District 81 Democrat candidates, Tavis Rock Hasenfus, left, and Joanne Mason.

For the first time in eight years, Democrats will see a new name on the ballot for the Maine House of Representatives in District 81.

Vying for the nomination are Readfield residents Tavis Rock Hasenfus and Joanne Mason, who both note serving the elderly population among their reasons for running. Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, will finish up eight years of service at the end of the year and is being term-limited out of office.

His work with elder law has exposed him to the issue, Hasenfus said, adding that “caring for our aging population is important.”

“I am saddened by the volume of elderly Mainers that are forced to spend their life savings on their end of life care,” he said. “I think it is important to review our current elder care system and try to make it more affordable, comfortable and available.”

Mason said her experience caring for ailing parents highlighted the challenges older adults and their families face. She said it was fortunate her husband’s employment allowed her to stop working and become a full-time caretaker.

“Had I had to work and take care of her, I could not have done that,” she said, noting that the time commitment required to provide proper care makes full-time employment challenging. “I believe it is the job of the Legislature to enact laws to change that.

“I don’t think sending our eldest residents to nursing homes, especially with COVID, is a good idea, if we can prevent it,” Mason added. “I would like to see some change, and that is my primary reason for getting involved (in running for the seat) in the first place.”

Mason’s husband is Ken Mason, sheriff of Kennebec County. Because of that, she said, she has done a lot of learning and reading about justice issues, as well as undertaken training.

“One thing I’ve noticed with children who become incarcerated, nonviolent people under 18, is there is a lack of a support on the outside of that,” Mason said. “Because of that, these kids are often pushed back into the system because there’s nothing else for them.”

She said the Legislature needs to look at options for community programs that will help the students.

“To work with them, so they’re capable of becoming productive adults,” Mason said. “I don’t believe the Long Creek Youth Development is going to do that. That’s just created a pipeline straight to the prison.”

A lifelong Mainer who grew up in Winthrop, and attended college and law school in the state, Hasenfus said he wants to make a difference.

“I would like to give back to my community by giving a vision for Maine for the next 40 or 50 years,” he said, adding that education should be a priority. “I think finding a way for young Mainers to enter the workforce, grow the workforce and building a healthy economic future for Maine is a top priority.

“Both public schools and post-secondary education goes hand-in-hand with the economic future of our state,” Hasenfus added. “We need to find a way to make public schools productive, to make colleges affordable and give young Mainers a reason to stay in Maine to become entrepreneurs, become professionals, electricians, plumbers. I think that’s essential to Maine to build the next 20 or 30 years.”

While there are many issues facing government, helping the state recover from the impacts felt by the coronavirus pandemic is the umbrella covering them all.

“The specifics of it, I don’t think anybody knows yet,” Hasenfus said, adding that the top priority is to get rid of the virus. “The second step, once the virus has passed and we see the lasting effects on the economy, is to come up with some programs, some zero- or low-interest loans, for businesses to help them.”

He said it’s important for the state to find ways to stimulate the economy and expressed optimism help would come from the federal level. Hasenfus said he welcomed the chance to work with federal representatives to make that happen.

“So we don’t have to dip into the rainy day fund or do anything rash as far as increase taxes,” he said.

What Mason does know about the state’s recovery from the coronavirus impact is “we’re really going to have to tighten our belt.” She said the state will need to look at ways it can save money, adding that there might be ways to do that and improve the way for which Mainers are cared.

“Talking about aging in place, it is less expensive to provide in-home care with a family member rather than putting them in a nursing home,” Mason said. “If we work with insurance companies, we could provide family members with salaries to stay home with loved ones. That would provide in-home care and be cheaper than the state subsidizing nursing homes.”

She also suggested closing Long Creek and replacing those services with localized programs.

“More localized care for youth would be less expensive than keeping Long Creek open,” Mason said. “We need to look at what we’re spending and how much it would cost to house a child with special needs.

“If we looked at every option and really decided what was most important, the money would be there,” she added. “We have to get rid of our old views, and look at new and innovative ways to change things.”

Mason said she’s the best candidate because she’s served as a selectwoman and on the parents association, and has raised money for community organizations.

“Because of all that experience, I’m used to working with the public and trying to get the best for the community,” she said, adding that she has lots of time to give. “Because I have the time and energy to focus on the task at hand, I will be available for all the committee meetings. I will be there to get the job done.”

Asked why he’s the best candidate for the position, Hasenfus said he’s willing to listen, is good with people and cares deeply about his community and the state. He also noted his education both in school and as a lawyer has prepared him well to work on the Legislature, creating laws and policies that govern the state.

“As a voter, you really want to make sure you trust who you vote for,” Hasenfus said. “I view myself as a very trustworthy person, and the voters can trust in me to do everything I can to help this community and this state.”

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