With so many seats to fill in state, county and local government, and all the trouble we have filling positions, I wonder why the race for House District 94 so frequently forces me to choose between people I not only respect, but also like personally. I have agonized over some of these choices and I know I’m not alone.
So here we are again, presented with two great options for one job. Even my 8-year-old pointed out a few days ago how much easier it is when there’s one person you do like and one you don’t.
But that’s the nature of small communities and it’s one of the reasons why I love being involved in local government. The people I disagree with on one thing turn out to be my biggest allies on the next, and most of it has nothing to do with political parties.
For me, the decision to support Owen comes down to what I’ve seen over several years of watching him on the Rockport Select Board and working with him on the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Board, as well as paying attention to the decisions he has made in Augusta. He continuously seeks to improve himself and receives criticism and feedback perhaps better than anyone I know. He has good things to say even about those who criticize him, and he is generally more concerned with process and compromise than with his own personal agenda. These qualities and others made him an easy and unanimous choice to be Chairperson of our four town Mid-Coast Solid Waste Board this year. He cares deeply about the environment and relentlessly seeks common ground.
After his unsuccessful run against Joan Welsh, I was impressed by his willingness to buckle down and get more experience by running for the Rockport Select Board.
Just as I have seen at the local level, there is a massive learning curve to all elected positions, and two year terms seem too short for the legislature. I also think that few things can prepare you for the state legislature better than serving first at the local level. Party affiliation becomes virtually irrelevant and the the best work gets done by showing up, being prepared, and keeping at it. Part of me thinks state and federal government would run better if everyone started out serving first on Select Boards and City Councils.
While I understand that our system is centered around political parties, as a lifelong Democrat, I see no reason to replace Owen. He votes with the Democrats the majority of the time, but looks for opportunities to compromise. When the votes fall along party lines, he has voted about 70 percent with the Democrats and 30 percent with the Republicans.
He has been a reliable vote on environmental issues and has the endorsement of the Maine Conservation Voters and the Maine Sierra Club. On labor issues, he has the support of Maine State Employees Association. He supports universal healthcare, renewable energy, and has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
Two years in the Legislature have given Owen a great start and I expect his best is still yet to come.
Alison McKellar lives in Camden