Midcoast state legislative candidates discuss State’s response to COVID-19

Sat, 10/17/2020 - 7:45pm

    Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been endless debates how the world, the United States, each state, and each municipality should respond to the pandemic. 

    Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for Maine State Legislature, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the state. Candidates responding with their individual written answers will have their responses stored in the Pilot’s 2020 Election Resource Guide.

    Among the 14 questions posed to each candidate was a question asking each candidate to discuss their thoughts on Maine’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to note these responses were gathered in late August and throughout September, and much has changed with the pandemic since the candidates responded. 

    Below are the responses to this question from each candidate that responded to an inquiry from PenBayPilot.com. To read more responses from each candidate about their thoughts on important issues, click on their name. 

    Midcoast legislative districts with races in November include House Districts 91 through 99, as well as District 131, and Senate Districts 11 through 13. The incumbents in House Districts 92 and 94 are not being challenged. 

    The following candidates did not respond to numerous invitations to participate in the Q&A series: Lowell Wallace (House District 91), Ann Matlack (House District 92), William Elliott (House District 97), Scott Cuddy (House District 98), Jessica Connor (House District 98), MaryAnne Kinney (House District 99), April Turner (House District 99), Sherman Hutchins (House District 131), and Dana Dow (Senate District 13). 


    Jeffrey Evangelos 
    Candidate for House District 91

    I thought it started out well, but it's become too fragmented, too many winners and losers. Governor Mills must call us back into session. If she fails to do this, the coming crisis will rest on her shoulders. That is not what any of us wanted. We have a constitutional separation of powers in Maine and the Governor's reluctance to share this responsibility will not turn out well.

    An example of the inadequacy of the response was our tourist season. Maine put a 14-day quarantine in place for tourists but tourists came up for a four-day weekend over July Fourth and Labor Day. This makes no sense, there was no enforcement, and as anyone who witnessed traffic on Route 1, it was a free for all of out of state folks taking little or no precautions, while they cleaned out the shelves of our grocery stores. Expect to see a sharp rise in COVID cases as a result.


    Valli Geiger
    Candidate for House District 93

    The fact that Maine is second or third in the nation with Vermont and  New Hampshire, for lowest positivity rates speaks for itself. We are lucky to have Governor Mills and Dr. Shah, using science and data to determine their actions. Because our case rate is so low, we have the ability to jump on an outbreak like the wedding in Millinocket.

    It is tragic, our economy has taken a severe hit, but we are in a good position to slowly rebuild and reopen. It will be a couple of very rough years. Watching the states that re-opened without the low positivity rate and ability to contact trace, has been to watch slow motion disasters with needless deaths, thousands facing chronic post covid conditions and crashing economies as they re-close.


    Michael Mullins
    Candidate for House District 93

    I think the Governor was in a very difficult position, wherein one week her staff tell her everything's going to be fine, and two weeks later they warn that this virus could kill in the thousands or even millions. I disagree with the state and federal response in one regard. We are at our best when we mobilize our community. When we work together, to innovate and produce and adapt. For example, when we knew that the vulnerable needed to stay home, we could have kept our restaurants working, through a state program to pay them to prepare meals, and to deliver them to those who are in need. We could have hired people to tutor students to make up for the shortcomings of distance learning, and to make test kits.

    I believe that people in the position to do good need to take action. When the pandemic hit, I was away in Mexico for a wedding that was cancelled, when Americans were told to return home by the Secretary of State. I was faced with the prospect of going home and quarantining. I thought, maybe I can do something to help. And maybe I can do something that would create a way for others to help as well. So I decided to try to set up an ad-hoc factory make PPE and masks. I started ordering all the materials I could get my hands on from my hotel in Mexico. Within six weeks we went from prototype to making over 2,000 masks and mask kits per week. It was an all volunteer effort and we made over 7,000 masks and kits. This is Maine. We are resourceful and capable, and we can handle this pandemic. #Maine #WeGotThis.


    Victoria Doudera
    Candidate for House District 94

    I commend Gov. Mills for her strong leadership during this pandemic, especially her willingness to base her policies on facts and science, and collaborate so closely with Dr. Shah and his team at Maine CDC. I was proud to see the outreach with so many Maine companies who helped with PPE, and the numerous business leaders who weighed in on our safe economic reopening. Surely the balance between health and the economy was not an easy one for the Governor but our low numbers demonstrate that her strategy did work to protect us.

    Since March, I’ve been working hard to keep everyone in District 94 appraised of the latest developments and changes in policies. The incredible variety of pandemic related issues and problems I have helped people navigate, ranging from securing unemployment benefits to assisting with travelers stranded abroad, still astounds me, but it has been a privilege to help during this time of crisis.


    William Pluecker
    Candidate for House District 95

    I am pleased that we have come through the pandemic as well as we have considering the failures we have seen in other states. We are lucky and blessed to live in this state. At the time we were sent home from the State House, none of us knew what was to come or what the long term effects of the pandemic would be. We are now seeing that the economic and health impacts of the pandemic will be long term and severe. The sooner we can get back to work and get our economy running again, the sooner we can begin a real recovery financially and emotionally.

    I am pleased that we have been given a little more leeway in terms of having local control over reopening our schools and town offices. One size does not fit all when it comes to the pandemic and the state's policies, and the state is beginning to see that as well.

    I do wish that the legislature had a chance to return to the State House and do our work. I voted twice to return, but we were blocked by both the governor and the Republican party. I was democratically elected to do the work of the people of my district. There is no reason to leave that work undone. It inhibits democracy, and consolidates power in the hands of the executive branch. The legislature is a vital way for the people of Maine to speak up about the policies of the state whether it be about COVID response or any other issue. This is one of the reasons I am running. I want the chance to finish the work left undone by the pandemic response.


    Molly Luce
    Candidate for House District 95

    The state has done some good things and some not so good things. History will eventually tell us the story. I will work tirelessly going forward when I am elected to help solve those issues and concerns at that time.


    Stanley Paige Zeigler
    Candidate for House District 96

    I come from a tradition that in times of impending emergencies you look to a leader. When I sailed first time as Captain there was a typhoon approaching in an incredibly remote area in the South Pacific. As Captain, I had to look at typhoons' paths to see where ours might intersect and place the ship and my crew and passengers in the safest position. I turned to my crew and told them what I was planning to do and could they do what I asked of them. Once they understood their jobs, it was my responsibility to make the decisions.

    That is what the legislature did with Governor Mills when we gave her emergency powers. She turned to medical professionals for advice and made hard decisions. People called for us to come back into session. You don't need 186 voices on each decision. You need good leadership and strong support or there would be no forward momentum. Businesses and people were hard hit. The state along with the federal government stepped in with loans, grants and unemployment supplements. Still, people were in Augusta demonstrating to re-open. Yet in states that opened prematurely, it has been even more damaging to the economy and cost a greater number of people's lives. Wearing masks and physical distancing have been proven to be effective.


    Katrina Smith
    Candidate for House District 96

    I believe the Governor was right to shut down the state for the first 4 weeks and then I believe her response became arbitrary and misguided. I say arbitrary because the virus couldn't tell the difference between Walmart and a small store yet the small store was shut down and I say misguided because she acted, and continues to act, without a bipartisan approach to governing our state.


    Janice Dodge
    Candidate for House District 97

    Maine’s numbers and statistics regarding COVID-19 speak volumes about the scientific and measured response developed by Governor Mills and Dr. Shah of the Maine Center for Disease Control. I fielded many constituent calls and emails from those who were angry about the prescribed precautions. I hope those same people are now comparing Maine with other states’ disease progression and results.


    Veronica Garvey Magnan
    Candidate for House District 131

    The State of Maine has responded with scientific and reasonable rules and statements to keep Mainers safe during this pandemic. If we would all comply, we could have the “re-opening” we are all waiting for as soon as possible.


    Glenn ‘Chip’ Curry
    Candidate for Senate District 11

    I appreciate that the state has relied on the best public health science available and that they regularly review both the science and the effectiveness of safety standards and interventions. We were able to open many parts of our economy this summer while also keeping transmission cases low through the tourist season. Still the health and economic impact has been enormous.

    It is clear our systems including; online unemployment applications, support for small businesses, and guidance for school reopening have not been up to the challenge presented by covid. Still, I have observed our state government responding effectively by dramatically ramping up testing, efficiently distributing protective gear, managing outbreaks through contact tracing and quarantine, and communicating in a timely and straightforward manner. For all of that I am appreciative. Lastly, I believe the legislature needs to return and complete the work they were elected to do.


    Duncan Milne
    Candidate for Senate District 11

    When confronted with a challenge, bureaucrats tend to adopt of fortress mentality, hunker down, and await better times. That is exactly what we have seen since March when what we needed was leadership. Our state’s response to the pandemic has exacerbated an environment of division and fearmongering that will have negative implications for years.

    The administration’s actions have relegated key stakeholders to the sidelines and relied instead on cookie-cutter policies that bureaucrats prefer. Instead of leading, inspiring, and motivating the citizens of Maine to a common goal, the response has led to confusion, fear, and financial vulnerability that will impact the state for years to come.


    David Miramant
    Candidate for Senate District 12

    We have done a great job of avoiding the “curve” that would have overwhelmed our resources. We learned how to support more vulnerable folks and then began to reopen the economy, allowing those who are healthy to get working. It’s not over yet, but the pandemic will begin to fade and treatments may become available to help those who have the worst symptoms. Our response has evolved and will continue to evolve as we continue to learn about the virus and what works.


    Gordon Page
    Candidate for Senate District 12

    I have commented numerous times that nobody who ran against Janet Mills, including in the primaries, is wishing they were in her shoes right now. Anyone can second guess her decisions, and I choose not to do that.

    That said, I believe the Governor should have, from the beginning, included the legislature in the process of making those decisions. Our state representatives in both parties are on the ground in districts throughout the state and are the ones talking to citizens and business owners. While Dr. Shah appears to be up to the task, I have been troubled by some of the rest of the administrative team as it relates to communication, working as a cohesive group, and the handling of unemployment and other financial distributions.


    Chloe Maxmin
    Candidate for Senate District 13

    I keep saying: we need to stay safe to stay open. I am grateful that the Mills administration has followed a science-based approach to keep Mainers safe and open our economy. This is what we need to get through the winter--for our health and our economy.

    As a Legislator, I have been very disappointed with the lack of transparency around the state’s response, how businesses and individuals can access the services that they need, and how the unemployment system has functioned. I know many people who could not (and cannot) get what they need. I also hear stories of fraud within the system that takes away from hard working Mainers.

    I am also outraged that Republicans refused to answer the poll that would have allowed us to go back into Session. We were elected to process bills, fight for our communities, and serve. We cannot do this now because of Republican intransigence.