I don’t expect everyone to agree with all of my votes, but I do expect campaigning to be fair and accurate in its portrayal of my record. Through mailings, radio spots and in a recent online ‘voter guide’, the Republican party left behind factual criticism and has resorted to distortion, dishonesty, and unfounded rankings which they masquerade as facts.
Let me explain my position on two specific issues: welfare reform and reducing energy expenses.
On Welfare Reform. We do need to reform our welfare system, making DHHS accountable for getting more people on their feet and no longer needing help, rather than looking for new ways to knock people down. We need welfare that works, that helps families through hard times and helps parents who are able to work get back in the job market in jobs that pay enough to support their families.
Contrary to the MRP’s claim, I support prohibiting the use of welfare money for alcohol, tobacco, gambling and other uses that do not support the family. And, in the last session, I voted for a bill with sensible penalties to do just that. The bill also directed DHHS to come up with a way to automatically reject such purchases with EBT cards. Also contrary to the MRP’s claim, I support the existing TANF/ASPIRE job training and work requirements for able-bodied parents. The ASPIRE program provides many parents with the training and experience necessary to hold down a better job. These are good public policy.
But other “welfare reform” proposals submitted by the governor were mean-spirited and did more to punish and unfairly denigrate families than to develop sensible rules for how we assist them in getting out of poverty. I couldn’t, in good conscience, support counterproductive changes like punishing a family for any prohibited use of welfare dollars by permanently reducing support to the family, making victims of children or by abolishing DHHS discretion to allow good cause exceptions to ASPIRE work participation, including illness or incapacity; sexual harassment; court ordered appearance; or lack of child care. These proposals would have done more to get in the way of people having the help they need to get better work and get out of poverty than to make welfare responsible, and that is why I voted against them.
On energy policy. I believe that reducing our dependence on energy from other states and countries for the $6 billion we spend on fuel for heat, transportation, and electricity generation. We must invest in a strong weatherization program for the 450,000 homes in Maine that could reduce energy costs 20% on average, and develop our solar and offshore wind energy capacity – all essential for the future of Maine’s economy, environment, and good paying jobs. I have taken a strong role in the Senate on energy issues. Now the Republican Party claims I voted against lowering energy cost — a ludicrous claim. The bill they referenced would have repealed goals for renewable energy production. Of course I opposed this bill. It would have discouraged positive energy policy for the 21st century.
Voters deserve better. The so called economic rating the MRP uses is only dragged out as a Republican election year trick, not based on established economic principles. Voters deserve factual information, truthful representation, and an accurate context for statements. Voters haven’t gotten any of these in the MRP’s voter guide, targeted mailings and radio spots that inaccurately denounce their opponents’ positions. These are unacceptable practices in any political undertaking. They don’t belong in our campaigns or our policymaking. Let’s raise the bar back where it belongs.
I’m always up for a spirited debate with other candidates with opposing views. We learn from each other and voters have an opportunity to weigh the opinions and positions of each candidate. This is how democracy works best.
I encourage you to learn more about the candidates in your local area by going to their website, reading interviews conducted by local papers and, if you have any questions or read something you find disturbing, you can contact the candidate directly. I always welcome questions and concerns about where I stand on the issues.
11-3-2016 update – Yesterday a mailer from the Maine Democratic Party landed in my mailbox attacking my opponent’s record on taxes. The newspaper citation references reporting of my opponent’s opinion consistent with the claim. The portrayal of his voting record seems factual with the exception of LD 849, which strikes me as a distortion. Particularly since my opponent also voted at some point to reduce income taxes, at least for the wealthy, and such information is omitted from the MDP mailer. The mailer also stoops to using a black and red toned unflattering image of my opponent, much like the MRP used in attack mailers against me. Distortions and use of such demonizing imagery by both parties remains inappropriate and unacceptable.