Two experienced politicians run for Maine’s Senate District 34 seat, which includes Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, North Berwick, Wells and part of Berwick. The seat is currently held by Republican Ronald Collins of Wells,

Republican Robert Foley of Wells, an insurance salesman, former Wells town selectman who is serving his second term as a state representative is running against Democrat Thomas J. Wright of Berwick, a retired construction worker, who served two terms in the state House and is serving his seventh year on the Berwick Board of Selectmen.

While both candidates believe more should be done to prevent gun violence, they each have different approaches to deal with the problem.

Robert Foley

I do not believe that access to guns is the key component to gun violence,” Foley said. “I believe that mental health issues are at the root cause of these terrible incidents. We need to do more to require reporting of individuals who exhibit these mental health issues. We need to require treatment and limit those individuals from acquiring or possessing guns until cleared by a mental health professional.”

“Gun violence is a growing problem and what we have now has not been working,” Wright said. “I am a gun owner and realize the enormous responsibility that comes with that right. A full back ground check is the first place to start. Far too many people can get easy access to guns that should not have them. Proper training in fire arm use and care should be required. Letting people with no experience get a gun is an accident waiting to happen. If you want to have a gun, the proper use, care and storage needs to be taught.”

The rising health care cost of health care is an issue that affects most Mainers.

“While campaigning this past year, health care was the number one topic that people were concerned about,” Wright said. “It was a senior that was worried about losing coverage, a couple with young children that were paying outrageous amounts to get coverage and the person in the more rural areas that had to travel to see a doctor. We can start by enacting the will of the people and expand coverage to 70,000 people and getting millions of dollars for our struggling hospitals (buy implementing Medicaid expansion). We also need to make it easier for people to see a primary care doctor for regular check ups and treatments. Preventive medicine is less expensive that emergency care, far too many people end up there.”

“Health care has been at the forefront of each legislative session,” during his four-year tenure in the Legislature, Foley said. “I currently serve on a health care task force that is evaluating options for Maine. I believe that each state should be allowed to design its own health care system, including health care coverage for all. Slowing down the high cost of pharmaceuticals and the unnecessary duplicative testing would be a starting point. The system is too costly to manage with too many bureaucratic layers. A simplified universal reporting system for all claims and a standardized health insurance policy used by all would eliminate unneeded administrative costs.’

Both candidates felts strongly about Maine’s need to lure high paying jobs to Maine and retain young workers.

“Maine has an employment dilemma,” Foley said. “There are not enough young, skilled workers to attract high quality, high paying jobs. We need to reintroduce technical training courses at the high school and community college level. There are highly skilled jobs available today at companies like Pratt & Whitney that pay a very good wage and benefits but we have too few young workers seeking these trades. We also have a serious nurse shortage that will eventually impact our health care delivery sector. Expanding nursing programs within the university and college system needs immediate attention. The two bond questions on the November ballot will improve and modernize our universities, and community college facilities to address many of these needs.”

Tom Wright

“During my two terms in the House I was on the Business and Economic Development Committee and learned that there was no easy answer to how we get and retain good jobs,” Wright said. Maine could create companies, and high paying jobs in sectors such as wood composites, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, he said.

In addition, Wright said, “the state also needs to upgrade our infrastructure so businesses can connect to the global market. Internet and communication connections are vital to all businesses but especially the smaller ones in the rural areas. Small business is the life blood of our economy and we need to help them thrive. Not every town has the ability to attract a major corporation but they will have dozens people with small local businesses.”

As to why he is the best candidate to represent Senate District 34 in the Nov. 6 election, Foley said, “I have served 15 years on the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Wells, been chairman eight of those years. I’ve served on the State Board of Environmental Protection for three years and was chair for two of those years. I’ve just completed my second term in the House representing Wells. I know the local issues,  the state issues, and have the experience and leadership skills needed to take on the tough issues facing this state.”

Wright said voters should elect him as he will do what he can to ensure the will of the voters isn’t ignored when they vote for referendums. “When the majority of voters support a bill, it should be enforced to the fullest extant,” he said.

In addition, Wright said, “working in construction I have experienced first hand the ups and downs of the economy and know what working families struggle with to pay the bills and make ends meet. As a selectman I see how the cuts to state revenue sharing and not fully funding the school budget affect the local property tax and how hard it is for homeowners to pay their taxes. When the state makes a promise to help the local communities it should fulfill their end of the bargain.”

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or [email protected].

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