TOPSHAM — In order to secure a fourth term representing state House District 54, Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, must fend off a challenge from Republican Toni Bashinsky.

Both women discussed Maine’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as another key issue they would like to tackle in a two-year term. District 54 covers just Topsham and Election Day is Nov. 3.

Toni Bashinsky

Bashinsky said she has found in the many conversations she’s had with small business owners over the past six months that “they were left behind” in the economic recovery effort. She advocates for a network to be formed, with representation from a variety of industries, to provide greater support for the business community.

If elected, “I would try to do what I could to recover small business,” Bashinsky said, calling that group “the backbone of this state.”

Reining in the state budget is another priority.

“I’m a little bit disturbed that the rainy day fund was gone in six months or less” during Gov. Janet Mills’ term, she said. “… If we can prove to constituents that we can be fiscally responsible, then we’re going to regain that trust that’s been lost in … the last year or so.”

While she is aware of the need for welfare, “I’m also fully aware that there is abuse behind it and so those things need to be curbed,” Bashinsky said. “But people need to be able to get the resources that they need, so to be able to find that balance would be great.”

Denise Tepler

Maine’s recovery from COVID-19 is “probably our No. 1 priority, for either a special session … or for the 130th Legislature,” Tepler said.

She noted that key suggestions from Mills’ Economic Recovery Committee include supports for small businesses and more funding for broadband high-speed internet, both measures that she advocates. Tepler also wants the state to continue to follow the 10-year economic development plan it put forth last year.

Health care is also a critical issue for Tepler, who served last year on the state’s Committee On Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services.

“We did some great work with reducing the out-of-pocket costs for insulin … (and) we made hearing aids a required coverage for those entities (the state) can regulate,” she said.

Tepler also wants the state to gather data regarding racial disparities in health care.

“We have to tackle some of the social determinants of health,” she said, noting as an example that “kids who don’t have food security and who may be eating less than an ideal diet, will have more health problems down the road. And so A, that creates increased costs down the road, but B, it also means that kids who are well off have much better health than kids who aren’t well off, and that’s something we have to grapple with.”

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