Two state Senate districts have territory in Hancock County. One is District 7, the seat from which Republican Brian Langley is retiring due to term limits. Two termed-out legislators from the House of Representatives are vying to replace him.
Republican Richard Malaby of Hancock is owner of the Crocker House in Hancock, and campaign season overlaps with his busy fall season at the inn. He laments: “I can’t get started knocking on doors until I finish cooking breakfast!”
President of the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital board for years, all four of Malaby’s terms were served on the Health and Human Services Committee. He knows the complex bureaucracy well and puts that knowledge to work for his constituents. “It gets easier,” he says. “You’ve got to develop and maintain good relationships within the department and the administration.”
One of his biggest worries is the waiting list for services for the disabled, mentally ill and seniors. Among legislators pressing for trimming the budget, he sometimes feels like the “lone voice” for funding increases that address budget inflation.
He says children are “traumatized” by the system and their caseworkers are too. Current caseloads are reaching 700 clients per caseworker. 27 eligibility specialist positions are vacant. And there are “so many people in need.” Support for Medicaid expansion is difficult for him in the face of unkept promises to others needing services. Major improvements in the department’s computer technology are essential.
Addressing substance abuse might require different types of treatment for different users, but the goal for all those in recovery should be functionality at home, in the community and at work.
Democrat Louie Luchini, born and raised in Ellsworth, was a star runner in high school and college and participated in Olympic trials twice. He is now a cross country coach for Ellsworth High School. “Too many young people are leaving Maine,” he says. Add student debt to the picture and he understands why many make the choice to leave.
Ellsworth has “huge potential” as a service center, within easy reach of most of Hancock County, but the lack of affordable health care, housing and jobs are holding the area back. He sponsored a bond to promote research capacity at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and worked to bring a JAX facility to Ellsworth.
He describes himself as non-political, saying “I just want to get things done.” He established close relationships across the aisle with Republican members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee which he co-chaired for three terms, and with Senate President Mike Thibodeau who he calls a mentor when it comes to positive working relationships within the legislature.
In Senate District 8, Republican Kim Rosen is seeking a third Senate term. She also served four terms in the House, giving her a longer view of her policy area than most legislators develop since term limits began, and Rosen has really settled into her area of expertise on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
She has visited many of Maine’s jails and prisons and takes a particular interest in incarcerated women. She has studied successful prison programs in other states that provide meaningful work while in custody and skills that will be useful when they are released. “In prison, they are safe, clean and sober,” she said. They need support post-release, or they will soon be in trouble again.
She is not taking her incumbency for granted. “I want my constituents to be able to put a face to my name,” she says. “I knock on doors every day.” She also served on the Transportation Committee for 12 years, and when a Mainer in her rural district calls with a problem about Maine roads, Rosen’s likely response is “I’ll be right there.” Sometimes there’s a quick solution. “It can be really satisfying. Even small problems are big to the person calling. Problem solving is what I like to do most.”
Rosen’s challenger is Democrat Bev Uhlenhake of Brewer. She is new to legislative campaigning but not to public service, now serving her second term on the Brewer City Council. What brought her to the state race? “You finally decide you can’t not do it,” says Uhlenhake.
She was shocked at the position schools were in this year because it took so long to pass the education budget in Augusta. “They had no budgets, not even a timeline to get one. That can’t happen.”
Schools need stability and predictability, she maintains, and so do businesses and property taxpayers. She loves getting out and talking to people around her district. She is impressed that voters often describe concerns about affordable health care not for themselves, but on behalf of family, friends and neighbors who cannot afford the care they need.
She calls herself a “policy wonk” from a family interested in policy and politics. Her father was a factory worker and farmer. “Volunteering was part of what we did as a family.” Her goal now? “Making my community a better place.”