October 1, 2012

Off the Trail: Strong views in small, struggling town

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Painter Marsha Donahue operates North Light Gallery in downtown Millinocket. She plans to vote for President Obama, partly to qualify for insurance under Obama’s health care law.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

A watercolor painter, she keeps her studio in the back of the gallery.

Everyone told her she was crazy, and predicted the quick demise of her business. Seven years later, she thinks she might have turned the corner. She survived the recession, and this summer was her best ever.

Donahue is voting for Obama. The motivation for her vote is simple: As a small-business owner struggling to stay in business, she cannot afford health insurance. She has not had health insurance since she opened the gallery, and at age 62 is three years away from qualifying for Medicare.

Obama's health care plan offers her hope.

She worries that the country is splintering along class lines, and fears that a Romney presidency would add to that division.

Like Friel, Donohue was deeply offended by Romney's assessment of the middle class as having a household income of $200,000. With one comment, he insulted an entire town, she said.

"Egads, we cannot even begin to approach that number. That means we are the lower class now. It's demeaning and deflating," she said. "I think of me and my business as contributing. It rocks your foundation a little bit."

Jared McLaughlin has a different view.

McLaughlin, 33, helped put up a display in a vacant downtown storefront last week advocating for a conservative slate of candidates at the local and state levels. McLaughlin, who works in the health care business, included his phone number in the window display, urging people to call if they wanted more information about conservative politics.

McLaughlin is a Ron Paul guy all the way, and remains uncommitted to Romney.

"Mitt Romney is going to have to earn my vote," he said. "I will never be tricked into thinking I don't have a choice. ... We don't need to get behind Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney needs to get behind us."

He agrees with Romney on a few issues: Lowering taxes and reducing regulations and the size of government. Those issues may be enough for McLaughlin to support Romney, but McLaughlin wants to hear more from the Republican candidate before he pledges his support.

He is certain not to vote for Obama. McLaughlin espouses the theory that big government is the source of nearly all ills afflicting the country right now, including job losses. He cites the mills in Millinocket as an example. Those jobs went overseas because taxes and government regulations made it impossible for the mills to compete globally, he said.

"The jobs have been destroyed by big government," he said.

In this election, he says, "Everything is at stake ... Liberty, our freedom. The government cannot give you anything that it does not first take from you. The battle between big government vs. small government means absolutely everything to the future of this country."

He believes it is permissible for government to provide basic services -- police and fire protection, primarily. Anything else should fall to the private sector.

Lowering taxes is the key to economic growth, McLaughlin said. He believes it's entirely possible for the mills in Millinocket to return to full capacity.

"Abso-freaking-lutely," he said. "We have the best engineers (and) the most motivated people. ... The mills are coming back. They have to come back. The only thing getting in the way is people telling you how to run your business."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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