Ed Mazurek, left, Chris Rector, middle
Ed Mazurek, left, Chris Rector, middle
Chris Rector and Ed Mazurek, who are competing for a District 22 Maine Senate Seat representing most of Knox County, and Lizzie Dickerson and Gordon Mank, Jr., who are competing to represent House District 47 (Rockland and part of Owls Head) in the Legislature, were at Rockland City Hall on Monday night, October 15, to answer questions about their positions. The program was sponsored by Courier Publications and moderated by its news editor, Dan Dunkle.

Regardless of the candidates' party affiliation or ideology, they all claimed to want to work in a bipartisan way, supported assistance for the most needy, said education was a high priority, and said they would work to promote jobs and protect the environment. The four candidates stood out in various ways, but not in direct comparison to each other.

SENATE DISTRICT 22: Rector vs. Mazurek

Ed Mazurek (D-Rockland), who has served four terms representing District 47 in the Maine Legislature, is seeking the senate seat currently held by Chris Rector (R-Thomaston), who is seeking a third term. Rector previously served three terms in the House. Their positions, as stated below, are taken from the debate and from their voting records.

Education: Mazurek, a retired teacher, said that funding education is always problematic because it is expensive. "But, without education, where would we be? And times are changing," he said.

Teachers need to keep abreast of those changes to be able to prepare students for the world we live in today, said Mazurek.

Rector supports a single budget for education for all levels, from early childhood through college, that can be divided up. He supports distance learning as a way to provide a broader range of classes and keep costs down.

Voting record: Rector voted for the charter school bill, which also is a vote in favor of for-profit virtual schools. Mazurek opposed it. The bill passed.

Tax Reform: Rector supported tax changes that reduced the income tax from 8.5 percent to 7.5 percent and doubled the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million per decedent.

"The tax burdens caused by income tax and property tax inhibit growth," he said. "I stand by those votes."

Mazurek said he supported it, but unwillingly, thinking that what was needed was comprehensive tax reform.

"We still haven't done anything about the $800 million deficit that is facing us before the doors open on the next legislature," he said. "Can we fulfill our services to the elderly, children, to education? ... These are not throw-away people."

Mini-Tabor: Rector voted for the mini taxpayers bill of rights, which slowly reduces the personal income tax over time by using surplus state funds. Once the rate is lowered it will remain lowered permanently regardless of revenue needs, eventually staying at 4 percent. Mazurek opposed it. Mini-Tabor passed.

Gay Marriage: Question 1, if passed, will legally sanction marriages between people of the same sex, but not require churches to perform marriages.

"It was a difficult issue for me, but after long conversations with my constituents, my eyes were opened and I?support it," said Mazurek.

Rector also supports it.

"It seems like a Republican issue to me; it moves us away from the intrusion of government," he said.

Pesticides: Rector voted to repeal the pesticide application registry that required those applying pesticides to inform residents when they planned to treat an area. Mazurek voted against the repeal. The repeal was passed.

Health care: Rector voted for the health insurance bill that does the following: allows insurance companies flexibility to raise rates up to three times from the base rate by taking age, health status and geographic location into account; allows a tax on insurance policies of healthy individuals to pay for health care for those with high health care risks; allows insurance rate hikes up to 10 percent without a public hearing, and removes restrictions on the distance an insurance company can tell a patient to travel to get treatment that is covered by their policy. Mazurek opposed it. The bill passed.

Unemployment: Rector sponsored and voted for a bill that delays unemployment benefits until after any remaining vacation pay is used up. It also shrinks the time an unemployed person can look for a job in their profession from 12 weeks to 10 weeks. To continue to receive unemployment benefits, the unemployed must then begin job searching outside their profession. Mazurek voted against it. The bill passed.

Workers Comp: Rector voted for changes to workers compensation benefits, including shortening the time an injury can be reported from 90 days to 30 days; creating a new appeals board that can create its own procedures, eliminating disability benefits while employees file an appeal, and putting a 10-year cap on those who are permanently impaired but not fully incapacitated. Mazurek voted against it. The bill passed.
HOUSE DISTRICT 47: Dickerson vs. Mank

Elizabeth Dickerson (D-Rockland)

Dickerson said her top priority was to be a booster who supports and promotes Rockland and Owls Head in the Legislature.

"We need to continue to support the powerhouse we have created here. So much is so good and we need to maintain and increase that," she said.

"A lot of my constituents would say that their priority is Old County Road," said Dickerson, agreeing that it needs work.

On the topic of welfare fraud, Dickerson noted that the often-stated increase in people getting state and federal assistance was due, in part, to the recession and related to policies that have undermined job growth and educational readiness for the contemporary workplace. We should look for solutions to the larger problems, she said, not scapegoats.

"Right now, there is one job for every 2.9 people in the nation. We need to look at sound economic policies that create opportunities, she said, and address the root causes of poverty. "And we need to look at initiatives that will help people save money, such as on home heating costs," she said.

On revenue sharing, Dickerson said the contribution from the state has continued to go down, year after year, and that is forcing service center communities like Rockland to ask what they want to be, what services they want to provide and what they want to pay for.

Dickerson noted that the need for services didn't go away after the LePage-backed $325 million income tax cuts passed.

"What we don't want to do is shove it off to property tax payers," she said. "That is just a shell game."

Dickerson, who is a technology teacher, supports early childhood education as an investment that pays off over the long term.

Essentially, she said, her approach is to enter into a dialogue about what services are needed and how to pay for them.

Dickerson closed with a statement about how, as a young single mother in Rockland, she earned her first paycheck and has never forgotten what she thought while she was on the way to the bank to cash it.

"I remember my first paycheck as a mom. It was $118 and walking down the sidewalk ... and thinking, my god in heaven, how in the world am I going to feed my baby and feed myself? ... How in the world am I?going to change things in my life and in the world so this doesn't have to be the way for a young mother with a baby in tow?"

Dickerson said, with the help of her community, her partner and her own determination, she went on to raise two children, become college-educated, work in a variety of ways to put food on the table, and establish herself as a teacher and to give back to the community that she has come to love.

Gordon Mank, Jr. (R-Rockland)

Mank, Jr., who was arrested in Farmington in 2008 for assault while drunk and who has lived and worked in Rockport for the past 13 years, used his opening statement to explain the circumstances of his arrest and why he should be considered a Rockland resident.

The teenage driver of the vehicle Mank was riding in called the police while at a McDonald's in Farmington because of "horseplay that had upset him," said Mank. Mank ran from the scene after the police arrived "because he was intoxicated" and was arrested a half hour later on Main Street, according to Mank.

"One of the teenagers had a small red mark on his face that the officer assumed was from being struck by me," he said.

Charges of assault were later dropped because the mark was caused by a pine branch that hit him when they were snowmobiling earlier in the day, said Mank.

"I was charged with simple assault for patting a teenage girl on her head and shoulders and telling her I thought she was cute. This action was not a sexual assault," said Mank, noting that he was not charged with sexual assault.

The charges were eventually dropped when Mank completed substance abuse counseling, he said.

"As human beings we are all likely to do things we will come to regret; the question is, do you learn something from that and change your behavior? I have."

Questions about Mank living in and running the Hospitality House homeless shelter in Rockport while voting in Rockland and running for elected office in a district he did not live in have plagued his campaign for months.

Mank announced that he and his wife, Samantha Mank, who works for the City of Rockland, gave notice to the Hospitality House board of directors in 2009 that they would be leaving the live-in position in 2012. They recently bought a house in Rockland.

Mank's answers during the debate were brief. He said he would support Governor LePage's positions, if elected. His top priority would be increasing jobs and reducing barriers to business. On welfare reform, he said he has noticed an increase in abuse during his past few years running the shelter and that welfare programs need reform. When asked how he would advance his priorities in Augusta, Mank said he had no specific proposals in mind, except in the case of environmental laws. He advocated getting rid of some environmental laws, such as a prohibition against leaving lobster traps on clam flats.