SOUTH PORTLAND — Democratic candidates for State Senate District 29 discussed their goals and plans to build a stronger Maine during the global pandemic that has affected everyone, during a virtual forum on June 4.

District 29 includes Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, and a portion of Scarborough. The election is on July 14.

Candidates participating in the forum were Anne Carney, who has served on the Maine House of Representatives since 2018 and is a member of the Labor and Housing Committee; Sari Greene, founder of a cyber security company in South Portland; and Eben Rose, a self-described “scientist and activist,” who said he has been involved in Maine politics since 2013.

Questions that many watching had reflected on recent events regarding racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and how legislature can improve healthcare for Mainers.

In her opening statement, Greene said that she would be in support of closing the Long Creek Youth Center in South Portland.

“There are actions that each one of us can take right here in our community,” Greene said. “We must support and protect non-violent protesters exercising their full right to free expression. And we can take action to address the disparity of our criminal justice system here in Maine.  A good start is supporting the closure of the Long Creek Youth Center. Less than 2 percent of the children in our state are black and brown, but 23 percent of the children incarcerated at Long Creek are children of color. We need to fix a system that feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Black Mainers have been impacted greater than expected based on population, more than 10 times the rate of white Mainers, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Believing that healthcare plays an important role in correcting this issue, Carney said that she would be interested in creating a task force.

“I think it also reflects disparity in access to healthcare,” Carney said. “The New Mainers Public Health Initiative, Catholic Charities, and Maine Immigrants Rights have proposed a task force that will track data, increase testing in communities of color, conduct culturally appropriate contact tracing, and allocate resources to protect those who are working in those front-line jobs, and I would immediately create the task force that would reverse the surge in those communities.”

Carney has specific goals to eradicate racism in the everyday workplace, she said.

“The pandemic has exposed embedded racism in a lot of new ways,” Carney said.

Greene said that she felt that more people of color needed to be involved in the conversation when finding solutions, making sure that any task force created includes voices from specific affected communities.

“There are not enough people at the table, not enough people of different races at the table,” she said. “Sometimes we get in our bubble and we talk about solutions without involving the very communities who need to be involved.”

When looking at the issue of racism, Rose said he felt that communication is key to reversing hundreds of years of systemic racism in the United States, but this cannot happen until basic rights, like healthcare, are met.

“This problem is not going to go away until we start to have the time to talk to each other,” he said.

On the topic of healthcare, the candidates explained how they might support universal healthcare.

“Our healthcare system is broken,” Greene said. “I believe your healthcare insurance should not be tied to employment.”

The reality is even if you are employed, the costs of co-pays and deductibles may be out of reach, she said.

Rose said this issue was personal for him, as he and his wife spend one-fifth of their salary on insurance premiums.

“We ignore the need for any preventative healthcare,” he said. “That’s just the state of this world for over half this nation.”

He said that he would propose a bill that uses the prospective payment, the amount of payment medicare charges, and put that on every medical bill, whether private or medicare, so everyone knows what the medicare payment is and will realize that medicare for all is the way to go.

While Carney said that Medicare is a good system for some, it’s not the best for children, and Carney supports insuring children and then moving to everyone. A child’s insurance should not be tied to their parent’s job, especially now that many Mainers have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Carney has introduced a children’s healthcare bill and a postpartum care bill that have carried over and are waiting for appropriation, she said.

The Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan photo/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

O’Connor asked the candidates what they believed a Legislature’s role on the impact of the economy would be, to which Rose said that he felt that legislation needed to be more focused on long-term planning.

“Bills have to be introduced in the next six months for a pandemic that will probably be reaching a second peak at that time,” he said. “The Legislature has to be concerned with long-term planning. What’s going to happen when there’s a next pandemic and a next big crisis?”

Legislation needs to support businesses until it is safe to reopen fully, Carney said.

“I disagree with Eben that the Legislature doesn’t have a role,” she said. “The pandemic has really hit Maine’s small businesses hard … Everyone’s making really tough decisions about whether to reopen and report to work or whether to avoid risk until they’re sure it’s safe.”

Quoting Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Greene said that opening up isn’t the same as going back to normal.

“We’re going to need to re-imagine our business, schools and healthcare system,” she said. “We’re going to recover but it’s going to take hard work, and ingenuity and a combination of both public and private investment.”

Rose said in his closing statement that he is focusing on the big picture, asking that voters visit his website, www.ebenrose.com for bills that he is proposing.

“We need to call upon our legislators and our candidates to do more, think bigger, and to respond to the many protests that are going on, rather than be the protester,” he said.

Information about Carney can be found at www.anneformaine.com.

“My work in the Maine House of Representatives shows you what kind of senator I will be,” Carney said.

In her closing statement, Greene said that when the pandemic hit, she suspended her campaign in order to provide assistance for community members.

“As your senator I will work every day to build a Maine that is more resilient, equitable, and just for everyone,” she said.

Information about Greene can be found at www.sari2020.com.

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