BRUNSWICK – Maine government should prioritize education, accommodate entrepreneurs and work to reduce energy and health care costs for Mainers, according to Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage.
The Waterville mayor outlined his vision for the state Friday in a speech before about 60 people at an event hosted by the Brunswick Rotary Club, Coastal Rotary Club of Brunswick and the Topsham Espresso Rotary.
The stop was billed by his campaign as part of his “People Before Politics” tour, which he began in Hancock County last week.
His speech stuck to his core campaign themes, but emphasized the connection between government and the governed.
“This campaign is really going to be about people ahead of politics,” said an upbeat LePage. “And my whole career in Waterville and throughout my working life had been pretty much about people.”
With about three weeks left of campaigning, polls show LePage and his Democratic rival Libby Mitchell neck and neck, and both far outpacing independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott.
LePage oversees about 1,200 employees as manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, and between 500 and 600 employees as mayor of Waterville, he said.
He also volunteers with the High Hopes Clubhouse in Waterville, which works with severely handicapped and disabled Mainers to give them the skills necessary to live independently and to help them find jobs.
But Maine’s stagnant economy is taking its toll on people, and LePage said that as governor he would make things better.
“The next governor is facing a bad economy in Maine, not only brought on by the recession, but by 35 years of one-party control,” he said. “We need to unleash the job creators.”
The first step to encourage economic development is to reduce state regulations, Le- Page said.
“The regulatory control environment needs to be changed to become a regulatory oversight environment,” he said. “State government needs to be a partner to the private sector, not adversary.”
Next is lowering energy costs.
“My mission is to find those energy sources that will lower residential and commercial bills on a monthly basis,” LePage said.
He said he would look to wind and solar power in the long term, but in the short term supports developing nuclear and hydro power in Maine.
Finally, LePage said the state needs to reduce health care mandates to increase competition among health insurance companies and lower premium costs.
After his speech, LePage took several questions from audience members, touching on education, getting his policies through the Legislature and even the controversy surrounding his wife’s home in Florida.
LePage said contrary to what has been implied in television advertisements aired by the Mitchell campaign, he does not support increasing class sizes.
“It’s not about the classroom, it’s about bloated bureaucracy,” he said. “I’m not suggesting that we add 22 or 24 students to a class. In a primary class, you can be at 10 (students) and that would be fine for me. In high school, I don’t think five (students) is appropriate, it should be 15 or 16.”
But LePage said he strongly believes in local control of education issues.
He also said he believes Maine schools need to be better at challenging students.
“We’ve dumbed down our education,” he said. “We need to concentrate on bringing in vouchers and charter schools so we can specialize and focus on the kids. We have to challenge our kids more.”
MaineToday Media State House Reporter Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]