt,” Skolfield said.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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