OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The retirement of State Rep. George Hogan has created an opportunity for two Old Orchard Beach residents to take over his House District 13 seat, which he has held since 2014.
Newcomer Lori Gramlich is running on the Democratic side, while former Republican State Rep. Sharri MacDonald is looking to regain her seat which she lost to Hogan four years ago. The two will square off on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
MacDonald served one term in the state house and was an Old Orchard Beach town councilor for eight years before that. She owns and operates MacDonald’s Garage in downtown OOB.

Sharri MacDonald

Gramlich served on the Portland School Committee from 2005 to 2008 and was also the Special Assistant and Communications Director for former Maine Senate President Beverly Daggett. She owns Rise Up Cafe in OOB, and also works as the Executive Director of the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and is an adjunct professor of social work at the University of Southern Maine.
The candidates were asked if they believe access to guns is a key component in school gun violence incidents and mass shootings and what should be done about it here in Maine.
MacDonald spoke about the importance of Maine’s “long history of the respectful use of firearms.”
“Many of us have grown up with our parents and grandparents hunting and it is a tradition that fosters responsible gun ownership,” said MacDonald, who believes education is the key. “It is not the access to the guns that is the problem, it is the lack of education on the ramifications of firing weapons. We adults need to instill in our youth that life matters.”
MacDonald also believes mental health is a factor in the mass shootings that the country has seen in recent years.
“Gun violence and mass shootings are two different topics as well. Mental well being of these shooters needs to be addressed,” MacDonald said. “Unfortunately, the mob mentality that we adults are exhibiting nationwide, is being modeled by our youngest citizens and then, when a child gets pushed so far by their peer bullies, they see no way out and grasp for revenge. Parents need to be vigilant in their teaching of the power of guns and practice gun safety at home, and I believe that Maine can lead the way in the effort to foster firearm education and safety.”
Gramlich spoke of her support of the Second Amendment, but also noted the need for increased background checks.
“The United States has a gun violence crisis. For every two people injured with a gun, one is killed. Gun violence in our schools, and otherwise, is a complicated issue that does not warrant a single source solution. While no single law can prevent all gun violence, research shows that stronger gun laws do work,” said Gramlich. “Data from states that require background checks on all handgun sales show there is 48 percent less gun trafficking in their cities. I am proud to be recognized as a candidate of distinction for Moms Demand Gun Sense in America. I, like Moms Demand Action, supports the Second Amendment, but believe that common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day.”

Lori Gramlich

The OOB democrat also wants to see strict enforcement when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals with domestic violence records.
“We need to focus on gun violence prevention, which includes access to firearms. Prevention is critical, and efforts could include strengthening domestic violence laws to keep guns out of the hands of abusers as well as background checks on all firearm sales to prevent people who are prohibited from having guns from buying them,” said Gramlich. “While Maine has a strong and rich history of sporting activities, including hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, we must do more to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories and enact strong, common-sense gun laws, which go hand in hand with the Second Amendment.”
Both candidates were also asked about the state’s rising health care costs and how it affects the state.
Gramlich pushed for the expansion of Medicaid, which current Gov. Paul LePage has blocked in the state.
“There’s no question that we need to do more to reduce health care costs, including prescription drug costs for all Maine people. Many Individuals face barriers to the care they need, and businesses are struggling to provide coverage to their employees. One thing that is clear, the research shows that other states that have expanded their Medicaid programs have seen lower increases in private insurance,” said Gramlich. “Maine people and business will benefit by expanding health coverage under Medicaid to provide coverage our low-wage workers who aren’t offered and can’t afford coverage. This will also help our hospitals and community health clinics and other health care providers who provide care to the uninsured in our state. With expansion, there will be less uncompensated/charity care provided in our state, something we all pay for now through higher health insurance premiums and higher co-payments.”
MacDonald understands the need to fix the current health care system, but the former OOB town councilor also knows that there is no quick fix.
“This is a loaded question and many people much smarter than I have worked on this for decades. Rising health care is similar to the rising costs of everything else. As we live our lives we have to make choices on where we spend the money we make. Sure it would be fantastic if health care was more affordable, but that is not the world we live in,” MacDonald said. “Most recently, with my Dad falling ill, I have a full understanding of the challenges of paying for health care. Perhaps an approach would be to open up our borders to more competitive rates as we tend to be held hostage by our local choices. I would love to dive into this debate and try to work and find a solution. I think this is a topic that has many differing avenues that can help find some relief. It is important that we elect people willing to sit at the table, roll up their sleeves and do the work.”
The two candidates also expressed their ideas when it came to luring high paying jobs to Maine and convincing young workers to return to the state.
MacDonald believes the state should start pushing students to consider trades.
“There is this thing in Maine that is often referred to as ‘the skills gap.’ Every day on social media or from many Maine companies, there are postings for jobs. Maine is loaded with positions for high-tech machinists, welders and other trades. These are good-paying jobs with fantastic benefits that can make great wages for young families,” MacDonald said. “Perhaps we can keep some of our younger workers here if we start to show them the value of these types of trades. Maybe younger workers would be more apt to stay, raise families and love Maine, if our education system was modified to show these trades as just as valued in society as an attorney, or a teacher, or an engineer.”
The former state representative also believes the state should invest in its community colleges.
“We could make more of an investment in our outstanding community colleges. There are already many community college/private sector partnerships that work — take York County Community College and their partnership with Pratt & Whitney. This partnership includes the donation of equipment for students to train on and learn. Imagine what these partnerships can do … potentially these colleges could be used as a pipeline feeding system for younger trained workers for all Maine businesses. What a fantastic opportunity for Maine to keep our young people here,” MacDonald added.
Gramlich agreed with her opponent when it came to pushing for students to consider trades as well as traditional four-year institutions.
“Educating students in secondary school about alternative educational pathways, such as the lower-cost community colleges, trade schools, and taking AP classes to receive college credit in high school is a start, as traditional college need not be the only pathway for young people to pursue,” said Gramlich. “Programs that encourage training and entrepreneurship could not only save money for our young people, it would also give them access to marketable skills at a younger age.”
Tax incentives could also be a factor in keeping Maine’s young people home, according to Gramlich.
“There needs to be more support in the form of tax incentives for recent graduates to live and work in Maine, and funding to attract businesses and entrepreneurs, such as affordable housing options and assistance in paying for education and training,” said Gramlich.
Both Gramlich and MacDonald believe they are the right person to represent Old Orchard Beach in Augusta.
“Throughout my career, I have always advocated for those who don’t always have their voices heard. Growing up, like many other hard-working families, we fell upon hard times and as a child, we received public assistance. I knew I couldn’t change my situation as a child, but I could, as an adult, be in a position to affect change on behalf of others,” said Gramlich. “As a social worker, I’ve done just that. I understand that we need to engage together as a community to affect change. I have a long history of advocacy and working in the public policy arena to affect change. I have a proven record of success in finding solutions by working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders, inclusive of all vested parties. My social work code of ethics provides me with a value base that is inherently non-partisan. I have the skills to assess our common strengths and find solutions that will build upon these strengths.”
Gramlich wants to be an advocate for the people of OOB.
“As a small business owner in town, I see so many opportunities for our community. I will continue to be an advocate for our children and for our seniors, as well as for those who may not otherwise have their voices heard. I want to shine our shoes and put our best foot forward for OOB. I have the knowledge, the skills, the passion, energy and commitment to our town and our state, to be an effective representative in our state legislature and my number one priority will always be to the people of Old Orchard Beach,” Gramlich said.
MacDonald believes she has the experience, work ethic and, most of all, love of her hometown, to help Old Orchard Beach.
“Work ethic and the ability to never give up on our town, is all I can offer. I live here, work here and volunteer here. My roots run deep in Old Orchard Beach and I am forever thankful for what this town has afforded me in my lifetime,” MacDonald said. “Everyday, I get to work with my family, plan and implement year-round community events with OOB365, and work alongside (and see) some of our youngest citizens like Chase Walker take an idea and bring it to fruition (with) Wings 4 Wishes.”
MacDonald is hoping the voters will look at her history of work in the town and send her back to Augusta.
“I have high hopes that even the people who may not be inclined to vote for me, will look at my name on the ballot and say, ‘she works hard for the beach, I am going to give her a shot in Augusta,’” said MacDonald. “The right choice is the person who engages the community on a daily basis and not just when running for an elected position. I am here, I am available, and my cell number is 207-590-4201 — I always answer or call back. I hope that Old Orchard Beach sees my value and sends me to the statehouse.”
— Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 780-9017.

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