Rep. Janice Cooper is facing a re-election challenge from small-business owner Rick Snow in a rematch of a race two years ago.

Cooper, a Democrat, was elected to her seat representing District 47 in 2014 with about 54 percent of the vote. The district includes Yarmouth, Chebeague Island and Long Island.

Snow, a former director of the Maine Bureau of Labor Standards, attracted controversy last month when he implied during a news conference at the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center that raising the minimum wage would worsen Maine’s drug addiction crisis.

“Where would that money be spent? We’ve heard about the opiate issues in the state of Maine. Are we going to add more income to individuals so they can spend it on illegal activities? I’m very concerned about that,” Snow said. His remarks were first quoted by Beacon, a website created by the progressive Maine People’s Alliance. The story was picked up by online news site Huffington Post.

Snow later said he misspoke. “What I was trying to do, my brain was moving much faster than my mouth. That is my fault,” Snow said in an interview Thursday. He meant to talk about how for some workers, the minimum wage is a source of disposable income, not what they use to pay the bills and feed a family, Snow said.

“That was what I was trying to point out; it didn’t come out that way, obviously,” he said.


This week, Cooper said Snow’s comment was absurd.

“That is labeling all low-income wage earners as people who use illegal drugs, that’s just crazy,” Cooper said.

Cooper, 70, a former attorney for the U.S. House of Representatives, is running for a third term in the Maine House. She was one of the Democrats in January pressing to begin impeachment proceedings against Gov. Paul LePage and also part of a group of lawmakers who pushed for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to invoke a constitutional provision this summer to declare LePage unfit for office.

She does not expect another move toward impeachment in the next session. “If we start off the session with a vote on impeachment proceedings, we will never be able to work with Republican legislators to get important bills passed,” she said.

If re-elected, Cooper wants to pass another version of the solar power bill vetoed by LePage last year. She also plans a bill to tax carbon emissions from businesses and possibly personal vehicles. Carbon taxes are gaining popularity in the U.S. and Canada, and the revenue could go into renewable energy, job training or tax relief, Cooper said.

“I just want to get rid of the carbon; where the money goes, there is lots of room to negotiate there,” she said.


Snow owns Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough and is a retired Navy commander.

Maine is seeing a “mass exodus” of young people and has to do more to provide good paying careers in the state, Snow said. Communities are spending too much money on inefficient services, and the state should find ways to consolidate public works, police and fire departments.

“Maine is a small, rural state; it is very spread out. When you look at everything we have on a town-by-town basis, it is very spread out,” he said.

More needs to be done to confront the opiate addiction crisis, like interdicting drugs at the state border, police programs to get addicts into treatment and adding more residential treatment programs.

“It needs a significant amount of rehabilitation; that requires beds, that is something we are lacking,” he said.

Snow said he is opposed to all the referendum questions on the Maine ballot. He is especially against raising the minimum wage because, he says, it is too expensive for businesses and takes away owners’ ability to reward performance.

Cooper is a Clean Election candidate and has raised $6,493 in public funding and private donations through Oct. 25, according to her latest filing.

Snow also is a Clean Election candidate and raised $6,425 through Sept. 20, according to his most recent filing.


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