Voters residing in House of Representatives District 134 will decide who will represent the district in the Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 14. From the Democratic Party, Julie Eaton and incumbent Genevieve McDonald are seeking the seat. No candidates from other parties are seeking the seat. Locally, House District 134 includes the islands of Isle au Haut, Vinalhaven and North Haven. The district also serves the communities of Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Southwest Habor, Stonington, Swan's Island, Tremont and Marshall Island Township.
Please provide a concise biography of yourself.
I grew up on Mount Desert Island and now reside in Stonington. I am a commercial lobster boat captain and in 2014 became the first woman appointed to serve on the Maine Lobster Advisory Council. I was elected to the Maine Legislature in 2018 and am currently running for my second term. I serve on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources and as a member of the Maine Climate Council. I am a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Maine with a B.A. in university studies and a minor in Maine studies, and the mom of twin daughters, Evalina and Elise.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Maine, as a state, today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
The most pressing issue facing Maine right now is recovery from the pandemic. We need to make it safe for people to get back to work, especially in schools and childcare facilities. We also have to make sure that there is a threshold level of support for out-of-work families for food, housing costs, and health care. From my experience helping hundreds of Mainers apply for unemployment benefits I have seen firsthand the systematic and structural shortcomings of our unemployment system. This program needs reform so that claimants can access the help they need, now and in the future.
We need to expand broadband across the state to support our students and businesses, and fund both our public schools and Maine's Career and Technical Education Centers. There is potential in our CTE schools to train young people for green energy jobs that would allow them to work and live in Maine, but we need to fund programming and technology to make that possible.
How will you protect the local (municipal) taxpayer as you help shape a state budget?
I will protect municipal sharing of state revenue, and will also defend General Purpose Aid to schools as any reduction would likely result in increases to local property taxes. Federal funds now are being allocated to municipalities to compensate for specific costs incurred because of the pandemic.
Given the shortfall of housing in your district, how should the state approach the need for more workforce housing, as well as re-entry housing for the formerly incarcerated, and emergency shelter for those suffering through extended power outages?
I voted in favor of LD 1645, which created the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit program. The refundable credit is available to individuals or businesses that invest in affordable housing and leverages an equal amount of federal low-income housing tax credit dollars. We also need to look at zoning and land use restrictions and re-examine the myriad of local ordinances that make building costly and restrictive.
What legislative committees would you like to serve on and why?
As a commercial fisherman I am well suited to continue serving on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources. The Marine Resources Committee is important to this district and I would eventually like to serve as the House chair. I am also interested in serving on the Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business. As a parent I have a vested interest in the ideas that will carry Maine into the future.
Maine’s economy relies on small and micro-businesses. How will you help the entrepreneur succeed in this state, especially given the pandemic?
Maine has received $1.25 billion in federal relief funding and I will continue to strongly advocate for small business owners in this district to assure that all relief funds are properly allocated to the people that need them most, including federal funds and any other emergency funds that are available to help mitigate the current crisis.
What is your vision for affordable health care?
I believe everyone should have access to affordable health care and a full range of treatment options. That’s why in my first term as a state representative I consistently cosponsored and voted for legislation that made health care more affordable and available to more people. We made significant progress, but there is still more work to be done. I will continue to support measures that make healthcare both more affordable and accessible.
Does the State of Maine need to improve its public health system?
Yes, we are fortunate to have strong leadership that is doing amazing work with little infrastructure. We need to improve this system to meet our needs and maintain public well-being.
What are the greatest strengths in District 134, and how do you hope to support them?
Our three greatest strengths are our people, our abundance of natural beauty, and our marine resources. I will continue to work hard for my constituency and support policy that has a positive impact for Maine families and small business owners, and that protects our environment and the long term sustainability of our marine resources and coastal economy.
What are the greatest problems to address in District 134, and how do you intend to address them?
Our three greatest weaknesses are our dependency on seasonal employment, access to broadband, and the lack of diversity in our fisheries. I will continue to support legislation that builds and strengthens our rural economy, expanding broadband is an important step for businesses and students and I encourage voters to support the broadband bond question on July 14th. I support responsibly sited aquaculture as an opportunity for fishermen to diversify, and will continue to fight for a fair regulatory process and best available science in our fisheries management.
What is your opinion on how Gov. Mills’ administration has handled the pandemic in the State of Maine?
Governor Janet Mills has done a remarkable job of keeping Mainer safe and I am thankful to have a governor who prioritizes science and public health. It has undoubtably not been an easy task, these are unprecedented times and our Governor has risen to the challenge.
With some anticipating another wave of COVID-19 in the near future, what actions would you want to take in the new legislative term to shape how Maine responds to any resurgence?
We need to continue allowing municipalities to conduct business remotely, and develop a plan for how the Legislature can safely reconvene. I respect the public’s right to access and we need to develop a procedure that will include their participation. We need to increase our testing and contact tracing capacity so that people can safely go back to work and students can return to school.
Do you support the proposed 145-mile Central Maine Power transmission line that the company hopes to build from Quebec to Massachusetts?
I supported three measures that would have given the Legislature, municipal governments, and voters greater oversight of this proposed project. One piece of legislation died between the Senate and the House, the other two were vetoed by the Governor. It is my understanding a citizen’s initiative has gained enough signatures and that this proposal will go before the voters in November. I find it deeply concerning CMP is fighting against the referendum and against the people of Maine having a voice.
What is your position on offshore wind farms?
I voted in opposition to LD 944, the legislation that directed the Public Utilities Commission to approve the long-term contract with Maine Aqua Ventus, but I was not on the prevailing side and this project is moving forward. It will be imperative to have people at the table to effectively advocate for the fishing industry in terms of placement of both the turbines and the infrastructure. I have participated in extensive conversations with the Governor’s Energy Office and will continue to be engaged in these discussions.
I voted in favor of LD 1711, Maine’s solar power bill that created opportunities and incentives for solar energy. This legislation has had a favorable impact on the district especially in the community of Tremont, where they have installed a solar array on a capped landfill to power municipal buildings and are now expanding to residential service. Mount Desert Island High School and the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-op are also now utilizing solar. There is significant potential in the use of space like capped landfills that are limited in the ways they can be utilized.
How should the marine fisheries industry be balanced with environmental and habitat protection?
I am proud of the management of our fisheries and the conservation measures we have in place to protect the marine environment. I support ecosystem based management that monitors biological and environmental conditions in addition to fisheries’ species abundance to best maintain fisheries and ecosystem productivity across a variety of environmental conditions.
What should Maine do to help protect the whales from entanglement and maintain a thriving lobster industry?
To protect right whales we need binational policy and research collaboration focused on learning the North Atlantic right whale’s adaptative migration patterns based on oceanographic conditions that best support their primary prey. Reducing the potential of a right whale being entangled based on where they were, instead of where they are, will not save any whales and places an unfair burden of risk on Maine. The Maine lobster fishery does not operate in waters where right whales traverse and a direct line cannot be drawn between these developing rules and actual remedy or relief for right whales, but will inflict grave damage on the Maine lobster fishery and the coastal communities that depend on it.
Free space! Is there anything else you want voters to know about you or your vision not addressed through this questionnaire?
The Black Lives Matter protests happening across Maine are initiating discussions about racism, privilege, and bias. Not all of these discussions are comfortable. It is especially challenging addressing issues of racial injustice in a state with limited diversity. But these conversations are important and they need to take place, we can no longer turn away. We must come together collectively and move forward through education and understanding. Black Lives Matter. The voices of indigenous, black, and people of color matter. We need to listen to them. This is how we affect positive long-term change both in our communities and in the policy we enact in the Legislature.