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It's Time To Vote: Phoenix Endorsements for the 2018 Elections

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Voting Day is Tuesday, November 6 — and it’s a crucial one! (Unless you've already done the deed via early voting, in which case good for you.)

The Phoenix asked questions of each candidate in the city and state races of the 2018 midterm elections. We condensed their answers best we could, quoting them directly when possible, and offer our endorsements in each race. 

Wondering where you can vote? Check here. And remember that Maine is a same-day voter registration state.

Governor Race

QuestionJanet MillsShawn MoodyTerry Hayes
What is one of the first things you'd do as governor?Mills says her first priority will be to reduce the cost of health care and make it more accessible. She will do that, "in part, by implementing Medicaid expansion on day one" of her administration. Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes has attempted to run as the "drama-free" candidate, trying to put aside partisanship and "lead with civility, inclusion, and respect." We get it, we're tired too, but this sounds a bit like trying to do politics without any of the political stuff, and seems like a woefully insufficient way to govern in the Trump Administration.
Do you consider the failure of government to provide affordable and accessible health care to all its citizens a moral failure? Why or why not?Says "health care is not a luxury. It is something we all need. It is a human right." Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes stresses "access to affordable healthcare," largely invoking market solutions and provisions of the ACA. She also mentions coming up with a "collaborative single-payer solution with our New England neighbors.
Can you provide an example of a negative impact/influence that corporations have had on the way political campaigns are funded/run?Mills wants to "limit the role of corporate money in our elections" and opposes Citizens United. She also wants to gum up the pipeline between the government to the private sector, "strengthening the barriers between corporations, lobbyists, and our political system" and Maine’s ‘revolving door’ law by prohibiting all lobbying by former executive branch employees for three years – a noble (if lofty) effort. She's also good on government transparency and is refreshingly pro-journalism, saying she'd "publish all Freedom of Access requests and the responses of government agencies, and ensure that FOA officers are knowledgeable, ethical, and lawful — a welcome change to the LePage era. Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes ran as a Clean Elections candidate, which is undeniably a good thing. But we don't see much in her experience as State Treasurer to suggest she'd want to reduce corporate money in politics. And given her reluctance to say almost anything of political substance at all (besides imploring everyone to get along, of course), we see the Clean Elections thing as a move of political expediency.
Which communities in Maine are the most vulnerable and how can the government make their lives better?Mills has an "economic action plan" for rural Maine which includes expanding broadband and creating grant to help communities convert low-use downtown buildings into co-working spaces with high-speed broadband for small businesses and remote workers. Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes says "our children, our elderly, and our vets" are the most vulnerable. In a week that Trump is ramping up rhetoric to strip transgender people of civil rights and roll back birthright citizenship, that response reads pretty right-wing.
Should substance abuse be viewed more as a criminal issue or a mental health issue? Why? How would you address the opiate crisis? Do you support the idea of “safe injection sites” to minimize overdoses?Mills called the opioid epidemic a "full-blown public health crisis" citing that 952 drug-affected babies were born in Maine in 2017. She's crafted a "10-point-plan" to address the issue, including expanding Medicaid, expanding treatment options and therapies, "addressing the stigma associated with substance use disorder," and establishing a 24-hour Emergency referral phone line. (Her 10-point-plan does not address safe injection sites.) Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes says that "law enforcement is part of the solution, but we can't arrest our way out of this crisis," proposing to fund prevention, effective treatment, and wraparound services and "eliminating the stigma around addiction."
How would you steer cannabis policy to help stimulate the economy?Mills is into it, looking forward to the "thousands of jobs" a marijuana economy would bring. She joined other Attorneys General in calling on Congress to allow banks and credit unions to remove penalties from servicing state-licensed marijuana businesses, ending the "cash-based shadow economy" in legalization states. She adds that the lamust regulate access to minors, driving while impaired, and quality control. Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire."As State Treasurer, I have been working with stakeholders from around the country to identify solutions to the banking challenges that the cannabis industry faces. This is one of the top issues that must be solved in order for the industry to operate safely and generate additional economic activity."
According to the Carbon Majors Report, just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70 percent of the entire world’s emission of greenhouse gases. Would you support stricter regulations on Maine institutions that impact the environment?Mills has formally opposed Trump's proposal to open the Gulf of Maine for oil drilling, among other fronts. She says she wants to "invest in solar and wind, lift the cap on community solar, and finally enact a sensible net-metering policy to incentivize rooftop and home solar energy generation."Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire. Sounds like Hayes doesn't want to regulate much of anything. She says she "supports reasonable regulations that the data shows work to improve Maine’s environment" — whose data are we talking about? — and believes that "most business owners are responsible members of their community and stewards of the environment."
Should Maine welcome refugees and asylum seekers even if they don’t offer Maine an economic benefit? Why or why not?Mills spoke about new Mainers in economic terms, wanting to "reverse the troubling demographic and workforce challenges we face." and citing a report that Maine will need to fill nearly 30,000 jobs by 2026." She says she'll work to improve certification review to match foreign credentials with the state's licensure requirements, and "never tolerate discrimination." Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes spoke about new Mainers in economic terms as well, saying that she'll "reduce the barriers to entry in our workforce." She says she'd work with towns and cities to "welcome and support both existing legal immigrant populations and those who choose to relocate to the area."
How can the government help attract young people to move to and stay in Maine?Mills wants to reduce the burden of student debt and forgive state income taxes for students who graduate from an institution in Maine and who live and work in the state for five years. She also wants to boost the Maine State Grant Program, which provides grants to Maine students, and simplify and streamline the Opportunity Maine program, and create a "Welcome Home Program" benefiting Maine companies who employ remote workers. Shawn Moody did not respond to our questionnaire.Hayes wants to expand fiber broadband infrastructure across the state and get more folks onto the internet in order to be profitable. She promotes "targeted incentives" and building on the Education Opportunity Tax Credit.
Our EndorsementJanet Mills (D). Maine's Attorney General wasn't our first pick of the Democratic field of potential governors, but she's far and away the best choice here, and a necessary corrective to the disastrous LePage era. She would also represent an important bulwark against the increasingly distressing policies of the Trump administration, and set to work expanding health care and Medicaid to Mainers who need it.

U.S. Senate Race

QuestionsZak Ringelstein (Democrat)Eric Brakey (Republican) (did not respond)Angus King (Independent) (did not respond)
What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?
Ringelstein understands that America's economy is rigged for the rich and powerful. He's the only candidate in this race that hasn't taken money from corporations or PACs, which makes it more likely he'd actually fight for working class interests like Medicare for all.Brakey is the only candidate in this race who has fallen for a number of libertarian fantasies. He believes that taxation is theft, the EPA and Department of Education should be de-funded, and that mass immigration is a Democratic conspiracy to secure more votes. Ask Brakey for a solution to any problem, and he'll point to his sacred cow — capitalism.King is older than both of his opponents combined, and has a lot more political experience too, both as a U.S. Senator and former governor of Maine. "I am focused on bringing people together and getting things done for Maine people — not on what divides us — and I think that sets me apart," he says.
Do you consider the failure of government to provide affordable and accessible health care to all its citizens a moral failure? Why or why not?"Yes, it is an unconscionable moral failure. Health care is a human right. We live in the richest country on earth, pay the most of any country in the world on health care, and yet have the worst results of any developed economy."Like most Republicans, Brakey does not believe that health care is a human right, but rather a privilege earned by engaging with the free market.King voted against the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act, because fundamentally he believes that people should have access to health care. He believes that health care is a human right, because if it isn't, "nothing else matters."
Can you provide an example of a negative impact/influence that corporations have had on the way political campaigns are funded/run?Ringelstein cited a Princeton study that showed a strong correlation between the demands of the stockholder class and congressional votes, but no correlation between the needs of the working-class and congressional votes. "This is corruption and must end immediately," he says.Brakey has railed against King for accepting money from the big oil lobby, but himself has received thousands from pro-gun and pro-Trump PACs. Although occasionally criticizing the influence of "wealthy interests in Washington" he hasn't put his money where his mouth is.King is far from a Clean Elections candidate. Over the course of his political career, he's accepted tens of thousands of dollars from law firms and big corporations like Exxon Mobil and General Dynamics. His fundraising total for 2018 topped 5.4 million, which is seven times more than Ringelstein and Brakey's combined. But he also told us that he thinks "the Citizens United decision was one of the worst decisions ever made by the Supreme Court."
What programs, if any, do you think Maine should secure more federal funding for?"We need modern transportation systems and high-speed broadband in every corner of our state to grow high wage jobs and make Maine an option for young families who want to live here."Brakey supports deep cuts to a number of federal programs and "ending the welfare state." If you're looking for a candidate willing to invest federal money in education and health care, he isn't the dude.Grants for opiod treatment and prevention. Pell grants to lower the cost education. USDA funding for expanding rural broadband. Weatherization Assistance Program funding to help Maine families heat their homes during the winters.

According to the Carbon Majors Report, just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the entire world’s emission of greenhouse gases. What regulations would you support on Maine institutions that impact the environment?Think of Ringelstein like an FDR-style Democrat, only a bit more environmentally conscious. He's advocated for a "Green New Deal" to fight climate change and create high-wage jobs in Maine.Brakey hasn't gone completely off the deep end — he concedes, shockingly, that climate change is a problem caused by humans — but he doesn't seem to think it's that urgent an issue (despite the majority of scientists saying we've got like 10 good years left until some major catastrophe). He naively thinks that the free market is capable of ignoring profit motives and equipped to become the best stewards of the environment without any government regulation.King has toured Greenland and seen the melting ice caps himself. He thinks climate change is a serious problem, has framed it as a dire national security issue, and has led numerous forums throughout the state advocating for renewable energy. However, his connection to big oil companies like Exxon Mobil puts this commitement in question.

Does America have a moral obligation to welcome more refugees and asylum seekers in the country even if they don’t offer an immediate economic benefit?
Ringelstein says he stands with all immigrants, and reiterated the neoliberal talking point that positions them primarily as an economic benefit. "Immigrants start businesses at almost twice the rate of native-born Americans, create jobs, build new innovation, contribute to research, and are active members of American communities," he says. We don't disagree, but it'd be nice to hear a candidate that's also able to talk about this issue in moral terms for once.Brakey has bought into the worst demagoguery around immigration, which mostly demonizes immigrants from Mexico and Central America as a low-IQ and low-skilled population. He's referred to actual human beings fleeing violent conditions (that America has largely created) as "imports" that will "transform our culture." It's safe to say it doesn't matter if refugees offer American numerous economic and social benefits — Brakey wants them out.King is your typical normie when it comes to immigration. He frequently touts the platitude that "America is a nation of immigrants," but at least acknowledges that many people in America's history were forced to come here against their will. He spoke out against the policy of family seperation at the U.S./Mexico border, but is firmly against "open borders" or any form of illegal immigration (the latter a dubious position with an administration so eager to find ways to criminalize immigrants).
What gun control measures do you support, if any?Ringelstein supports the 2nd Amendment, but is proud to have earned an F rating with the NRA, an organization he believes halts Congress from passing any sensible gun control policies. Ringelstein supports banning assault weapons and bump stocks, as well as raising the minimum age of purchase to 21.Brakey wants to live in a world where every school, synagogue, and concert hall — every public space really — is occupied by an armed gunman. More guns equals less gun violence in Brakey's insane worldview.King supports the 2nd Amendment and doesn't think assault style weapons should be banned because of their appearance. He does, however, support universal background checks, banning bump stocks, and a limit on the number of magazines people are allowed to purchase. "I think we can preserve Second Amendment rights while still making sure guns cannot get into the wrong hands," he says.
What do you think is at the heart of the political divide in America today?"Money in politics is the reason for our political divide. Period."Democrats. Antifa. Socialists. They're all exactly the same to Brakey, and in his mind pose the biggest threat to freedom in America. Don't expect much sense from the guy who called centrist Independent Angus King "a socialist" (not that there's anything wrong with that)."We as a country need to listen more," says King. "To listen to our neighbors and community members who we may not always agree with, so we can understand each other's ideas without demonizing each other."
Our Endorsement (Ranked-Choice Voting):1st Choice: Zak Ringelstein (D)  
 2nd Choice: Angus King (I)  
 Polling at 9 percent, he may not have much of a shot, but we’d be happy to see Zak Ringelstein as a Maine senator. He ran a solidly progressive campaign that modeled platforms and principles that the new wave of Democrats should be grappling with. Angus, of course, should win handily, which is fine. The wave of disdain for Susan Collins has made him look particularly good by comparison. In reality, he’s a regular liberal centrist, who looks “resistance”-y when compared to the other ghouls in the Senate (whom we’re still pissed he voted with for Trump’s $800 billion defense budget). We can see Eric Brakey getting elected as a mod for some Reddit anime forum, but he’s a laughable choice for public office, and conducted a puerile campaign that no one had any reason to waste time on until he trotted out some blatantly racist anti-immigration ads last week. If his campaign has showed us anything, it’s just how much having rich parents can shield you from being embarrassed by yourself.

At-Large City Council Race

QuestionJoseph BrunelleNicholas Mavodones (incumbent)
What are the top three Portland issues you’d like to tackle as councilor?Brunelle's platform has six priorities: Affordable housing, climate change, finding funding for public health, public schools, public housing, and social services.Mavodones says he wants to make Portland more affordable for all its residents, improve area schools and ensure adaquate funding for them, and make sure city government is "fiscally responsible."
Do you think anything needs to change about how city government is run? Is so, what?
"So many things," he says. "City government needs to start thinking in a 21st-century bottom-up way, not a 20th-century top-down way." Brunelle wants city government to be more transparent and accesible to "regular folks" by publishing city notices in multiple languages and using systems like participatory budgeting so citizens can know exactly what their tax dollars are paying for.Mavodones says more clarity about the mayoral position is needed. He thinks the mayor should be a "consensus builder" who works with city staff and stakeholders "in as harmonious a fashion as possible." In addition, he says, "a more disciplined approach to taking action on the Council’s annual goals would be beneficial."
Does Portland have a responsibility to address issues of gentrification (rising rent, resident displacement, etc.)? How?"Yes, absolutely." Brunelle believes too much of Portland's housing has been gobbled up by vacationing homeowners, Airbnb operators, and wealthy out-of-state interests. Brunelle supports a progressive property tax and an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require 18 percent affordable housing units instead of Maine's current 10 percent."Yes, the city does have that responsibility." Mavodones supports property tax relief for senior citizens and the creation of more affordable housing units to "acheive greater overall affordablity."
What should Portland do to address the problem of chronic homelessness?Brunelle wants Portland to fully invest in a housing-first model, with shelters spread out across the cities and integrated into the communities. When Salt Lake City started making sure homeless folks got connected with housing, healthcare, and mental health services, chronic homelessness decreased by 85 percent.Mavodones also backs a housing-first model, but seems to prefer the creation of one large homeless services center, as opposed to the "scattered site" model that Brunelle supports. "In addition," he says. "we should all work to end the stigma of homelessness and ensure our unhoused residents have the opportunities for skills
training and development so they are able to transition fully back into society."
Would you support the creation of a safe injection site (to minimize drug overdose deaths) in Portland?Yes, because the status quo isn't working. Brunelle backs research done on this — if people who are addicted use drugs in an enivornment monitored by health professionals, they are less likely to die.Mavodones must not have seen the studies that show that "safe injection sites" decrease overdose deaths, because he doesn't have an opinion about them at this time. He says he's going to explore the issue further in the coming months.
Do you support the paid sick leave ordinance? Why or why not?Yes. "With housing being unaffordable, wages stagnant, and healthcare and student loan burdens only increasing, working folks need a leg up."Sorta. "I do support paid sick leave in concept, but I have concerns about a one-size-fits-all solution being implemented only at the local level."
Do you think non-citizens should be given the right to vote in municipal elections? Why or why not?"Yes, this isn't a radical idea," he says. Dozens of cities across the U.S. already allow non-citizens to vote in municpal elections.Mavodones supports the concept "in theory" but isn't convinced the proposal put forth in front of the City Council in August is the right way to go, citing the ACLU's concerns that it might results in legal problems for non-citizens.
Our Endorsement:Joseph Brunelle 
 We've been long impressed by Brunelle's intelligence, commitment to progressive ideals, and willingness to show up. Nick Mavodones has a lot of experience on him, but he too often opts for government to get out of the way of business, and that philosophy has a way of blinding someone from the needs of their constituency. 

U.S. House Race (2nd District)

 Jared Golden (D)Bruce Poliquin (R)Tiffany Bond (I)
What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?Golden is the only candidate in this race who comes from a military background. He served two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines.Poliquin is the only candidate in this race who hides in bathrooms to avoid the media, and keeps his office door constantly locked from constituents."I am proficient in federal law, which is cumbersome and difficult to learn. My current day job is dealing with conflict in family law and as a professional mediator. It sounds an awful lot like Congress."
Do you consider the failure of government to provide affordable and accessible health care to all its citizens a moral failure? Why or why not?Golden supports Medicare for all and addressing the high cost of prescription drugs. "We must stop treating health like a private industry, and start treating health like a public good and a basic right for every American," he says.Despite the majority of Mainers in the 2nd District expressing support for increased access to health care, Poliquin voted to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, which would have booted thousands off their health insurance and increased premiums for others."The question is not whether or not it is a moral failure, it's how to fix the problem. We need to take law as it is and be making progress every time we touch it — expanding access, reducing costs, and improving provider reimbursement models."
Can you provide an example of a negative impact/influence that corporations have had on the way political campaigns are funded/run?When Golden served on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee in the Maine House, he saw nearly every legislation introduced to reduce the influence of money in politics fail because of Citizens United. A Clean Elections candidate, Golden supports ending Citizens United altogether.Poliquin has far outpaced his opponents in campaign financing, mostly from the help of massive corporate donations. Earlier this year he received about $1 million from America First Action, a super PAC affiliated with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan."I believe money in politics to be so corrosive that I will not accept campaign contributions. Rather than fundraising, I do MaineRaising — asking supporters to give back to the community through charitable donations and shopping at small businesses."
What programs, if any, do you think Maine should secure more federal funding for?Golden supports increasing federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, Medicaid expansion, Social Security, veteran service organizations, and public education.Poliquin is a hack-n-slasher who has repeatedly voted in Congress for cuts to social welfare programs. Back in May, he voted to gut $7 billion from a federal child health insurance program. Besides the military, we're not sure what he thinks our tax dollars should pay for."Short term, it's practical to expect increases in infrastructure funding (including broadband), small business supports (likely to come through tax code adjustments), and funding for opioid programs."
According to the Carbon Majors Report, just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the entire world’s emission of greenhouse gases. What regulations would you support on Maine institutions that impact the environment?Golden says he'll fight in Congress to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change and lead efforts to create new green energy jobs in Maine.With a history of voting against efforts to curb the effects of climate change and plenty of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel lobby, we're not convinced climate change even registers in Poliquin's mind as a problem. At one point in his career he even denied that humans were the driving force behind carbon emissions!"I don't think that merely one regulation will fix this. It's going to take a shift of economy that is coming for us whether or not we are ready."

Does America have a moral obligation to welcome more refugees and asylum seekers in the country even if they don’t offer an immediate economic benefit?
Golden has been mostly quiet on the topic of immigration, but it's safe to say that he's welcoming of new arrivals. As a state legislator, he voted against a bill that would penalize "sanctuary cities" for hosting undocumented immigrants.Poliquin's ideas around immigration reform involve tougher border security, ending "chain migration," and the strict enforcement of current immigration laws, which includes cracking down on "sanctuary cities." The only area where he's differed from Trump on immigration is when he expressed discontent with the policy of family seperation."We have a duty to be humane, to our own citizens and to those who seek sanctuary in our borders through official means. We are defined by how we treat those in need."
What gun control measures do you support, if any?Golden actually loves guns, owns several, and even featured himself shooting at a range in one of his campaign ads, billing himself a "straight shooter." He doesn't support banning "assault style" weapons or silencers, but promises he isn't beholden to the NRA's influence. He is open to some regulations, however, and has backed legislation that would take away the guns from those convicted of domestic abuse.Poliquin is a sweetheart of the NRA, having received over $200,000 from the organization throughout his political career. Unsuprisingly, Poliquin hasn't backed any efforts at restricting or regulating the sale of firearms."We should immediately expand data collection so that we are tackling this situation. We should also immediately begin work on consistency, compliance, enforcement training and enforcement of existing laws."
What do you think is at the heart of the political divide in America today?We're speculating, but Golden probably believes that corruption in campaign financing has contributed to the hyper polarized politics we see in America today.We're not sure, but probably people with legitimate grievances that speak to him sourly!"We are treating governance like a competitive sport instead of a collaborative one. In doing so, we have parties that don't connect with a large percent of us. We are very fortunate to have Ranked Choice Voting in this race to give us the freedom to try new things and put forward innovative, moderate campaigns like mine."
Our Endorsement (Ranked-Choice Voting):Jared Golden (D). Golden's got the stuff to unseat the Wall Street-backed Poliquin, and we think he's best suited to speak for Maine's rural workers. This is out of our hands as Portland voters, but he has our endorsement.   

District 1 City Council Race

 Belinda Ray (incumbent)Matthew Coffey (did not respond)
What are the top three Portland issues you’d like to tackle as councilor?Ray wants a new shelter built to replace the Oxford Street shelter ASAP. Additionally, she pledges to build a regional coaltion to address the issues of homelessness and substance abuse in Portland, because our neighbors need to help out. Lastly, Ray wants to increase access to public transportation and firmly believes the issue is linked to affordable housing, parking issues and congestion problems.Coffey, who has grappled with homelessness in his own life, wants to be the primary voice on the Portland City Council advocating for the interests of homeless folks.
Do you think anything needs to change about how city government is run? Is so, what?
Ultimately, Ray thinks we've got a good system of government in Portland, although, she says, there have been "some difficulties" with the elected mayor position.We're not sure about Coffey's opinions on this, but we assume he believes that the Council could do more to ensure that vulnerable people have more of a say in how the city operates.
Does Portland have a responsibility to address issues of gentrification (rising rent, resident displacement, etc.)? How?Ray says that Portland's success hinges upon making sure it supports a population of people who are socio-economically diverse. To combat gentrification, Ray supports incentives to workforce housing, amendments to the city code that allow more development along transit corridors, and identifying city-owner parcels of land that could be used for affordable housing development.Coffey has intimated that too much of Portland is transforming into condos and luxury hotels, at the expense of working-class residents.
What should Portland do to address the problem of chronic homelessness?Between the work done at facilities like the Oxford Street Shelter, Logan Place, Florence House, and Huston Commons, Ray believes Portland is already doing a "fantastic job" of addressing chronic homelessness. But she also thinks the state and federal government should assist Portland to tackle the root causes of the issue, which she says are mental health problems, substance abuse, poverty, and an indaquete health care system.Coffey supports a "scattered-site" model of shelters and homeless services spread throughout the city and integrated into communities.
Would you support the creation of a safe injection site (to minimize drug overdose deaths) in Portland?Yes. "I know this idea freaks a lot of people out, but the data is pretty clear: safe injection sites decrease overdose deaths, reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis, get more people into treatment, and cut down on the number discarded needles found in outdoor spaces."We couldn't find Coffey's position on this topic.
Do you support the paid sick leave ordinance? Why or why not?Sorta. Ray has walked an odd line on this. She supports the concept in theory ("When you consider it as a public health policy, it's a no brainer: people should stay home when they are sick.") but has cowed somewhat to business interests and the Chamber, proposing changes to the original ordinance to make implementation easier for employers. As Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee she has floated the idea of a 90-day probation period before employees can start earning sick time (which basically exempts seasonal employees), and a two-tiered system in which only some employees earn 24 hours of paid sick time. We don't think this does the trick.No. Coffey's not a fan, and called the paid sick leave ordinance an example of the "nanny state," in a September interview with the Forecaster. Yikes?
Do you think non-citizens should be given the right to vote in municipal elections? Why or why not?Yes. "People who live in the community, who are engaged in the community, and who have a stake in the community, should have a vote in the community. I would simply call it 'resident voting'. Because that's what it is."Coffey does not support the initiative, saying that Portland should honor the Constitution and only extend voting rights to people who become American citizens.
Our Endorsement:Belinda Ray 
 We commend Ray's advocacy on immigration issues and the opioid crisis. She also seems loathe to find herself on the same side with Mayor Strimling, which can sometimes position her a bit more conservative than she wants to be. She's also smart and competent and listens to her constituency, and is a better choice than Coffey.

District 2 City Council Race

 Spencer Thibodeau (incumbent)Jon Torsch
What are the top three Portland issues you’d like to tackle as councilor?Thibodeau wants more affordable housing, infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, and action against climate change.Torsch is a Democratic Socialist and believes the city's main problems are all linked and could be ameliorated by promoting housing justice, worker empowerment, and a clean and transparent government.
Do you think anything needs to change about how city government is run? Is so, what?
More transparency and accessibility. During Thibodeau's time on the council, he started live-streaming council and committee meetings on social media, and held monthly office hours to interact with constituents.A Clean Election candidate himself, Torsch thinks reforming the campaign process is pivotal to a healthy democracy. "The same forces fighting against increased wages, paid sick time, and fair rents are the same forces funding many of our councillors’ campaigns," says Torsch. "My opponent has raised almost $20,000, over half of which is from real estate interests."
Does Portland have a responsibility to address issues of gentrification (rising rent, resident displacement, etc.)? How?"Yes, but more in the sense of managing growth through long-term planning," he says. Thibodeau doesn't think the city has enough resources for direct investments, but supports leveraging housing trust fund dollars for new construction of affordable housing.Torsch isn't a fan of the current council's investments, which he asseses are too focused on private developers building condos and parking garages. Trickle-down scenarios don't work, he says. Instead, Torsch is pushing for fair rents, progressive property taxes, the collection of rental data to assess the crisis, a one person one listing policy on short-term rentals like Airbnb, all public land sales to require referendum approval, and starting to fund community-owned public housing.
What should Portland do to address the problem of chronic homelessness?"Housing-first projects are few and far between," he says. Thibodeau wants more affordable housing built in Portland and also supports expanded opportunites for the Portland Opportunity Crew, a city program that connects homeless folks with part-time grunt work.Torsch says we need to address the symptoms and the cause of homelessness by adopting a housing first model, and building facilities and harm reduction services throughout the city. Empowering workers would help too, and he doesn't believe the minimum wage increase "went far enough."
Would you support the creation of a safe injection site (to minimize drug overdose deaths) in Portland?Worth considering, but it's not ready for prime time. Thibodeau says the city may not have "sustainable funding" for it."Yes. This doesn’t just apply to safe injection sites, but also extends to peer-support services, needle exchanges, readily available Narcan, medication-assisted treatment, and sober housing facilities. Harm reduction is a wide net and we as a city need to learn that recovery doesn’t just mean abstinence."
Do you support the paid sick leave ordinance? Why or why not?He supports the idea, but wants to see the final proposal from the Health and Human Services Committee before committing to a decision.As a working member of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America, Torsch has already pushed hard for this policy. He says it should be passed as originally written with no carve-outs for part-time, temporary or small-business workers. "Solidarity means everybody in, nobody out."
Do you think non-citizens should be given the right to vote in municipal elections? Why or why not?Yes. "But I think that the process to push this forward during the fall of 2018 was extremely flawed," says Thibodeau citing the legal concerns brought up at the time by ILAP and the ACLU.Torsch is fully on board, saying "where you were born shouldn’t determine how much democracy you are afforded."
Our Endorsement:Jon Torsch 
 Torsch may be a long shot, but we think his commitment to housing justice, his willingness to articulate criticism, and his support of worker-first principles and policies. We like Spencer Thibodeau. He's done good work in school funding and immigration issues, but he often hedges on meatier issues, deferring to procedure when he's not championing private-sector solutions. We expect Thibodeau to retain the seat, but hopefully a strong showing from Torsch will remind Spencer of the power of his working-class constituency. [The printed version of this endorsement has been edited for space.]

There’s also, of course, U.S. House District 1, between incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree (whom we endorse) and Republican Mark Holbrook and Independent Marty Grohman (whom we don’t). We didn't hear back from them on our questionnaire, and the race isn't particularly close, but we support Pingree here. Congresswoman Pingree’s done a fine job in her 10-year service in Congress, and we see no reason she should stop.

For the Citizen Initiatives, we endorse YES votes to all questions, both state and local. Most are bond issues, which the Phoenix has historically tended to support, but the two trickier ones are Maine Question 1, which would seek to create a Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens and pay for it with “a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018.” We’re not sure the fate of this initiative even if it does pass, but the effort to ameliorate costs for families providing home care to elderly rather than send them to nursing homes, where they’ll often pay far more, is worth supporting.

The second tricky one is Portland Question 2, which would require municipal candidates to file a pre-election report, which includes information about campaign donations, 6-7 weeks before Election Day. We also support this attempt at transparency.

Read the questions in full below.

Maine Question 1:

“Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income, funded by a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018?”

Our vote: Yes. There may be problems putting this measure through the Legislature (some voters don't like that it originated in the advocacy organization Maine People's Alliance). But that doesn't mean it's not sound. The idea that it would drive away high-income earners from the state is a scare tactic.

Maine Question 2:

“Do you favor a $30,000,000 bond issue to improve water quality, support the planning and construction of wastewater treatment facilities and assist homeowners whose homes are served by substandard or malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems?”

Our vote: Yes.

Maine Question 3: “Do you favor a $106,000,000 bond issue, including $101,000,000 for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities and equipment related to ports, piers, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and $5,000,000 for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?”

Our vote: Yes.

Maine Question 4: “Do you favor a $49,000,000 bond issue to be matched by at least $49,000,000 in private and public funds to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine’s public universities in order to expand workforce development capacity and to attract and retain students to strengthen Maine’s economy and future workforce?”

Our vote: Yes.

Maine Question 5: Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to improve educational programs by upgrading facilities at all 7 of Maine’s community colleges in order to provide Maine people with access to high-skill, low-cost technical and career education?”

Our vote: Yes.

Portland Question 1:

“Do you favor the formation of a regional service center pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement for the Greater Sebago Education Alliance, as approved by the governing bodies of the parties thereto and the Commissioner of the Department of Education?”

Our vote: Yes.

Portland Question 2: Shall the City approve the charter amendment to Article IV, § 11, printed below?

In addition to the reports required for municipal candidates by title 21-A of the Maine Revised Statutes, 42 day pre-election reports must be filed by municipal candidates no later than 11:59 p.m. on the 42nd day before the date on which a general election is held and must be completed as of the 49th day before that date.”

Our vote: Yes. More transparency around where candidates are getting campaign donations is a vital thing for democracy.   


Edit: This document has been slightly edited for clarity, and some responses are longer than the printed version due to space reasons.

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