FALMOUTH — State Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, running for a third term in the Maine Senate, is being challenged by Cathy Nichols, a Republican making her first bid for elective office.

Both agree that voters in Senate District 25 are concerned about taxes, bringing civility to Augusta and creating good job opportunities for young people. But they disagree about how best to address these issues and others.

They disagree over Gov. Paul LePage’s legacy, Medicaid expansion and how to resolve conflicts over citizen-initiated referendum questions.

Senate District 25 includes Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, Long Island, Gray and part of Westbrook.

CATHY BREEN

“It’s really important that we grow our workforce and provide the education and training (needed) as we grow the economy,” Breen said.

Breen, 52, said that means supporting and growing economic sectors where Maine already has an advantage, and not giving tax breaks to large corporations to encourage them to relocate here.

She is also focused on environmental protection, property tax relief for seniors and addressing the opioid epidemic.

Breen said she’s particularly concerned about what she calls the dismantling of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and inaction on climate change in Maine and at the federal level. “Casco Bay is really struggling with acidification and warmer waters,” she said.

Breen said the state needs a break from the unpredictability and chaos caused by LePage, which she said has been bad for business and state government.

Breen did not say where she stood on state referendum questions, including a citizen’s initiative to create a universal home care program by imposing a 3.8 percent tax on state taxpayers making $128,400 or more.

But she did say whatever voters decide “should go forward,” including the Medicaid expansion approved in 2017 that LePage has refused to implement. Breen co-authored a bill that funded the expansion, but LePage rejected the funding plan.

It was one of several clashes over voter-approved laws later changed or blocked by the Legislature or governor.

If she’s re-elected, Breen said, she would focus on reintroducing a bill designed to reduce the gender wage gap, making mass transit more “robust and available,” expanding broadband internet access and protecting a woman’s abortion rights at the state level.

Breen is running as a publicly funded candidate under Maine’s Clean Elections Act and has received $45,000 in total funding, according to the Maine Ethics Commission.

CATHY NICHOLS

Nichols, 54, said she is running for the state Senate because she believes “Maine needs economic stability and better policymaking.”

She’s against “increasing income taxes without justification” and strongly believes that the current referendum process, which she said has been hijacked by outside influences, is one of the key reasons for discord in Augusta.

“Getting both parties to work together will only happen if we get the referendum process under control and back in the control of Maine people,” she said. Nichols would like to see subject matter restrictions on citizen petitions. “When these questions are related to taxes, they should be handled by policymakers who would make better decisions” about how the money is spent.

Nichols also feels the press has played a part in the political divide because it focuses more on differences between lawmakers than on similarities. She wants to “focus more on starting in the middle and creating compromise.”

She expressed concern about bonding for capital projects because it could add significant debt. “People may want improved infrastructure, but I feel we need more background and information on just why it’s needed,” Nichols said.

Nichols does not support the Medicaid expansion approved by voters last fall and said if “able-bodied people can pay, even just a little, they should do that” because it provides for better accountability.

She believes LePage has done a good job and “is trying to do right by the state,” while also saying that lawmakers have a responsibility to “stay on task (and) be concerned with their manners and how they interact.”

“People do need to be held accountable for what they say and how they say it,” she said, adding, “I’m very open-minded and interested in listening to others’ opinions.”

If she’s elected, Nichols would like to serve on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee because “we can’t grow our economy without helping out our large energy users. Such things as lower energy costs are critical for industry.”

She would also like to work toward job development and said such opportunities could be a “good step toward addressing substance use (disorder and opioid addiction), as well.”

Nichols is a traditionally funded candidate and had raised $11,516 as of the most recent reports, according to the Maine Ethics Commission.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KIrishCollins

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