2018-11-02 / Community News

Maine House of Representatives – District 29

Election 2018

Meet the candidates

After several years serving Scarborough on first the school board, then the town council, Democrat Shawn Babine is hoping to make the move to the state legislature. To get there, he’ll have to unseat two-term Republican Karen Vachon.

Survey forms were sent to both candidates and are printed below in alphabetical order.

Name: Shawn A Babine
Age: 52
Address: [not provided]
Phone: 274-0805
Occupation: Consultant, project manager.

Family: Married to Terry Babine (21 years this Nov. 1) with one adult daughter.

Education completed: B.A economics, University of Southern Maine; MBA, Southern New Hampshire University; Masters certificate in labor relations/HR management Southern New Hampshire University;

Masters certificate in applied project management and PMP certification from Villinova University,

Organizations and activities (including past political experience): Scarborough Board of Education 2000- 2002; Scarborough Town Council (5 terms since 2002); Cumberland County Budget/ Finance Advisory Committee; Cumberland County Charter Commission; Maine Municipal Association’s Legislative Policy Committee; Greater Portland Council of Government (GPCoG); Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Systems (PACTS); ecoMaine board of directors (formerly Regional Waste Systems; Board member Scarborough Public Library; St. Maximillian Kolbe Knights of Columbus; Scarborough Kiwanis; Past commander American Legion SAL Squadron Scarborough Post; State director American Legion Dirigo (Maine) Boys State program; Scarborough Loyal Order of the Moose Family Lodge; President Portland Eagles Aerie #565; Past board member USM Alumni Association; Past president Portland Lions Club.

Top three issues:

Selecting the top three issues is nearly impossible, because of how intertwined every issue is in our everyday lives. However, let’s begin with a call to join together and return to a war on poverty by disassembling the war on poor people that has engulfed our society. We need to focus on what makes our economy and families stronger and sustainable - investments in education, access to health care and workforce development is at the core of our economy.

Maine needs workforce development programs that help grow Maine’s economy through effective, continuous workforce training where workers in declining industries are ready for new jobs in new fields.

We must remove hurdles, such as lack of child care, inaccessible health care and the high cost of training programs, that stand between workers and better jobs. Investment in advanced technology and renewable energy industries lead to solid well paying Maine jobs and will attract young highly technical entrepreneurs to build their careers and their family in Maine.

We must recognize that healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege. Expansion of medicaid is only one small solution in a larger picture where new issues rise daily.

Issues with mental health and opioid addiction has become more pervasive in our society, and it affects all of us. Maine needs a comprehensive approach to facing these realities. The problem is not only access to affordable healthcare, but includes our failure to deliver effective services.

Any solution requires a fair and just balance with law enforcement and community training. Any solution must prioritize patients’ needs above insurance company profits.

I am a proud third generation Franco American Mainer whose family worked in the shipyard of BIW for generations, and they still do.

My grandfather reached the eighth grade before having to leave and support a family of 13 brothers and sisters during the Great Depression.

The legacy of my grandparents hard work, my own work ethic and the Pell Grant gave me the opportunity to go farther. Education has supported my career and family.

The war against poverty begins with our investment in education. Since the 1950s when the state’s sales tax was enacted; through the 1960s when the state income tax was approved, to the 1980s when the lottery was established Maine taxpayers have been promised each tax will fund education and in turn will reduce property tax.

While I believe the state’s 55 percent funding for education is not full funding, it is time we keep the promise.

In your own words, why are you seeking elected office?

Running for office is often misconstrued by many to believe that opposing candidates share some sort of discourse in ideas or values, but in fact I believe that me and my opponent share one common goal – we want what is best for everyone so that we may live life comfortably, safely and prosperously.

Where we differ is in the prioritization of our common issues, what are the solutions and then how do we fund and measure outcomes. Taking partisan ideological approaches in our dialogue and solution building does not make us healthier or happier or a better community.

I was raised to believe that wanting to serve your community is a responsibility each of us owes to the generation who served before and to the generation that follows me.

Wanting to serve Scarborough in the Maine Legislature comes with a belief that nearly two decades of local municipal experience matters and has prepared me to understand just how badly Augusta impacts us locally. Scarborough has said clearly by their referendum votes, we want stronger schools not only in Scarborough but throughout Maine. Our schools are not overfunded, they are underserved. Increased state funding for education benefits every aspect of Maine’s economy.

Scarborough has voted and wants a healthier Maine. We demand that the legislature work to implement and fund the expansion to medicaid. We want affordable and accessible healthcare for all. Access to affordable healthcare is the backbone of a strong workforce and the foundation for healthier families and their children. A healthier workforce supports a growing business and stronger economy. We want our seniors to age and remain in place, to be safe and protected from what is wrong in today’s society. We want a solution to the opioid epidemic. We expect solutions like Operation HOPE for every community not the discourse and partisan posturing we’ve seen of the last legislature.

For nearly two decades I have worked along side many different people in Scarborough – numerous school board members, 27 town councilors, seven school and town manager and many staff with one goal in mind – let us find solutions that improve our community. That collaborative work effort is what I offer. Experience does matter.

During these years I grew to understand the importance of developing solutions that are sustainable from year to year, creating benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of our services and programs. I make the same promise today as I did when I first ran, I will work hard, listen to your concerns, be nonpartisan and help our great state of Maine find solutions that improve our lives.

Name: Karen Vachon
Age: 59
Address: 25 Ocean Ave., Scarborough.
Phone: 730-2664 

Occupation: Licensed health insurance agent

Family: Married to Peter – 32 years; three grown children: Jay, Sam and Thomas.

Education completed: BA in business administration – New England College, Henniker, New Hampshire.

Organizations and activities (including past political experience): Two terms – Maine State Legislature (127th & 128th); Health & Human Services Committee (127th); Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Committee (128th); Opioid Task Force (128th); Scarborough Community Chamber of Commerce board of directors, 2003 – 2018; Past president of Scarborough Rotary Club; Town Resiliency Committee; Parishioner of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish.

Top three issues:

1. Affordable and sustainable access to healthcare for all Maine residents. Every person in Maine needs healthcare – from our most vulnerable who cannot care for themselves to hard-working self-employed families and individuals.

We need a healthcare system that is affordable for all. As a licensed health insurance agent, I am up close and personal with healthcare needs of Maine’s citizens. I see the burden for working Mainer’s who face the premium price cliff.

I also see the duplication of benefits of people paying $0 premium for their private health insurance through the ACA being shifted to taxpayer funded Medicaid instead.

This makes no sense. Our healthcare system is costly and complicated. Health policy should be determined by health policy experts and not by a two-sentence citizen referendum that doesn’t include a price tag. This is like going to a restaurant that doesn’t have prices on the menu. Expansion of Medicaid, as drafted, is a duplication of healthcare benefits to able-bodied Mainers at the expense of Maine’s most vulnerable – for which, Medicaid is designed to serve. Mainers pay the price; with higher taxes, or shifting benefits away from people who need them most. This is wrong.

2. Maine’s opioid epidemic is killing people at a record rate. Drug addiction shouldn’t be a death sentence. It is a disease, not a moral failing. Maine faces severe workforce shortages as baby boomers retire.

We need people alive, well, and working. Medicaid Assisted Therapy (MAT) is the gold standard that works. People stabilize, return to work and become productive members of society.

There needs to be more education that dispels the notion that MAT simply shifts one drug to another. We wouldn’t think of denying a person with diabetes their insulin; if we did – they would die. We need to look at MAT the same way.

There are those who reverse their diabetes through diet and exercise, yet people don’t think less of them if they take insulin.

The same needs to be true with weighing abstinence only programs to MAT. Criminal justice needs to change. People suffering from addiction belong in treatment; not in jail. It costs far more to incarcerate than it does to treat. There is a triple win for Maine: We reduce overdose deaths; we reduce our prison costs; we put more people in the workforce.

3. Our citizen referendum process needs to change. Out-of-state special interests with deep pockets are hijacking Maine, evoking fear among people, causing undue political divisiveness, and costing taxpayers millions.

The sooner people understand this; the sooner Mainer’s will be able to own their state and our destiny. Citizen referendums are a way for special interests to circumvent the legislature.

They do this by influencing legislative committees – where policy makers are working together on an issue; and then special interests come in; threaten policy makers that they will primary them and throw them out of office if they don’t vote a certain way.

Special interests draft the language – and get the needed signatures to get an item on the ballot. Our current system cannot reject a question that is unconstitutional, and we cannot change language.

From 2009 to 2017, $81 million has been spent on referendum questions; 71 percent of the funding came from out-of-state special interest groups who spend big money on advertising campaigns that play to Mainer’s emotions, while leaving out key information and promoting falsehoods. This past session, much of our time in the legislature was dealing with the problems created by poorly designed citizen referenda.

In your own words, why are you seeking elected office?

I love Maine and the community of Scarborough and care deeply about the health and wellbeing of our beautiful state and her people.

I was asked to serve because of my knowledge of healthcare – the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid. I had never considered politics, and still don’t consider myself a politician. I serve, simply because I love people and want to get meaningful work done.

The divisive political landscape is killing us. I see this in the healthcare debate. Healthcare has been reduced to emotional talking points focused on evoking fear that is dividing us. This is unfortunate. I seek to bridge the divide and am proud of the bi-partisan work that I have accomplished working across the aisle.

In addressing the opioid epidemic, I emphasize with stakeholders the need to not make this epidemic political as it impedes progress in solving this deadly crisis.

We need to act swiftly in educating people around this epidemic and focus on saving lives. I wish the debate around healthcare would take a step back and redirect:

It’s time to put the emotion and politics aside; get the experts in the room, and figure this out.

For Maine to thrive – we need to be healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I commit my service to digging deep on issues. I have a vision for a prosperous Maine that ensures every person has the best shot at living a healthy and prosperous life. It is why I serve and why I’m running for re-election.

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