From Portland to Van Buren, it’s impossible to avoid the record-setting inflation that’s put extraordinary financial pressure on folks across the state, and while everyone in Maine is feeling squeezed by rising costs, increasing prices have placed a particularly heavy burden on older Americans.

Inflation has quickly become one of the most important political issues in Maine, and among older voters, a group that’s often the loudest voice in midterm elections, rising costs are at the top of the list. Now, with Election Day in November right around the corner, older voters in Maine want answers, and the candidates running in our state’s most consequential elections need to prove they can tackle inflation.

This fall, Mainers will turn out to vote in two critical political races. The contest between Rep. Jared Golden and challenger Bruce Poliquin, who held the seat for two terms, could decide which party controls the House of Representatives in Washington. The fight for the Blaine House, which will determine the direction of our state for the next four years, pits Janet Mills, the incumbent governor, against former Gov. Paul LePage. Right now, both races are tightly contested and the stakes are high. So far, none of these candidates has secured the support of older voters.

In midterm elections, voters over the age of 45 typically make up the overwhelming majority of the electorate in Maine. In 2018, 62 percent of all voters were 45 or older, and this November, that percentage could be even higher – 88 percent of Mainers over the age of 50 are “extremely motivated” to vote. That means politicians running for election will have to propose policy platforms that address the concerns of the older electorate. Fortunately for the candidates running in Maine’s most competitive races, older voters have made their priorities clear.

Right now, the news is dominated by coverage of increasing inflation – grocery bills, the cost of gas, and even lobster roll prices have hit record highs. Inflation has disproportionately hurt older folks, whether they are still in the workforce, preparing for retirement or living on a fixed income, but that’s not all that they’re concerned about.

According to recent polling, in the upcoming congressional and gubernatorial races in Maine, older voters want a candidate who’s ready to address inflation while at the same time pursuing serious solutions to a range of other issues. Older people are worried about fighting to afford rising prescription drug prices, and they’re worried about the security of their retirement benefits and increasing Medicare premiums. They also want to know what both Mills or LePage would do to ensure access to paid family leave policies that give older workers the flexibility to care for a sick spouse or loved one should they get sick or need additional care.

In Maine, voters are keyed into which candidates can deliver on those issues, and in the past older voters have given their decisive support to politicians who have centered their campaigns on those issues. For example, before reaching his term limit, Republican LePage won his two Maine gubernatorial bids by prioritizing cost-cutting measures and providing support for nursing facilities and home care for older Mainers. In her successful Senate race, New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan rode a wave of support from older voters by centering her platform on prescription drug pricing reforms, a campaign promise she delivered on this year by voting to pass Medicare negotiation through the Senate.

Right now, Mainers across the state are struggling to make ends meet. Now more than ever, we need candidates like Rep. Golden, Bruce Poliquin, Gov. Mills and Paul LePage to prioritize cutting costs and tackling the kitchen table issues we’re facing every day.

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