BAR HARBOR — Four candidates who will be on the ballot in June in a Democratic primary for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, along with two independents hoping to run for the seat in November, gathered for a forum hosted by Indivisible MDI at Mount Desert Island High School on Friday.
The independents participating were Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor, who works as a special education teacher at the Tremont Consolidated School, and family attorney and mediator Tiffany Bond. Jonathan Fulford of Monroe, Jared Golden of Lewiston, Craig Olson of Islesboro and Lucas St. Clair of Hampden are the Democrats.
More than 160 people attended the forum, organizers estimated, despite a heavy snow shower. Questions about education, health care, immigration, trade, taxes, campaign finance, gun policy and other issues were gathered from Indivisible members and posed to one or two of the candidates by moderator Jill Goldthwait.
Bond’s campaign is not accepting any donations whatsoever, she said, instead asking supporters to support businesses and nonprofits in their communities “and tell them you’re doing it because I’m running for Congress.
“You change the system by changing the system,” she said. A former Republican, she said she has been frustrated that the “job interview and job description are not the same thing” for elected leaders, and that she looks forward to reading every bill presented for a vote in its entirety. “I truly enjoy reading federal law, which is what the job is,” she said.
Fulford, a farmer, said addressing climate change is a top priority for him. “Solutions to climate change will create more of the jobs that we actually need,” he said, adding that climate instability is a driver of conflict and refugee crises. He’s supported by a group called “Local Berniecrats Maine” and said “turning out the voters who felt disenfranchised in the last presidential campaign” will be important in the race.
Golden, a Marine Corps veteran and current Democratic assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives, said “the Democratic party has ceded too much territory in Northern Maine.” He’s proud of his voting record in Augusta, he said, and would not plan to pivot to more centrist positions for the general election if successful in the primary.
Golden was asked about a statement critical of foreign worker visa programs on his campaign Facebook page last month. Many seasonal businesses here rely on those programs, the wages are the same as local workers receive, and employers must demonstrate they’ve tried to hire local workers first.
“I don’t think I’ve ever said I was opposed to the H2A or H2B visa programs,” he said. He said the campaign post about “programs that give our jobs away to temporary workers, because they can pay them less” was aimed at logging companies near the Canadian border hiring Canadian workers rather than Mainers.
Improving health care and addressing the opioid crisis are top issues for Hoar, who said he is a recovering alcoholic and addict. He said Emily Cain’s campaigns for this congressional seat were “too strategized” and touted Maine’s record of independent legislators. “We’re the only state to have voted for Ross Perot,” he said, “and there’s a whole slew of state legislators becoming independent.”
Olson, a former Islesboro selectman who now works at the transfer station there, said “every day is a town hall meeting” in a small town, and he looks forward to bringing diverse constituents together. He proposes expanding public pre-K programs, as Islesboro has done, and hopes to improve mental health care, saying many inmates in local jails have mental health challenges.
St. Clair has spent the last couple of years working to support creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument as a representative of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., a foundation created by his mother, Roxanne Quimby, when she sold her stake in Burt’s Bees. The project gave him experience working on Capitol Hill, he said, and required “bringing people from both sides of the aisle together.”
St. Clair has a special focus on the needs of rural communities, he said, which he thinks has been missing in the Democratic Party. He supports free vocational education and community college.
St. Clair and Golden both claimed to have been told by the same Kennebec County sportsman and blogger that he planned to change his party affiliation to be able to vote for them in the primary.
Bo Greene of Indivisible MDI spoke at the beginning and end of the program. “At the end of the day, at the end of this election cycle, we’re gonna need all of you,” she told the candidates.