2016-06-02 / News

Newcomers seek Saco seat

Saco residents Margaret O’Neil and Kathie Purdy are seeking the Democratic nomination for House District 15, which includes part of Saco.

Name: Margaret “Maggie” O’Neil

Age: 26

Occupation: Assistant state park ranger, restaurant server/bartender

Family: Single, no children

Education completed: BA in classics, history, Dalhousie University

Organizations and activities (including past political experience): First run for political office

Top three issues:

1. Advocating for Saco’s interests in Augusta.

2. Attracting and retaining skilled and educated young workers.

3. Restoring functionality and effectiveness to the Legislature.

In your own words, why are you seeking elected office?

I’m running for office to be a voice for my district. I chose to return to Maine after graduating from college because I love what this state and our community have to offer – for our great people, our local businesses, the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and our quality of life. For more than two months now, I’ve been walking around my district, knocking on doors and talking with voters. I’ve heard some great stories and learned about ways that state government can impact people’s lives. The citizens of Saco need an advocate in Augusta. I’m equipped to serve our community, and, along with the handful of representatives under the age of 30, I’ll bring a fresh and necessary perspective to state policy outcomes. I’m a careful listener and a fair-minded collaborator who can bring our district’s concerns to Augusta, navigate policy issues and bring information home. I want to use my energy and my skill set to improve the quality of life for the people in my community and for the state of Maine as a whole.

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

I am a huge advocate for our state and there is not much I would change. It’s a great place to call home and someday it will be where I raise a family. That being said, one of my greatest concerns is our economy and where we are going in the next 10 to 20 years. We need to make it our priority to attract skilled and educated young people and make Maine a feasible place for them to work and live. Young people are crucial to the future of Maine, and we need to facilitate greater economic opportunity for future generations. Encouraging the growth of the millennial population will not only help enable the middle class, which is the bedrock of our economy, to thrive, it will also benefit an aging population who will make use of the tax dollars of young workers, homebuyers, and investors. I believe this happens in a variety of ways, including keeping state tuition affordable, maintaining existing tax credits on student loans, and creating and maintaining competitive wages. These changes are not made unilaterally, but I will work to advocate for them as a top priority with my fellow legislators.

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

There is little disagreement that the most effective approach to this problem is multi-faceted. Prevention, enforcement and treatment must all be deployed. I also think that public awareness has helped – and will continue to help – us come to grips with the crisis. In my opinion, one of the most tragic aspects of the crisis has been our collective unwillingness or inability to acknowledge the realities of opiate addiction. No generation or socioeconomic status is untouched, yet for years we failed to adequately grapple with the issue because it was easier to ignore it as someone else’s problem. Our increasing awareness is a cornerstone to action. It is also imperative that we hear from the social workers, addiction counselors, and health care professionals who address this crisis each day. They advocate for treatment and support to help reintegrate people into communities. As experts in the field, they are the ones who can guide the legislature in the direction of success. Overall, Maine’s increased awareness and the availability of strong advocates has our state poised for progress on this critical issue.

Name: Kathie Purdy

Age: 60

Occupation: retired after 36 years at Shaw’s, the last 28 as assistant store manager. Currently co-owner of Purdy Distributing. Also part-time seasonal position as bar manager/bartender at Ogunquit Playhouse and holiday work at LL Bean Call Center.

Family: Husband, of 23 years, James D. Purdy. Two children: Joseph Gunn of Saco and daughter, Kelly Thayer (married to Oliver Thayer) of Saco

Education completed: Graduated 1978 University of Maine at Orono, Maine 1978 BA Political Science, Minor in Secondary Education Social Studies/ Civics. Served on the University Senate.

Organizations and activities (including past political experience): I am the vice president of Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to empower active citizenship and volunteerism in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach. Shaw’s Supermarkets: company diversity trainer; steering committee for company recycling and waste reduction program in 1990; in several locations from Falmouth to Sanford; led and participated in fundraising activities for various nonprofits: United Way, Maine Children’s Cancer Program, Muscular Dystrophy, Easter Seals and Milestone Foundation. Delegate to the Maine State Democratic Convention in 2008 and 2016. Campaign volunteer for Linda Valentino and Justin Chenette.

Top three issues:

1. Attract business and manufacturing that will stimulate our economic growth and develop employment opportunities for generations to come. We need to ensure our college graduates are able to pursue careers in our state and not be forced to seek employment elsewhere. Also, our minimum wage must be increased so that working Maine people are able to support themselves and their families, and not have to depend on state aid to supplement their income. As a small business owner, I support the Maine People’s Alliance, which is leading the way for the initiative on the November ballot, to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. As a representative, I would fight for the right for every Mainer to be able to support themselves, by making a living wage so they can live healthy, happy lives.

2. Security for Maine’s senior citizens. Maine’s population is out of balance. We have more Baby Boomers and fewer young adults. We are considered oldest state in the nation because our median age is 43.5 (the national average is 37.4).

We are 10th in the nation with people over 85 (29 percent of our seniors are low income). We need to address the increased housing shortage, health care costs and availability of caregivers that our senior population is facing. I know personally, as my mother became handicapped from the complications of diabetes and had to sell her home that she could no longer live in. We were able to build onto our home, to accommodate her special needs, but many of our elderly do not have similar options, and are in crisis. We need to do more to help our seniors and ensure their health and security. We need to build over-55 housing, reduce prescription costs, and work to develop a system to train future caregivers.

3. Investing in education to strengthen our future. Maine needs to invest more in our students, our teachers and our classrooms. In 2004, voters agreed that the state should raise its level of funding for the total cost of K-12 education to 55 percent (leaving 45 percent to local budgets). The last several years, that level has not been achieved. Not enough legislators have followed through and come up with the needed support resulting in the will of the voters not being achieved. By improving the funding to the full 55 percent, our public schools and our communities will benefit and the middle class will not be burdened with increased property taxes to make up the difference. As a homeowner, I understand that we need to ensure that property taxes do not keep going up because the state is shifting the burden to us. It is important that the state does not shortchange our students and shift the cost to the communities. I fully support the Stand Up for Maine Referendum that will bring about some much-needed fairness to our tax code, and help provide schools with the resources they need. Another important aspect of this funding is that it will help support programs in the trade fields, and encourage students not bound for college to learn solid skills and build careers for their future.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I have always wanted to do this. I was born into a politically aware family and was raised to believe it was every citizen’s duty to participate and vote. I even majored in political science at the University of Maine in Orono.

After almost 40 years of working full time in customer service, the last 27 years as an assistant store manager, I am finally able to follow my dream and run for office. The timing is right, as Sen. Linda Valentino is retiring and Rep. Justin Chenette is running for her seat, which leaves the Saco District 15 seat open.

I am proud that both Linda Valentino and Justin Chenette are endorsing me.

The current climate of partisan politics and divisiveness within the parties has made me more worried than ever that our progress toward solving the issues, that need addressing, are being pushed aside or held up in gridlock.

During my career, I have been praised as “A person who can get people to work together” and as “Someone who gets things done.” I know that I possess the skills that can help our legislators work together.

There are many wonderful people in Augusta, and I want to join with them to build coalitions and partnerships. I have excellent reasoning abilities and know that I can use the facts and information to make sound decisions.

My campaign also focuses on the need for our citizens to have easier access to information and details regarding the issues that face us. In talking with people in my community, a common concern was expressed: They feel uninformed and frustrated with not knowing all sides of the story. People need facts, not rhetoric to base their decisions on. The lack of understanding leads to indecision and unengaged citizens. These people are also not as inclined to vote. One of the reasons I want to run for office is to inspire others to become more informed, involved and engaged. I want to make sure that every constituent in Saco District 15 has access to all the facts they need to be fully informed and better able to make sound decisions. My other goal is to improve voter turnout and community activism.

I want to be a representative that does not have an agenda, but rather forms a collaborative relationship with the constituents and listens to their concerns. They need to be able to depend on me to take their issues to Augusta and stand up for what they want. The job is about being a representative of the people.

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

I am proud to say that I am Clean Election candidate. My opponent is not. I don’t understand why this is something that everyone would not expect from their candidates. I admit, it was not easy gathering $5 donations from registered voters in my district, and there is detailed paperwork needed to comply with the rules, but it is the only way we can truly get special interest money and influence out of politics. It is also the only way we can have a fair and level playing field, where candidates from all economic levels can seek office and be part of our political process. Politics should not be for just the wealthy or well connected. We need to encourage all people to become involved in the process regardless of their financial strength. I would further eliminate lobbyists and PAC groups.

By taking money and influence out of politics, our government would once again, truly, be of, by and for the people . . . and an amazing thing would happen: More citizens would get involved and want to participate again, because they would feel that their voice was heard and their vote mattered. Another result from Clean Election process, is that people like me, who would not otherwise be able to afford to run a campaign, can stand up, be part of the political process, and get elected to office; so they can give back to their community.

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

Education. There are many parts to this problem, and we must address all of them.

First, we need focus on prevention and education. We need to start early and ensure that every child is educated about the dangers and effects of drugs. I remember middle school health class being where I learned important details about drugs and addiction. Constant reinforcement is needed and is vital to keeping our kids safe.

Second, we must examine the causes. I believe increased prescribing or opiate drugs (Oxycodone, Percocet, Demerol) has put drugs into the hands of people who never would have thought of taking them. What is prescribed to manage pain, either for a surgery or chronic condition, or for depression, can quickly become an addiction. I know first hand, as a patient, I was prescribed Oxycodone after surgery. I took my first dose when I came home from the hospital, and I knew immediately that it was doing more to me than helping ease my pain. I was not feeling right and I threw the pills away. Instead, I took over the counter medication and found it was all I needed.

We must work to encourage other ways to help with pain and chronic conditions and lessen the use of these prescription drugs.

In addition, as soon as someone is prescribed opiates for long-term care or chronic pain, we must be sure they are monitored and given alternatives to prevent addiction. Education and knowledge about these drugs is key.

Monitoring by medical personal is the best way to prevent addiction and help keep patients aware of their situation.

Third, law enforcement must be increased and funded to the extent needed to combat the flow of illegal drugs into our state. We need more officers dedicated to finding and shutting down meth labs. Officers must be given the training and support they need to understand all aspect of Opiates and the symptoms of abuse; as well as having the lifesaving drug Narcan on hand to help save those who have overdosed

Furthermore, if someone becomes addicted and is arrested for possession or is caught using these drugs, they should be given rehabilitation and support instead of prison sentences. We need to treat drug addiction as an illness and not as a crime. If they commit a violent crime because of these drugs, they need to be held responsible, but still be given rehab while serving their sentence and considered for lesser sentences, upon completion of their drug program.

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