Democrats Ted Koffman of Bar Harbor, left, and Moira O'Neill of Surry are running for their party's nomination to run against Republican State Senator Brian Langley of Ellsworth in November. Primary voting is set for next Tuesday. ISLANDER PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Koffman, O’Neill face off in primary

ELLSWORTH — Democratic primary election candidates for the Hancock County Maine State Senate seat made their pitches to voters at a forum last week, citing their respective life experiences and addressing topics they likely will have to deal with if elected.

Moira O’Neill of Surry and Ted Koffman of Bar Harbor discussed why they want to run against incumbent State Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) in the general election in November.

Langley represents Senate District 7. That district covers most of Hancock County, including Blue Hill, Mount Desert Island, Trenton, Lamoine and Ellsworth.

“It’s always a challenge when you’re running against someone people like,” said O’Neill of Langley. She said voters do not always pay attention to the voting record of an incumbent they like, however, and she said she is working to raise awareness of bad votes she believes Langley has made.

She also tied Langley to Gov. Paul LePage, referring to “the administration our sitting senator supports.”

Both O’Neill and Koffman said they, unlike Langley, would have voted – and would vote in the future, given the chance – to expand Medicaid in Maine.

Koffman, the former executive director of Maine Audubon who previously served in the Maine House of Representatives, ran against Langley and lost in 2014. He said there were other good Democratic candidates who lost races that year, but said he perceives a different political climate in 2016.

Koffman said his prior service in Augusta, not only the legislation he worked on but the experience of working with members of the other party and finding common ground, would serve both him and his constituents well.

The two Democrats found common ground on many of the issues they were asked about, such as raising the minimum wage (in favor) and EBT fraud (not the problem LePage and others make it out to be).

“We would make a great team,” said O’Neill, “but we can’t elect a team to the Senate. So the voters are going to have to decide.”

A registered nurse who in addition to clinical experience also has worked as a child advocate in Connecticut and has a doctorate and has taught nursing in Maine, O’Neill said her background would help her in addressing big issues facing the state today.

Asked about opioid addiction, O’Neill labeled it a pandemic and said more work needs to be done on the prevention front.

“It’s not a policing matter,” she said. “We need to get folks not to use [drugs] in the first place.”

Koffman, who said his son struggled with drug misuse after a period of military service, talked about attending a recent public forum on drugs and said he was encouraged by the “more open and compassionate” approach people are taking to tackle the problem.

“We’ve been hiding it under the rug for quite a long time,” he said.

O’Neill echoed that, saying society has to “get past the vilification of people who are using drugs.”

The primary election is set for next Tuesday, June 14. Presidential preferences for major parties were made earlier this spring in caucuses. Some local questions and races also will be up for vote.

The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Community Union of Hancock County and The Ellsworth American. American Managing Editor Stephen Fay was moderator.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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