2016-06-02 / Front Page

Four seats in coverage area contested in primary

Primary 2016

Diane Denk Diane Denk The Courier is publishing surveys of candidates running in contested races in the primary election to be held Tuesday, June 14. Surveys of all candidates facing a contest in the general election will be published prior to the general election. Voters should contact their town or city clerk for information on absentee ballots or polling locations and times.

Diane Denk, of Kennebunk and Laurie Dobson of Kennebunkport are seeking the Democratic nomination for House District 9, which includes Kennebunkport and parts of Kennebunk and Biddeford. The surveys appear in alphabetical order by last name.

Name: Diane M. Denk

Age: 65 (turning 66 June 9, 2016)

Occupation: Special education teacher. I work with students who are outside the traditional school setting due to physical or other impairments.

Laurie Dobson Laurie Dobson Family: Married to Roger Hansen; we have three sons and daughters-in-law, four grandchildren (Jake, Grace, Avery and Lauren), and two pups (Reggie and Rory).

Education: BS and MS from Loyola University of Chicago, MAT from National Lewis University of Chicago

Organizations: Vice president and public member of Maine Board of Dental Examiners (2008- 2013); Maine’s Public Member, ADEX (national dental board); secretary Portland NAACP; volunteer Beacon (now Amedisys) Hospice; York County Shelters; Equality Maine; organized clothing and gift drives for active military and homeless veterans. Past president of Newcomers Club of the Kennebunks.

Political: Recently elected Democratic National Committeewoman (representing Maine), Presidential Elector to Electoral College (2008, 2012 and 2016), and delegate to Democratic National Convention (2008, 2012, 2016). Past chairman of York County Democratic Committee and Kennebunk & Kennebunkport Democratic Committee. Member of Maine Democratic State Committee (2008-present) and chairman of Outreach and Diversity Subcommittee. Emerge Maine graduate (2013).

Top issues:

1. Seniors – as native Mainers and new retirees age, Maine will continue to become one of the grayest states in the country. Many seniors are struggling to make their pensions and Social Security checks stretch far enough to meet their basic needs. They are juggling bills for supplemental insurance, out-of-pocket health care expenses, prescription drugs, mortgages or rent, taxes, fuel oil, food and pet care. Many folks’ incomes are not covering their basic needs. They may inappropriately prioritize and sacrifice their own medication for that of their pets or food for fuel oil. I believe we must ensure that the quality of their lives is the highest, that they can remain at home, and that taxes and home repairs do not ruin them. At the ends of their lives, we must provide home healthcare to allow them to exit with dignity, peace of mind and grace.

2. Struggling families – through no fault of their own, many Mainers are unemployed or underemployed. Some are even over-employed (juggling too many low-paying jobs to make ends meet). They are unable to meet their basic home expenses, raise their children and provide for their futures with advanced education unless they work breakneck schedules. Often the quality of their home lives suffers and families simply have no time together. A top priority for me is to raise the minimum wage to one that is livable and allows families to be successful. Maine must ensure that working families have the appropriate amount of financial and social assistance to improve the basic components of their lives and to provide for their peace of mind. Meeting the human needs of housing, good nutrition and health care are essential. But they cannot do this without securing good paying jobs.

3. Jobs and education for Mainers – we must attract or home grow businesses that provide goods or services people will buy. Growing our economy requires providing creative financial incentives to entrepreneurs and new businesses, shoring up companies that are failing and leaving Maine, and determining how to attract the businesses that create the jobs of tomorrow. We must form partnerships with universities and financial institutions to study trends, creative financing, innovative technology, medical opportunities and quality control assurance. An alliance with the best and the brightest business leaders, faculty and students will carry Maine into a new era of productivity. Many of our best students must leave Maine to launch their careers. They are saddled with extreme levels of debt and no low-paying job in Maine can erase it. If we don’t think outside the box, our state will plummet to the bottom. Apprentice and training programs coupled with opportunities for high school students to be exposed to career options must happen sooner rather than later.

Why are you seeking elected office?

Mainers are people of pride. Their work ethic, spirit and character are unsurpassed. Other states pursue our workers because they know they are hiring the best caliber of employee. Working on their behalf to improve the quality of their lives would be a true privilege. Life has become tough for many Mainers. Their access to a good life has diminished. Seniors are concerned with keeping their homes, working families’ incomes are stretched beyond capacity, and young people do not envision being able to remain in Maine in pursuit of their dreams. Our beautiful environment is in danger of being damaged due to failure to pass legislation leading to creative energy solutions.

I want to tackle these problems as a state representative. Knowingly pursuing an opportunity that offers long hours, low pay and a boss who really does not favor half of his employees may seem abhorrent to most people. To me it is the ultimate challenge. I have spent a lifetime of working hard and succeeding, first in business and later in education. Each new job frightened me, made me rethink my motives and even caused me to doubt myself. But raising the bar higher always made me stronger, better, smarter and more proud of my achievements. In each case I brought comfort, relief and creative answers to what seemed like insurmountable problems.

Concurrent with my career, I always found a great deal of fulfillment outside the job through volunteer work. Whether I was chairing a homeless shelter for poor women and their children in Chicago, or working with hospice patients and their families, or hosting drives for homeless veterans, I found my life was more enriched through every hour I served. Becoming a state legislator in the House of Representatives would be a further extension of this path. The job would blend my professional and my volunteer experience and help me to improve the quality of life for Mainers.

Working for and with others who do not share my viewpoints would require patience and diplomacy and I feel I possess both qualities. I pride myself on being able to learn quickly, take on difficult tasks and operate in a sound, sensible, caring and productive manner. I am able to work with challenging people and have formed alliances and friendships with those with whom I have little in common. It is my goal to continue along this path without fanfare, drama, attention or accolades and simply get the job done.

I want to improve the lives of all Mainers and have them point with pride at their state and those who serve on their behalf. I will serve with honor and distinction for the people of my district and for all of Maine.

If you could change one thing about state, what would it be and how would you do it?

I believe our current executive branch (i.e., our governor) is operating outside the explicit and implicit powers delineated in the Maine Constitution and must be held accountable. He appears to report to no one, works with no one, listens to no one and has contempt for those who challenge his powers.

He has withheld bonds approved by the citizens of Maine. Senior housing is but one of many examples. Maine’s seniors face a housing crisis and we must head off a housing crisis sooner rather than later. The House of Representatives voted 80-63 to force Gov. LePage to release $15 million in voter-approved (69 percent voted in favor) bonds for senior housing but he simply refuses to do so. This affects 9,000 seniors who are looking for affordable housing. As I meet seniors at their doors, the worry and concern about what will become of them is critical yet our governor plays political football with the citizens’ tax dollars.

He has withheld $100 million bonds which would have constructed or fixed roads, highways, bridges and other structures throughout the state. Given the nature of our winters, more roads will buckle, bridges will corrode and decay and all will become hazardous. These infrastructure projects would have provided hundreds of jobs to Mainers.

Last fall he froze $2 million for Land for Maine’s Future, money the state already had on hand for conservation projects. This project has protected 570,000 acres. He withheld $6.5 million in 2010 and $5 million in 2012. The 2010 bonds expired and would have to be reauthorized by the Legislature.

The number of bills he has vetoed is astounding. The idea that here in our state there is actually a day designated “Veto Day” is unconscionable and provides further evidence that our process is broken. His contempt for his own party members is almost reaching the level of contempt for his opposition party.

His abuse of power in causing a job offer to his speaker of the House to be rescinded is further evidence of his failure to stay within the confines of acceptable behavior under the duties expressed within the executive branch. Withholding funds to the hiring school for students in crisis is simply unjust and unfeeling.

The final blow to every hard working legislator is his most current edict that expressly forbids any commissioner of any department to meet with legislators and provide information that would the lawmakers need to do their jobs. Both parties are hamstrung in performing the duties the voters have elected them to do.

His inability to speak coherently and honestly is demonstrated even today as he continues to falsify information about a student’s drug overdose. The racist, sexist, hostile language he uses is further proof that he cares little about working for all Mainers.

While the Constitution may not be a handbook for how to govern and get along, it certainly must provide some guidance for the parameters of acceptable behavior in the CEO of a state.

How would you address the growing problem of opiate addiction in the state?

I am not an addiction treatment expert and can therefore only share the opinions of those professionals whom I respect. The solution to our growing opiate addiction and treatment problems must be multifaceted. We must always remember addiction is a disease, not a choice. It cuts across every gender, racial, religious and socio-economic strata in our society. We can be as judgmental and critical as we choose to be, but we are all one step away from someone who has had or lost a loved one to addiction.

I believe the first part of the problem begins with their prescription. These powerful drugs must not immediately be the starting treatment place for any physician, dentist or other health care provider when dealing with anyone who has or may have pain. Opioids should seldom be prescribed, carefully managed and closely monitored by the prescriber, the pharmacy, the family and the patient. The possibilities for fraud, misuse, overuse and sharing are simply too high. As the former vice president of the Maine Board of Dental Examiners, I became aware of drug abuse due to stolen or falsified prescription forms by providers, staff or patients.

I can attest to having painkillers given to me after surgery in spite of my having absolutely no pain. I took one pill and delivered the remainder to the police department for disposal.

In speaking to a pharmacology professional from the University of New England, addiction must be viewed as any other chronic illness or disease which is modifiable, similar to Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or reversed with a combination of drug therapies, dietary modification, exercise and counseling. The addict must make many lifestyle changes whether dealing with alcohol, drugs, or nicotine and the approach to care must be comprehensive.

From a law enforcement standpoint, the nonprofessionals who make them available and deal in drug use are the people who should be arrested and punished, not the users. Fines and sentences must be stiff and just. We should make rehabilitation and recovery the path for those who become addicted to drugs.

More funding must be put into education and treatment and research for combatting the painful effects of withdrawing from these drugs. Treatment facilities are in high demand yet there are few to handle the needs of so many who are addicted. Community based treatment makes it everybody’s problem rather than shipping off patients to other locations. Early education is critical. Former addicts, medical professionals, faculty and law enforcement must create programs and share stories of failed, troubled lives and even death cannot be taught too soon. Parental education is necessary to prevent the problem before it begins.

Addiction specialists and pharmacology giants must work hard and smart on finding not just the answers to the problems of today but also the solutions to the addictions and troubling trends of tomorrow. Our state and federal governments must provide the funding to combat this epidemic.

Name: Laurie G. Dobson

Age: 59

Occupation: Boat captain and business owner

Family: Three children: Jesse, son, 35; Lily, daughter, 33; and Emma, daughter, 25.

Education completed: Three and a half years college: UNH and USM and dual certification in landscape design and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden Landscape Design School.

Organizations and activities (including past political experience): Ran for district commissioner, 2001; state representative, 2002; selectman, 2004; U.S. Senate, 2008. Member of York County Dems since 2005, previously member of Democratic committees in Vermont and Connecticut. Currently member of First Church, Kennebunkport, and member of choir and Good Cheer Women’s Group. Previous presidential elector, 2008, John Kerry’s volunteer campaign coordinator in southern Vermont; Bernie Sanders’ full-time volunteer-started York office and ran caucus preparation meetings. Member of garden clubs and a senior center volunteer organizer. Director of civic and community organizations, also started planning commission and managed master planning for 138 neighborhood groups in two towns. Fifteen-year member of PTA, chairman of several committees, organizer for Clean and Green. Volunteer for York County Shelter, In a Pinch Pantry, Community Outreach, Harvest Cafe helper, First Church donation drives, Move to Amend, host sponsor of Ranked Choice Voting, organizer of Occupy Maine and in New York City. Director, EndUSWars.org. Member of “The Center,” a senior center in Kennebunk, and member of Brick Store Museum Bridge Marathon. Raised money and walked for York County Shelter Programs.

Top three issues:

1. Get Gov. Paul LePage out. To do this: I have started a campaign to endorse Troy Jackson for governor in 2018. For those of us who can’t wait that long, however, I want to start a statewide contest for ideas on how to get our governor to step down voluntarily. If 60 percent of us want to get a new governor, we have among us, enough inspiration and creativity to find a way. We have to pool our resources. This is something I look forward to putting into place.

2. Control property taxes. Those who have been forced to leave their homes or communities due to the high cost of property taxes know, as I do, that this takes a terrible cost on families and friends. The entire community suffers when valued members, such as our fishermen, have no choice but to move inland, away from the coast and their homes.

New people don’t realize what the rising costs of property values do to those with fixed incomes, or else they are simply concerned with their own pockets. To be a true community with towns full of people that look out for each other, we have to look at ways at the local level to keep these under control and to reduce them when possible.

Selectmen need to stay on board with this, but so do state legislators. When public services and education costs are slashed by the state, towns have to come up with ways to raise the revenue themselves. I believe that we must return to more funding by the state, as we traditionally have done, to meet the needs of, for example, social workers in the schools to help kids deal with family problems. Kids today have so much they need help with, coming from homes struggling in today’s economy and increased economic strain and addiction problems.

I will follow through and find ways for our state to take better care of our towns, so we don’t end up ejecting people out of their homes.

3. Get living wages for workers. The state must recognize its commitment to provide the best pay for our workers so they can remain in Maine. The needs of small businesses, housing providers and entrepreneurs must be considered at a higher level of urgency. Quality work done by our blue-collar workers needs protections. Farmers need their businesses defended, which I have done locally through local land use changes we made 10 years ago. Infrastructure jobs, along with better health care for all our workers at all income levels, are needed for us to effectively work and make it pay to stay in Maine. This is a top issue for me as I go forward, hopefully, into the Statehouse with a full slate of priorities to address, and I depend on working closely with residents to find ways to get this important work accomplished.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I want decency in those who serve us. Good, honest decency. I want our towns to serve the people, not the almighty dollar. People have a right to basic rights, especially the freedom to express themselves without fear. People should have the freedom to get basic needs met without compromising their health care needs or their peace of mind.

We need to make Maine care more fair and expand its services. People should not be falling though the cracks. We must have adequate treatment for addictions of all types; I want rehab, not incarceration, for victimless crimes.

We must get the heroin epidemic handled compassionately. Young people need a future they can call their own, not paying for the cost of war or public education. They should have high quality education that leads to decent work. All Americans should have dignity in their lives, and we need to work together to create communities that work for us, not for corporations. We need to get our country back and working for what people value.

I am fully committed to solving the many areas of concern I have just laid out. I want to hear that things got better as a result of my efforts on behalf of the towns I care about: my relatives lived in all three towns, so you are all family to me, one way or another. I will not forget you as I make choices to be your best representative. My door, my ears, and my heart are going to be ready and open.

If you could change one thing about state, what would it be and how would you do it?

What a great question! I have much experience in helping to build public consensus around town planning. I would like to have a department of peace planning, so that our future job revenue in Maine goes back to peaceable enterprise, not making weaponry and money for corporations that don’t give back to our state. We used to invest in farming, fishing and renewable resources. We have to use what we have wisely and we need local controls over our land, air and water rights.

I would invest the money we earn in ways that F.D. Roosevelt did. He said you have to create the conditions for peace, if you want peace. So I would start here in Maine. We can make a better world if we try. I will try, count on it. There is a lot people who aren’t, simply for lack of vision, or because they are distracted with the prestige of office and their addiction to power. We have to focus on those we serve. That is what I would want for our state. That we make it work for us, and for a good future.

How would you address the growing problem of opiate addiction in the state?

I have attended several Narcotic Anonymous meetings in the towns in District 9 as well as hundreds of meetings of AA. Alcohol is a gateway drug to opiates. Pain is a real problem. Stress of life makes pain less bearable. We must identify the sources of illness before people get hooked. Drug sickness is a dread disease, because it is much more severe than people realize. To avoid withdrawal, people become desperate. This is not a situation being adequately addressed or even understood. I know, because I have worked through addiction to alcohol and am in 12 Step Recovery. Every day I am in touch with the need to help others, and by being there for others, it makes me able to truly be there for myself. This is a gift of the program. I offer my own experience and my path as a resource for others. I want to wipe out the scourge of addiction and know that we can do this, once our communities get aware and on board with the solutions. However, we must get past our fears and confront this directly, and seek to understand. We need to get it right. So far, not enough has been done, especially when India Street and other health clinics are either closed or cut back. This is no way to handle a crisis.

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