KVO Conducts 2018 Candidates Night Forum

the shotKVO’s biannual event was held this year the evening of September 25th, at Waterville First Congregational Church and moderated by Somerset County county administrator Dawn DiBlasi.
All Kennebec and Somerset County 129th Legislative candidates were invited to attend as well as submit their answers in writing after the conclusion of the forum, for those wanting to participate but unable due to scheduling conflicts.
Jennifer Day, Candidate for House District 86, submitted her responses electronically. They are available by clicking on this link: KVO Forum
The evening’s topics were raised from surveying members at our Issues Assembly at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Winthrop earlier in the summer .
Local media coverage can be found via this link: Legislative candidates participate in Kennebec Valley forum


1. Senator Shenna Bellows, Candidate for Senate District 14
2. Karen Kusiak, Candidate for Senate District 16
3. Jan Collins, Candidate for Senate District 17
4. Lindsey Harwath, Candidate for House District 79
5. Representative Kent Ackley, Candidate for House District 82
6. Representative Donna Doore, Candidate for House District 85
7. John Clark, Candidate for House District 105
8. Aaron Rowden Candidate for House District 108
9. Representative Colleen Madigan Candidate for House District 110
10. John Thiele Candidate for House District 118

Notes below were taken by KVO staff, regarding candidates’ responses:

Shenna Bellows (Senate District 14):

  1. Health Care – Supports a universal single payer system. Supports Medicaid Expansion.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Was an exchange student to Brazil when she was a teenager. Works at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center on the University of Maine at Augusta campus. Supports diversity.
  3. Public Transportation – Thinks investments into transportation is needed. Is committed to revisiting LD 1248. She has met a senior citizen who recently gave up driving, stating it has been hard to drive and costs too much money.
  4. Food Insecurity – Thinks the points raised is good starting points. Mentioned something of a full plates collation, which expanses access to school breakfast for students in need. Said school lunch programs should be expanded to online sign up options for parents and students alike. Bring these programs into the twenty-first century.
  5. Workforce Development – Agree with statewide bond program. State should engage with loan forgiveness options for recent graduates who decide to stay in-state after graduating from college. Recruiting options should be happening to bring young people and new businesses to Maine. Broadband access around the state should be happening too.


Karen Kusiak (Senate District 16):

  1. Health Care – Is moved by the Maine AllCare work. Supports Medicaid Expansion and a single payer option at the federal level.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Works with Capital Area New Mainers Project. Supports resolution in Augusta’s schools around cultural holidays representation on the school calendars.
  3. Public Transportation – Doesn’t know about LD 1248. Is committed to revisiting the bill if elected into office. Mentioned knowing about KVCAP expanded their public transportation options.
  4. Food Insecurity – Mentioned SNAP benefits at farmer markets for healthy options for families and children. Encourage food options with school lunches.
  5. Workforce Development – Supports loan forgiveness, keep it simple for those who wish to apply for this. Supports funding community college and the UMaine system for options in keeping the up and coming workforce in the state. Expanding broadband and cell services in the areas that need it.


Jan Collins (Senate District 17):

  1. Health Care – People shouldn’t lose their homes from their health care costs. Supports Medicaid Expansion and universal health care coverage. Health care is a moral and universal right.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Has personal experience with refugees, supports about building bridges with Muslims, educating Mainers about their countries and traditions.
  3. Public Transportation – Mentioned stories of the bad experiences with the current system. Rural Maine is affected more by the lack of public transportation than the rest of the state.
  4. Food Insecurity – An issue is excess produce from the area farms after harvests. Mentioned producing a network to gather excess foods to those in need. Need to have larger scale income, increase the minimum wage.
  5. Workforce Development – Jobs and profession options made available and not seen in rural areas. Expand broadband, cell service, and internet options. Mentioned the depletion of industrial arts in high school and how these skills are important for job opportunities for those who do not want to go to a four-year higher education institution.


Lindsey Harwath (House District 79):

  1. Health Care – Mentioned about how we should learn from other cultures about their health care systems in comparison to ours. Mentioned Medicaid Expansion is a duty that should be done, not caught up in the legality side of implementation. People voted for it. Health care access is a moral right.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Has done a lot of work with refugees. Need people from away to boost the economy. Small business options open for refugees and immigrants gives another way to boost the economy.
  3. Public Transportation – Doesn’t know all the specifics about LD 1248, but supports the thought behind the bill. Mentioned in Japan, there are taxis voucher options available for those who need to get to doctor appointments.
  4. Food Insecurity – Has experience with other countries and what they do at school with food options for their students. There is a misconnection with school gardens and the students. There is a misconnection with where your food comes from. There should be options available for learning to garden.
  5. Workforce Development – Get back to looking forward. Look at all options for economic development. Mentioned solar and wind industries to bring in newer industries to the state. Mentioned it should not take twenty plus years to pay off student loans. Mentioned human-capital development, which helps people and employees. Think about how that will make our state flexible with workforce and economic development.


Kent Ackley (House District 82):

  1. Health Care – Supports Medicaid Expansion. Health care is a human right.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Son of an immigrant. Mentioned should make the state both ethnical and economically attractive to young people. Yes to religious holidays being on school calendars.
  3. Public Transportation – Aging state, aging in home is key for many people. Public transportation is key to this. Supports revisiting LD 1248.
  4. Food Insecurity – Food insecurity is a ticking time bomb. There are additional social costs when children who experience food insecurity grow into adulthood. Mentioned matching local resources with incentives for food access.
  5. Workforce Development – Referred to David Anderman’s remarks about social and human capital, as to help people become self reliant. What can we do as a state to make the workforce more flexible, educated and receptive to changing needs?

Donna Doore (House District 85):

  1. Health Care – Affordable health insurance is a right, not a privilege. Did vote for Medicaid Expansion in the House. Mentioned that her son’s fighting to keep his SSI benefits.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Yes to cosponsoring recognition of all immigrants.
  3. Public Transportation – Did support LD 1248 in the House and continues to support. Mentioned that the city areas in the state are fortunate to have transportation options. Mentioned the state should revisit expanding rail options for transportation.
  4. Food Insecurity – Teach people who can farm to farm. Raise money to send backpacks home with food for those students in need. Need to fix the food insecurity issues in the state.
  5. Workforce Development – Need broadband to be expanded. Need to push vocational colleges and options for reducing student loan debts.


John Clark (House District 105):

  1. Health Care – Yes to Medicaid Expansion and yes to health care being a moral right. Mentioned how health insurance is like a reverse lottery ticket: don’t have it, their stuck.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Immigrants are going to be vital to an expanding workforce. Support holiday inclusion.
  3. Public Transportation – Has concerns—money to finance either LD 1248 or a bill similar to this model. Mentioned transportation is vital. Mentioned maybe having shuttle options between towns established down the line.
  4. Food Insecurity – It is cheaper to screw something up than fix it. Mentioned how every town has land to start community farms.
  5. Workforce Development – Supports a bond issue to fund costs for a bond person in rural areas to start up a business.


Aaron Rowden (House District 108):

  1. Health Care – Mentioned health care is a moral and human right. Economic imperatives crushes the economy as a whole.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Ties together and mentioned moving beyond celebrating other cultures. Be more inclusive about immigrants and include their culture in the broader American culture.
  3. Public Transportation – Supports revisiting LD 1248, and wants to make it better. Public options to workers, who will use fairs, which in turn will boost economic services and revenue.
  4. Food Insecurity – Focus on stopping the slide between generations with food insecurity. Vulnerable children need access to food, they need people to get them this. Mentioned doesn’t understand the statistics provided in the packet.
  5. Workforce Development – Has friends who were educated in Maine and have since moved out of state. Mentioned that Maine doesn’t have high paying job options. Supports loan forgiveness. Mentioned people are still displaced by the recession.


Colleen Madigan (House District 110):

  1. Health Care – Supports Medicaid Expansion. Mentioned there is no excuse for people not to have health insurance. Access to affordable health care helps working people.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Supports a New Mainers day. Maine is a homogenous state, and this is a great opportunity idea to learn about cultures outside of our own.
  3. Public Transportation – A barrier is transportation options to work for those who do not drive and/or can’t afford a car, as is this a barrier for those who need to get to important appointments. Supports revisiting LD 1248, and mentioned addressing rural transportation barriers.
  4. Food Insecurity – Mentioned some options for seniors experiencing food insecurity is having their neighbors cook meals for them. Mentioned SNAP having agricultural shares and expanding WIC to farmers markets. Also mentioned expanding Meals on Wheels.
  5. Workforce Development – Medicaid Expansion will bring in jobs. Mentioned expanding broadband. Mentioned the state needs more workers and needs loan forgiveness options. People across the board need to make enough money to stay in the state.


John Thiele (House District 118)

  1. Health Care – Supports Medicaid Expansion. Aspects of individuals not getting to their medical appointments and what they need medically is the elderly. Mentioned health care is a human right.
  2. Racism and Immigration – Mentioned a way to make new Mainers feel welcome can happen at the social organization and local community churches to make these individuals and families feel welcomed to the state. Yes to supporting equality of cultures and religions.
  3. Public Transportation – Support funding public transportation options. Maine is an elderly and poor state. Mentioned the Medicaid money might help fund transportation options.
  4. Food Insecurity – Mentioned community churches, school systems, legislatures, employers, and insurance about getting a handle on children facing food insecurity.
  5. Workforce Development – Mentioned seeing Maine residents enrolled in a degree program get tuition free.


Some general thoughts:

  • We all care about our communities. We all share common commitments.
  • Loving your neighbors goes deeper than religious teaching.
  • Emphasis on listening to voices that are very low and work to try to listen to people who otherwise might not be heard.
  • The geography representation was well rounded with the candidates.





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