By John Maguire
Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, is running for re-election to represent new Senate District 23 against Richmond attorney Alice Knapp, a Green Independent, and retired teacher
Linda Baker, R-Topsham.
Senate District 23 consists of the Lincoln County town of Dresden and all of Sagadahoc County.
Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic
A former school teacher, Vitelli served her first term in the Maine Senate focused on a number of issues, including the economy and health care.
Vitelli serves as chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and is a member of the Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. She is a
member of the Maine Economic Growth Council, and serves as chair of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, according to her Facebook page.
She is the director of program and policy development for the Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community.
If elected to serve another term, Vitelli would like to continue to pursue expanding access to health care. “Ideally, I would support universal health care,” she
said. “I think the Affordable Care Act is moving in the right direction; it is not a perfect solution, yet. There are improvements being made all the time.”
According to Vitelli, almost twice the number of people have signed up for health care than what had been predicted. “This says to me the need is out there and
people are actively seeking access,” she said. “But this still leaves thousands who are left without health care.”
Just as it is important to get aid to where it is most needed, Vitelli said she supports gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud in launching independent
investigations at the Department of Health and Human Services to identify all fraud.
Of the two primary public assistance programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Vitelli said, “We need to
make sure those are getting to the appropriate people.”
Vitelli believes education must start early. She is willing to support a pre-kindergarten bill that would broaden early education access to all communities. She
points to Regional School Unit 1’s pre- K efforts as a model for other communities.
The district’s efforts involve Head Start, private nursery schools, and other organizations working together toward the same goal.
Regarding charter schools, Vitelli said, “We need to learn from the charter schools that we have before I would support expanding the number that we have.”
“We need to live up to our commitment to fund 55 percent of our public schools,” Vitelli said.
Adults also need education and Vitelli said that is an important component in building a stronger workforce.
“I would start with the jobs we have here, the homegrown businesses,” she said. “We need to support the businesses we have and make sure they can succeed. Let’s make
sure they have the resources they need and Maine remains attractive for businesses.”
This involves strategic planning, the sort employed at Brunswick Landing, she said.
Part of this also means taking a comprehensive view of any overhaul of the state’s tax structure, according to Vitelli. “Doing it piecemeal doesn’t seem to work,”
The other part is about balance. Vitelli wants to see the economy grow, while at the same time ensuring the state’s natural assets remain protected. “We have to see
how to make the economy grow without ruining the place,” she said.
Senate District 23 candidate Linda Baker, of Topsham.
Vitelli’s Republican opponent, Linda Baker, of Topsham, is a mother, grandmother, and retired teacher, according to her Facebook page and campaign website.
A resident of Topsham for over 25 years, Baker was employed at Mt. Ararat High School, where she taught English, history, and creative writing. She also served on
the town’s board of selectmen and finance committee, including as committee chair and vice chair.
Baker served on the Blaine House Scholarship Selection Committee for five years and was on the board of Jobs for Maine Graduates for 10 years. Baker retired in 2011,
but continues to teach adult education classes at University College in Bath and Brunswick.
“I think Dresden does a marvelous job with their school,” she said of her support for smaller schools. As for charter schools, Baker said, “I think there is room for
Baker said charter schools should not be included in school districts, particularly after the districts have created their budgets. “I think they should be state-
funded,” she said.
Baker would like to see how well online education works in the near future before committing all resources to it. She said, “there’s a lot to it. We need to work out
he kinks before we have too many leaping into the pool.”
On her campaign website, she said, “We need to develop a stronger education base for our youth, which enables them to become lifelong learners while remaining
gainfully employed in the state of Maine.”
Baker supports the expansion of apprenticeship programs to reach this goal. Partnering with Maine businesses in building a stronger workforce also could involve tax
incentives, employee training, and energy rebates, she said.
Baker supported the “Open for Business” bill submitted by LePage and later rejected by the Senate. She said the bill would have provided large incentives to
companies willing to invest in the Maine economy and utilize space at the former military bases in Brunswick and Limestone.
Baker would like to reduce Maine taxes and believes there are several options available. “Maine taxes are among the top five in the nation,” she said on her website.
Baker said state revenue would increase when personal income taxes, which fall into the “top five” category, are lowered.
She also wants to revamp veterans’ deductions. “Property tax deductions have decreased over the years, and I would want to look at that,” she said.
As for public assistance, Baker believes there are some loopholes that need to be addressed. On her campaign website, she said, “I believe in helping those in need,
but feel our current public assistance programs need to be examined … to better serve the needy and eliminate waste and abuse.”
The use of photos on electronic benefit transfer cards “is a good step forward,” she said. Baker does not think the cards should be used out of state, nor should
they be used to purchase tobacco, alcohol, or pornography, for gambling, or to obtain bail money.
“I also don’t want to support the immigrants who are here illegally,” Baker said.
Baker said she doesn’t mind expanding MaineCare “a little bit” to enable people to better help themselves.
Maine lawmakers need to be prudent when considering how best to produce energy and protect the environment, according to Baker. “Maine is so beautiful and special,”
she said. “We do need to protect the pristine areas.”
She supports researching alternative energy sources, particularly hydro and solar power generation. However, she finds windmills unattractive and would want more
research done to show how effective they are in delivering energy.
Alice E. Knapp
Senate District 23 candidate Alice Knapp, a Green Independent, from Richmond. (J.W. Oliver photo, LCN file)
Richmond Green Independent Alice E. Knapp said she is “far more experienced in state and local government” than either of her opponents.
A practicing lawyer since 1989, Knapp has dedicated much of her career to the health-care field. Following an 11-year career as an insurance regulator, she was
appointed director of the Consumer Health Care Division of the State Bureau of Insurance, where she helped state legislators draft Maine’s Patient Bill of Rights.
In 2002, Knapp launched her own private law practice in Richmond. Locally, Knapp served on the Richmond Board of Selectmen for six years. She also served on the
town’s planning board for seven years.
Health care, jobs, the environment, welfare reform, taxes, and education all tie together, according to Knapp. “Soup to nuts, we have to do things differently,” she
said, expressing her frustration over “stupid” tax policy and excuses coming from the other parties.
She thinks LePage should have accepted federal funds to expand MaineCare, but is not “an Obamacare enthusiast,” she said.
According to Knapp, the Affordable Care Act “is the same old system.” She believes states should adopt a single-payer health-care system. She would like, at the
very least, to obtain federal funds and expand MaineCare for three years as a trial.
Some argue people already receive care, funded at a higher price by the system, by going to the emergency room, but Knapp says there is a much higher price that is
“Three thousand people die each month across the country because they don’t have health care,” she said, adding that hospitals are only required to “screen and
stabilize” uninsured patients.
To accept anything short of universal health care is lunacy, according to Knapp. She said Medicare is essentially a single-payer health-care system that was borrowed
from Saskatchewan, where it was first introduced.
“Some uninsured is not okay,” she said, criticizing Democrats for accepting the status quo. “They don’t get to say, ‘this is the best we can do,'” Knapp said. She
said 60 percent of Maine people already have taxpayer-funded health care, but for everyone else it’s “bad news.”
Knapp wants people in need to have a “helping hand” with other living expenses, and acknowledges there are people who are unable to help themselves, but believes
Maine’s public assistance programs need some work.
“We are not a rich state, and yet we spend like a drunken sailor,” she said.
Those who went to school and found good jobs with help from public assistance programs should be required to pay some of the funding they received back into a
dedicated system, one that will help others in need, Knapp said.
As for those who take advantage of public assistance programs, she feels that number is a minority. “Most people just want to get back on their feet,” she said.
Knapp would like to see a revamping of Maine’s tax policy, to decrease property taxes and to fund education. “We have the sixth highest property tax in the nation,”
Knapp said the state should eliminate municipal revenue sharing, but should fund 100 percent of public school education.
Instead of luring large companies with tax incentives, which Knapp calls “corporate welfare,” the state Legislature should focus on the small businesses already
“Two-thirds of Maine’s economy is small business,” she said. “The focus should be on the people who live here and who want to be here.”
Adopting single-payer health care, Knapp said, would help small businesses and would result in exponential business growth throughout the state.