State Rep. Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, is facing a challenge for her District 53 seat in the Maine House of Representatives — from Jeffrey Pierce, who filled the position before she did.

District 53 consists of Arrowsic, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Woolwich and part of Richmond.

Hepler first won election to the seat in 2018, when she defeated Pierce, a Republican from Dresden, who held the post from 2014-18.

Hepler said she has focused on finding answers for residents in her district, seeing firsthand how the coronavirus pandemic affected people in her town. She said she answered call after call from people that never had to apply for unemployment before and others that never had to find food elsewhere.

“It has been a real eye-opening experience for me,” Hepler said. “Now I can see a close up how people in my district are getting by.”

It made her realize that Mainers aren’t ready for tax increases, she said, and in turn she wants to rely on the one-time federal funding to get Maine through the upcoming budget. Hepler said she doesn’t want to have to dip into the state’s “rainy day” fund.

She also said Maine has had success in keeping the spread of coronavirus to a minimum, and it is slowly becoming a place where tourists feel safe. Because of that, Hepler said, the state will be able to collect tourism revenue.

Pierce has his eye on cutting state spending, zeroing in on programs he said are “under utilized” or “not used the most.” He said it’s important to keep programs Mainers are relying on in the challenging times created by the coronavirus.

“When you are looking at cutting, you have to do it strategically,” Pierce said. “You can’t just say that you want to take 10% off, that doesn’t make sense.

“Look at domestic violence — you are not going to cut that program by 10%.” he added. “People that are victims, especially during COVID, Maine has seen a 40% increase.”

Pierce noted his knowledge on budget costs and spending, because he has been a small business owner in the state for 30 years and previously served in the House.

Hepler and Pierce both see keeping young adults and creating jobs in Maine as needs to ensure future prosperity in the state. They agreed that can’t be done without broadband internet services that reach every area in the state. When that happens, Pierce said, “300 to 400” jobs could be made in the state with the possibilities of working remotely.

Pierce also wants to focus on high school graduates, and teaching more trades in school for those that may not want to go to college. On the other hand, Hepler, a college professor, wants to make the state an attractive place for young adults to either stay after attending college here, or as a place to which they move back if they attended an out-of-state school.

One of Hepler’s most important issues is climate change. She said that Maine’s oceans are warming at record speeds and that it will affect the fishing industry, one of the state’s biggest industries.

In addition to high speed internet, Pierce said a large energy source, like natural gas, is needed to power the buildings.

“With a good job, you can stay here, raise a family,” Pierce said, “and by doing that, you are bringing in more revenue without having to raise the tax rate.”

Hepler, who said she is a “problem solver at heart, said she is the best person for the seat because she will help Mainers find the answers they need, as she has for residents in her towns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pierce said his ability to work with all types of people, even those with whom he disagrees, makes him the best candidate.

“You don’t work for a party,” he said, “you work for the people that elected you.”

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