House District 29 Republican Rep. Karen Vachon, who has served two terms, is being challenged by Democrat Shawn Babine, a longtime town councilor.

District 29 covers part of Scarborough.

Babine has served on the Scarborough Town Council for five terms. He supports Medicaid expansion and state funding for opioid prevention, and believes the state needs to provide more funding for education.

Vachon has pushed for measures to address the opioid crisis, including syringe exchange programs and public funding for addiction treatment, and advocated for affordable health care while at the same time opposing Medicaid expansion.

Babine said, if elected to the House, he will remain on the council long enough to allow the town to find a replacement. His council term ends in 2020. He also sought to represent Scarborough in the Legislature in 2006, but was narrowly defeated in his bid for the District 127 seat against Republican John McDonough.

Babine said his number one priority is funding for education. He said property owners are tired of being taxed when it should be funded by the state at 55 percent, as adopted by the Legislature in 2009 but never implemented. Babine said 55 percent can be attained over a two-year biennial budget.

Babine said the state needs to make more of an effort to retain younger residents and expand technologies that enable them to return home and raise a family. He said that investing in renewable energy and other technologies to create jobs is part of the solution in retaining the younger generation and growing the state’s economy.

Babine said he also wants to take an inclusive look at the problem of health care access, including the cost of health care and the infrastructure of medical offices and hospitals needs. That being said, Babine also said he strongly supports universal health care. “I said from day one, I believe in Medicare for all,” he said.

Part of addressing the opioid crisis involves expanding Medicaid to serve those without insurance, Babine believes, along with funding prevention programs through legal settlements with tobacco companies and legal action against big pharmaceutical companies.

Babine is a Clean Election candidate. He has raised $9,075 as of the most recent filing with the Maine Ethics Commission.

Vachon has focused on the issue of affordable access to health care and on the opioid epidemic.

In Vachon’s first term, she introduced a Medicaid ombudsman bill to point people to all available services, including charity care and similar resources provided by hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Care centers, funded for the uninsured to provide primary care. The bill passed, survived the governor’s veto, but was never funded.

Vachon said she does not support Medicaid expansion because it doesn’t allow funding to serve the most vulnerable population – the disabled, people who have dependents or pregnant women. Those covered by the expansion could be served through other avenues, such as charity care at hospitals.

She said the state needs to address opioid addiction as a disease rather than putting people in jails.

She has introduced legislation addressing the epidemic, she said, including a blueprint state treatment plan, modeled after Vermont, which would put in place a statewide system of care where the goal is to provide rapid response and to get people into treatment. She also passed a bill that earmarked $6.7 million for the uninsured, to cover the population that is without care because of addiction or mental health issues.

It took three attempts to fund clean needle exchanges, but now there are four in the state. Vachon said it is a public health issue statewide, and the exchange is a low entry barrier to for people to come with no stigma, have a conversation, and enter into treatment.

She has raised $5,640 as of the latest filing report by the Maine Ethics Commission.

Juliette Laaka can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at:

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