Gia Drew, left, and Traci Gere, both of Kennebunkport, are in the running for the Democratic primary in House District 9 on July 14. The district includes Kennebunkport, and parts of Kennebunk and Biddeford. The winner of the contest will run against Republican Stedman Seavey for the open seat. Courtesy photo

By Tammy Wells
Courier / Post
A business owner and a program director for an equality organization are seeking the Democratic nod in Maine House District 9 primary scheduled for July 14.

The winner goes up against former legislator, Republican Stedman Seavey, who is unopposed in the GOP primary, for the open seat in the November race. Rep. Diane Denk, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election.
District 9 includes Kennebunkport and parts of Biddeford and Kennebunk.

Both Traci Gere and Gia Drew live in Kennebunkport.

Candidates were asked about issues they see as important, their backgrounds and their thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gere, 55, said she supports issues like assuring the sustainability and vitality of the Maine economy; assisting communities in providing quality education with good outcomes for students; making health care more affordable and available; and expanding resources for affordable living.

“I bring skills to the table that will help me do that,” she said. “My strong background in research and analysis helps me find the root cause of problems and craft creative solutions. And I know how important it is to communicate actively with constituents, so that I can consider their input and feedback when making decisions.”

Gere is founder and manager of Make It KPT, a retail store in Lower Village Kennebunk. She said her business background includes market research, creative problem-solving and economic revitalization. Gere is a graduate of Brown University and received an MBA from Boston University, which includes a certificate in public and nonprofit management.

Gere served  on RSU 21 school district task forces to help address shifting enrollment demographics and create renovation plans for the high school. She is a member of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel Chamber of Commerce and the Kennebunkport Business Association.

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Gere said she believes the first job of state government is to protect Maine people.
“Although we have sadly lost many lives to this virus, and more will no doubt be lost, I believe that the on-going decline in active cases attests to the success of Governor (Janet) Mills’ executive orders and of all of our efforts to protect each other,” Gere said.

Drew, 53, works for Equality Maine, earned degrees from Syracuse University and Savannah College of Art and Design and worked 20 years in education. She said she was one of Maine’s first transgender teachers and the first transgender coach in the country. Drew said she supports ensuring Maine’s older residents can age in place if they choose; improving the quality of mental health care for all; and correcting the disparity she sees in the education system. Drew said she wants to improve career education programs,  job transition education and programs for adults, and embraces contributions of immigrants and new Americans to the workforce and economy.

“(I) specifically want to improve the broken health care system to ensure every Mainer, regardless of financial status and any preexisting conditions, has access to quality health care for their entire life,” Drew said.

Drew said while she hasn’t agreed with every decision, believes Gov. Mills has been trying her best to act in the interest of all Mainers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having executive authority gave Mills the ability to move “quickly and unilaterally” to address health and fiscal needs — which Drew dubbed a “smart move, for the most part.” She said she sees a failure of leadership “in a patchwork start and stop approach to reopening, and a concession to a loud but vocal minority on the right asking to reopen businesses across the state.”

Drew noted her membership on the Department of Health and Human Services MaineCare Advisory Committee and Maine’s Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She co-chairs the Community Advisory Committee of the Maine Health Access Foundation, and previously was president of the Maine Transgender Network and on the board of GLSEN Southern Maine.

The candidates were asked what their response would have been, had they been legislators during the pandemic.

“My focus would have been on reaching out to my constituents, safeguarding their health, and making sure they had the health care, food and medicine that they need,” said Gere. “I would also have been in contact with business owners in my district to understand their challenges and help connect them to available resources. If elected, I will work to understand my constituents’ concerns and help the Legislature focus on solutions to the on-going challenges.”

Drew said legislative oversight over programs and procedures is paramount, and the response from state agencies has been “anything but state-of-the-art.”
“The Department of Labor, for example, was completely unprepared and then leadership hid from answering questions from a legislative committee,” said Drew. “As a legislator I would do what was in my power to seek the truth and call out disparities. For example, we have learned that people of color in Maine have a much higher rate of infection than their white counterparts, even though people of color make up a much smaller percentage of the population. The pandemic has shown all of us that poverty and systemic racial disparities have drastic health consequences.”

Tammy Wells — 207-780-9016
[email protected]

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