SANFORD – One candidate says 15 years in public safety, first as a firefighter and for the past several years as a police officer, qualifies him to tackle issues like school safety and the opioid crisis in the Maine Legislature.

Republican Matthew Harrington, 31, a Springvale resident who is a police officer in neighboring Kennebunk,  cites his three years in the Legislature as a bonus when it comes to getting things done in Augusta.

Incumbent Harrington is challenged in the race for Maine House District 19 by Democrat Jeremy Mele, 24, who works as a teaching assistant. The district is part of Sanford.

Matthew Harrington

“I have a track record of supporting policies that grow and strengthen our economy,’ said Harrington. “Three years of legislative experience has allowed me to develop the relationships with other legislators and members of the executive branch necessary to push reforms that will benefit the people of House District 19 in Sanford.”

Mele sees it differently.

“In Sanford, Maine, and the U..S in general, workers have faced rising costs of property taxes, expensive and inaccessible healthcare, and, despite unemployment being low, jobs with few to no benefits and low wages,” he said.

“As someone who has been personally affected by most of these challenges, I think I have an important perspective. I believe we need elected officials who understand the working class experience, and who will work to lower property taxes, guarantee healthcare, and protect the gains made for the minimum wage.”

The two  were asked if they believed access to firearms is a key component in school gun violence and mass shootings and if so, what should be done.

“As a State Representative and law enforcement officer, I swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Maine Constitution, both of which guarantee the right to own a firearm,” said Harrington. “There are tens of thousands of peaceful, law-abiding gun owners in Maine, and we are one of the safest states in the nation. I believe that mental illness is the main contributor to gun violence and mass shootings. We need armed, school resource officers in every school. In addition, we need to make sure that individuals who have a record of domestic violence and mental health issues do not obtain access to firearms pursuant to established Maine law. I believe strongly that gun safety is critical, and we need to do more to educate gun owners on the proper, safe storage of firearms. “

“Access to firearms, in and of itself, is not the cause of school shootings,” said Mele. “People have a right to firearms, and this right should not be infringed. However, we can and should prevent firearms from falling into the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and we must regulate the accessories to firearms that make them capable of mass slaughter. If the Parkland and Las Vegas shooters did not have the equipment to turn firearms into military level weaponry, they would not have been able to murder as many people as they did. We need to protect Mainers’ right to firearms and keep these kinds of accessories from becoming common and easy to get for people with ill intent. We also need to address the unbearable stresses our society places on so many while simultaneously glorifying violence as a solution.”

Jeremy Mele

Harrington said he supports free-market solutions to lower healthcare costs in Maine.

“I support more competition among insurance providers, buying insurance across state lines, and allowing individuals to gather together in larger groups for a better price,” he said. “We need to work with the federal government to obtain as much flexibility as we can under the ACA to ensure individuals have the freedom they need to purchase individualized health insurance, while protecting the level of care. We also need to address the underlying cost of healthcare, beyond the price of insurance premiums. The cost of delivering services is high, which in turn increases insurance premiums for Maine families and our small businesses.”

Mele said his first priority, if elected, would be to make sure  the Medicaid expansion that would serve 70,000 Mainers is funded.

“Healthcare is a human right, and, on the state level, we need to make sure that no Mainer goes without it,” Mele said. “If we do not, we will continue to see hospitals go into bankruptcy treating the emergency cases of those who lack insurance, and a lack of universal coverage drives up costs for those who are insured. It is a moral and financial necessity that we guarantee healthcare for all, and the Medicaid expansion is how we begin to do that.”

Mele said he would fight what he described as price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry.

The candidates were asked how they planned to lure high paying jobs to Maine and keep young people here.

“Businesses and jobs want to come to an area where ordinary people have spending power,” said Mele. “Maine’s workforce needs financial security and stability before we can contribute to the local economy. I will work to protect the gains created by the state minimum wage increase, and guarantee that it will continue to adjust to the cost of living. I will support or introduce legislation to put state resources back into our cities and towns through revenue sharing in order to combat the recent trend of excessively high property taxes so that people can become and stay homeowners here in Maine. I support a student debt relief program in order to attract college graduates.”

“We need to continue to reduce taxes, reduce healthcare costs, reduce electricity prices, and continue to repeal job-killing red tape,” said Harrington. “We also need to look at creative ways to attract and retain students such as student loan forgiveness, tuition reimbursement, and low-interest loans for higher education. Lastly, we need to reform our vocational school system and educate educators, guidance counselors, and parents on the high-paying career opportunities that are already available in the trades.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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