BRIDGTON — A 23-year-old political newcomer, Republican Michael James Davis, is challenging incumbent Independent Walter Riseman to serve as the representative for House District 69.

District 69 includes Bridgton, Harrison and Denmark.

If reelected, this would be Riseman’s second consecutive term in the Legislature and third time running for the seat. Incumbent Phyllis Ginzler, R-Bridgton, beat Riseman by 136 votes in the 2016 general election.

Riseman is publicly funded through the Maine Clean Elections Act, while Davis is traditionally funded through individual contributions and political action committees.

Davis did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Riseman

There are a number of projects that Riseman hopes to continue working on in the next legislative session, starting with COVID-19 recovery efforts, broadband access, environmental issues and government reform.

The most immediate issue facing the legislators is the projected $1 billion budget shortfall, which Riseman said will take “everyone in (the state) government” to tackle.

“We need to look at the people we’re serving and look at what their needs are and continue to provide them with the resources they need,” Riseman said in an interview.

He said that recovery starts at the local level with individual towns.

“For example, the towns in my district have expended a lot of money to be able to assist in an economic recovery by providing those services … but the towns need to have the economic resources (to do so).”

The state and local municipalities will also need federal assistance, Riseman said, “whether that be to provide financial resources to small businesses, or make sure unemployment pools are kept intact, looking at (the) workforce and see if we can retrain people who have lost their jobs.”

Like with the difficulties surrounding unemployment, such as unemployment claims that go unanswered, COVID-19 has shown how much rural towns such as those in Riseman’s district need expanded access to high-speed broadband, he said.

Voters approved the $15 million bond for broadband expansion in July and now, “we have to make sure that money gets to the communities that really need it,” he said.

Riseman added that he still stands by the environmental issues he ran on in previous campaigns. There are many threats posed by climate change to the environment throughout the state and the region he said, which directly affects the tourism-dependent economy for which natural resources and attractions are foundational.

Riseman has sponsored or co-sponsored several bills related to environmental protection and sustainability.

Finally, Riseman said, he hopes to continue working on what he calls “reforming government.”

He introduced legislation to increase terms in the House to four years with staggered elections and an eight-year maximum term limit.

“That way we are getting new blood in there and not losing our institutional knowledge through the process,” he said.

Another piece to reform, Riseman said, is “to get out of this partisanship culture that we continue to be subjected to.”

“We’re not there to maintain the parties’ power, we’re there to work for the people … we need to refocus.”

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