Candidates have diverse backgrounds



This week, we will take up the challengers in two more legislative races, House Districts 133 and 136, on either side of Ellsworth.

Three-term Democrat Ralph Chapman’s opponent in District 133, west of Ellsworth, is Republican Nancy Colwell of Surry. Growing up, Colwell described her family as “politically aware.” After graduating from Husson College, she moved to Colorado for a spell before coming home to Maine. She decided she would rather “work for change than sit back and complain.”

Colwell is worried that Mainers are “taking a back seat” to immigrants and illegal aliens. Even those who are here legally should not receive welfare. “We can’t even take care of our own people,” she said. “I have nothing against legal immigrants, but if you want to come here, you should be able to support yourself.”

She also is concerned about outside interest groups that come to Maine to try to score a win here on national issues before moving their campaigns to other states. She cites gun control and hunting regulations as examples of these agendas.

She is a fierce supporter of the 2nd Amendment, a stance on which she said there is no room for compromise. Though she supports background checks, she opposes the gun safety referendum (Question 3) on the November ballot, believing that existing laws should be enforced first. “Ask gun dealers about follow-up on existing laws. There is none.”

In truth, Colwell believes that none of these issues “are what keep people up at night.” Hitting as many as 3,000 doors so far, she has learned that it is the personal problems that have Mainers worried. Getting and keeping a job. Putting food on the table. Heating their homes in winter.

With both a son and a daughter who have served in the military, veterans’ affairs are close to her heart. Through her family’s business, she understands pressures on fishermen from the costs of business to license limits. And as an employee at a boatyard, she understands the challenges of an industry that is one of the largest employers in the region.

“When the economy goes down, boatbuilding goes down,” said Colwell. Increasingly stringent environmental regulations, though important to preserve Maine’s reputation for clean air and water, can be expensive. A boat bottom-washing system for one yard cost about $40,000.

As for education, “What’s wrong with the basics – the three R’s?” she asked. Parents are unable to help their kids with homework because they can’t understand what is being taught in school. She has seen in her own industry that plumbers, mechanics and heating technicians can make a good living in Maine. “A community college education can be a path to a really good job. It’s a way to keep kids in Maine.”

Overall, Colwell sees herself as very conservative financially, perhaps less so socially. “I’d like to be able to share ideas, to reach across the aisle,” she said.

East of Ellsworth in House District 136, Democrat Mike Fisher is challenging three-term Republican incumbent Richard Malaby. A former book editor for Harvard University Press, Fisher is a cheerful and energetic soul who has been a close observer of life in eastern Maine, first as a seasonal resident, now year-round. He has attended many selectmen and school board meetings to get to know the towns in the district.

Fisher understands that “Mainers can feel invaded by people from away.” A lack of sensitivity can lead to “disruption of the rhythms and assumptions of the community. The goal is not to change the community but to bring it together to talk over common interests.”

One way in which communities might collaborate is through a single website that could host information and events for the region and make people aware of the opportunities Down East.

Fisher believes in public education. “I don’t like charter schools,” he said. “They siphon money away from the public school system.” At the same time, Maine is spending a lot of money with insufficient return. Schools are top-heavy with administration, and there is too much federal and state paperwork.

He finds reason for optimism. “There is a degree of economic diversity here that is rare in the U.S. These are not segregated communities. Here, there is still a mix of social and economic backgrounds. There is still the feeling of what Maine used to be.”

A question much on his mind is “What is the next generation going to have?” People Down East have a “variety of life choices.” Future opportunities can “grow out of traditions, out of the environment. Maine could be the Silicon Valley of aquaculture or a hub for environmental training.”

Fisher’s priorities as a legislator would be transparency (who gets what, and why), better broadband connectivity so local meetings and other public service programming could be televised, and the basics of food, medicine, housing and education. “I’m not interested in a career,” said Fisher. “I’ve had a career.” He simply hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the place he now calls home.

There is still plenty of time to register to vote. Check with your town office for the details.

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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