A delegation of diversity

The Hancock County legislative delegation is about evenly divided between the parties. Of the eight districts located mostly in our county, both senators (Kim Rosen of Bucksport and Brian Langley of Ellsworth) are Republicans. On the House side, four seats are held by Democrats, two by Republicans.

Two members of the delegation, Sen. Rosen and Rep. Walter Kumiega of Little Deer Isle, are running unopposed. The rest are entering the final weeks of campaign season. This week, we will look at the Republican challengers in two local House races.

David Edsall is in the House District 132 (Ellsworth, Trenton) race against three-term incumbent Louie Luchini. In a nod to Luchini’s success as a runner, Edsall said it would be foolish to “run” against Luchini. Instead, he said he’s swimming against him; Edsall is a titled swimmer in regional and world masters events.

His campaign experience so far is “better than I expected.” Though he acknowledged he has the “gift of gab,” he also said those he visits on the campaign trail credit him with being a good listener. He makes two campaign promises. First, he will get back to you. Second, he will read every bill before voting.

Edsall, an anesthesiologist, has visited Augusta a half dozen times as “Doctor of the Day,” a volunteer position in the Maine State House. And he has been dealing with hospital politics for decades. Motivated by unfortunate experiences among his own family in hospital settings, he is driven, almost obsessed, with the importance of quality control.

“We have known how to do this for years,” he said, “yet we don’t do it.” Edsall said we are “measuring the wrong things.” The focus should be on outcomes, not processes. “I don’t care how many times you wash your hands. What I care about is how many wound infections occur in hospital.”

Bonuses for meeting quality control measures are one way of incentivizing better care at lower cost. Successful quality control measures also can reduce burnout among health care providers by yielding better outcomes, leaving providers more satisfied with their roles as caregivers.

As for Maine’s opioid crisis, he recommended never starting a pain control regime with a narcotic. Always try less addicting medications to relieve at least a portion of the pain, and then a lower dose of narcotic can be added if needed. Lower doses mean fewer side effects, and fewer side effects mean lower cost.

What does all this have to do with the legislature? Edsall said legislators, though well-meaning, propose laws that take the practice of medicine in the wrong direction. Legislating limits on medication, for instance, should not be the purview of those without a medical license. Controlling access through approaches like provider networks does nothing to improve quality of care. Instead, the legislature should require outcomes measurement and make the information public.

The legislature also could deal with turf battles among medical providers by taking outcomes into account. Provider licensure should depend on care outcomes.

Another Republican hopeful is Maurice “Joe” Marshall of Lamoine, who is challenging Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor in District 135 (Lamoine, Bar Harbor, Mount Desert). It is the second time these two have competed; Hubbell is now seeking a third term.

Marshall has served in a variety of capacities at the local level, a useful background to bring to the legislature. He has served on Warrant Committees and moderated town meetings, giving him insight into town government.

He wants to run an issue-based campaign, but the recent controversy about the governor’s behavior has made that more difficult. Though he strongly disagrees with the governor’s actions, he believes Gov. Paul LePage has had to “own up and face the consequences” and that most people think it is time to move on.

Marshall would like to provide a stronger voice for business in the Mount Desert Island area. Businesses, he said, want stability and predictability in business regulations.

Education is another policy interest. As a drama coach in local schools, he knows how hard teachers work, and he has spent enough time in the schools to acquire an understanding of programs such as Special Ed and Gifted and Talented. The student-teacher relationship is an intimate one, he said, and teachers must be given latitude to work in the most effective way with each student.

The three towns in House District 135 are all different, but each wants to maintain key industries and preserve quality of life. Marshall grew up on MDI but worked away for years as an adult. He understands the values of both tradition and new ideas.

“We’re losing our young families,” said Marshall. “I want to be a voice for thinking in different ways.” But being for something, he said, has become more difficult than being against.

Incumbents are usually favored in elections. Nevertheless, these challengers have stepped up to give voters a choice. Over the next weeks, Hancock County voters will have a variety of opportunities to learn about the policy differences between the nominees in these races. November 8 gives all of us a chance to weigh in.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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