Race for Maine Senate District 14

in the 2016 General Election

Shenna Bellows

Shenna Bellows

9,762 (45.53%)

Democratic - Manchester

Candidate profile

Bryan P. Cutchen

Bryan P. Cutchen

7,671 (35.78%)

Republican - West Gardiner

Candidate profile

Joseph J. Pietroski

Joseph J. Pietroski

4,008 (18.69%)

Independent - Winthrop

Candidate profile

Is Maine too generous in providing social services to its residents? Which government benefits should be increased or decreased?

Bellows
We have to reform our welfare system, and we can do so in way that protects seniors and children who are truly in need. Maine has been providing too many cash benefits to residents, but we can ensure that no family goes truly hungry or homeless by allocating more funds to local farmers, food banks and fuel distributors to ensure that peoples basic needs are met. We also need to realign the incentives, so that work is rewarded rather than penalized. In terms of where we could do more, we need to increase affordable housing and healthcare for seniors, and we must do more to protect children in our state with supports specifically for mental health services and supports for children and adults with disabilities including intellectual disabilities or autism.

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Cutchen
Maine provides social services as determined by the people of Maine through their elected officials. I would first advocate we reform our existing social services system to eliminate fraud and waste to ensure it is operating in accordance with law and regulations. As a candidate, I support a social service system which is focused to get citizens back in the workforce.

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Pietroski
I don't believe so; however, I do support a system that provides oversight and compliance with requirements such as having to work, go to school, provide childcare services, or community service if physically able to do so.

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Do you support expanding or raising the sales tax to lower the state income tax? Why or why not?

Bellows
We must lower property taxes first. As Ive talked with voters in my district, Ive met too many retirees worried about losing their homes. Its no surprise property tax relief is the number one issue in our communities. We shouldn't cut or eliminate income tax if it's just going to shift the burden onto property taxpayers. While I strongly support eliminating some of the sales tax exceptions that have been put in place by special interests, I believe we need to carefully analyze the cumulative impact on small businesses in our state before we raise or expand the sales tax.

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Cutchen
Your question oversimplifies the issue. I am focused on reducing the total tax burden on Maine citizens, particularly our seniors, and making Maine a more business friendly state. I believe much can be done by ensuring state government is run at maximum efficiency with minimum waste. In general, I support a consumption tax vs. an income tax because it encourages savings. But again, any action on taxes must take a comprehensive look at the impact on Maine citizens.

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Pietroski
Maine residents need a reduction in their property taxes, The State must increase the homestead tax credit and meet its obligation to fund education at a minimum of 55%. Most residents don't see a great benefit from lowering the income tax and raising sales taxes affects unfairly persons with mid to low incomes.

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Do you support marijuana legalization in Maine, as outlined in Question 1?

Bellows
Yes

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Cutchen
No

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Pietroski
Yes

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Please explain your answer. (Not required)

Bellows
We incarcerate too many people in our state and our country for non-violent offenses. For that reason, I support ending prohibition. At the same time, we need to ensure that Maines successful medical marijuana system is preserved. If Question 1 passes, I will work hard to make sure the legislature protects medical marijuana caregivers and patients in the implementation process.

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Cutchen
The referendum does not provide answers to problems encounter by states which have recently passed similar laws, to include children accidentally consuming marijuana-laced food/candy and the inability to test for driving while impaired or working under the influence.

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Pietroski
I worry about whether or not this will increase access to those under 18. At the same time, I believe that it is time to fully decriminalize recreational use.

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Do you support raising taxes on Mainers with incomes above $200,000 to increase state aid to education, as outlined in Question 2?

Bellows
Yes

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Cutchen
No

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Pietroski
Yes

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Please explain your answer. (Not required)

Bellows
Education is critical to Maine's future. Education provides a pathway out of poverty and is fundamental to the American dream. The 3% tax increase on people making over $200,000 only applies to what they make over $200,000 after deductions. It's a small price to pay for the wealthiest people in our state, many of whom support this initiative because they understand that education funding is so important.

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Cutchen
The tax would be a negative incentive for professionals and small businesses to move to Maine, particularly medical professionals, where we are already experience significant shortages. I would support reforming our education system before providing additional funds. Our spending per student is already one of the highest in the nation. This referendum effort is funded primarily by out of state money. I would prefer to see the people of Maine demonstrate their support for this issue by funding the campaign for it from within.

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Pietroski
All referendum questions go to the State Legislature for review and possible action including putting together a companion question. At least two Governors and four legislative sessions have had the opportunity to meet the 55% funding minimum supported by Maine voters. While this solution is not perfect, we must take actions to lower Maine's property tax burden. I do not see school costs going down, not with the additional mandates placed on local school districts, the lack of students studying to become teachers in our colleges because other jobs have much higher income possibilities, and the necessity to meet many infrastructure and maintenance needs. Passing this referendum will help many Maine residents, especially our State's growing senior citizen population be able to pay lower property taxes and be able to stay in their homes.

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Do you support universal background checks for firearm sales, as outlined in Question 3?

Bellows
Yes

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Cutchen
No

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Pietroski
No

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Please explain your answer. (Not required)

Bellows
I support background checks for private sales because I believe we should keep guns out of the hands of criminals. At the same time, family members should not have to conduct background checks on one another just to share a gun. If Question 3 passes, I will work hard to ensure that the law preserves exceptions for transfers among family members and temporary transfers for recreation to avoid any undue burden on Maine's hunters and families.

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Cutchen
This referendum is poorly written and funded by out of state money to address a problem Maine does not have. It would be better to focus instead on making the existing NCIS database more complete by insuring it contains records of those individuals with mental health issues.

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Pietroski
I do support having background checks for any sale of a firearm. Question 3, however, goes further. It is not just about background checks. I am having difficulty seeing how this referendum can work without setting up a gun registry. A gun registry seems to me to be in conflict with 2nd amendment rights. At the same tine, I have become confused about some non-background checking aspects, such as allowing family members to use and inherit firearms, letting friends borrow a gun for a hunting trip when the owner of the firearm is not present, and when does a person commit a felony? Both sides have said a lot of things about this question. Who is correct? We need an independent panel to become involved in answering the questions being raised. Finally, I can see another piece of legislation being introduced in the next legislative session just focusing on background checks for all firearm sales. I will have an open mind if this legislation is introduced.

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Should Maine raise its minimum wage, as outlined in Question 4?

Bellows
Yes

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Cutchen
No

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Pietroski
Yes

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Please explain your answer. (Not required.)

Bellows
People who work full-time should be able to buy food and pay their bills. One of the best ways to grow the economy is to put money in workers pockets. An artificially low minimum wage that keeps workers in poverty really benefits the WalMarts and McDonalds of the world. We, the taxpayers, are subsidizing the profits of fast food chains and big box retailers when their workers are forced to go to the food pantry to feed their families. Raising the minimum wage would help thousands of Maine workers directly and grow the economy.

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Cutchen
It is a disincentive to small business to start up or expand in Maine. The minimum wage is just that, a minimum starting point for entry level workers or season/student workers. The market will drive wages depending on the availability of labor.

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Pietroski
The State of Maine should have increased the minimum wage on a regular basis starting many years ago. Workers should be able to earn a livable wage. I wish that the Legislature had not shirked its duty and through a companion question addressed the restaurant worker and student issues. Party dictates, again got in the way of passing good legislation minus some of the detriments found in the current question.

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Do you support the initiative to use ranked-choice voting to elect state and federal officials in Maine, as outlined in Question 5?

Bellows
Yes

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Cutchen
No

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Pietroski
No

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Please explain your answer. (Not required)

Bellows
Ranked choice voting is a commonsense reform that would restore majority rule to our elections and empower voters in our democracy. If forced to win the support of more than 50% of the voters, politicians would have to work harder to talk to everyone and to run more positive campaigns. Voters could vote their conscience without fear of vote splitting or the spoiler effect. We would be assured that whoever wins elected office would represent the majority of the people.

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Cutchen
First, it is unconstitutional. If you support ranked-choice voting, then amend the constitution through the legislative process. Second, it is expensive and more complex for the citizens of Maine. If the people of Maine overwhelming support a majority vote to win, my preference would be a run off election.

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Pietroski
The current system works fine.

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Should Maine prioritize law enforcement efforts to intercept drug traffickers over expanding access to substance abuse treatment, such those that incorporates medications like methadone and Suboxone?

Bellows
Maine's heroin/opiate epidemic is shattering families and devastating our communities. Drug treatment and prevention go hand in hand with law enforcement, and we should absolutely do more to support the coalition of providers and law enforcement that are working collaboratively together to address the problem. We need more investment in substance abuse treatment and prevention. There arent enough in-patient facilities that will serve people with drug addiction to meet the demand. Ive met grandparents trying desperately to find someone to take their children or grandchildren. Similarly, we need to invest more in law enforcement to ensure they have the resources to keep our communities safe.

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Cutchen
Again, an oversimplified question from the BDN. To combat the drug problem in Maine, we cannot focus solely on the supply, transit or demand strategy. We must address each aspect. Once the outcomes and goals are defined we can determine what resources are needed to close the gap in funding. Without a comprehensive drug strategy, we are just wasting money.

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Pietroski
The opiate/heroin crisis must be approached on four fronts: medical, treatment, rehabilitation, and law enforcement. The addictive control once it takes hold is very difficult to escape. I would like to see methadone and Suboxone therapies and rehabilitation services expanded. And while I support strict enforcement action for those who would supply the illegal drugs, I applaud the many police departments who are showing compassion to those who have become addicted.

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Should Maines constitutional officers -- the secretary of state, the attorney general, auditor and the treasurer -- continue to be elected by the Legislature or by statewide popular vote?

Bellows
I favor a statewide popular vote.

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Cutchen
By the legislature. To further politicize these positions would hinder, not help the state government process.

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Pietroski
I would like to see Independent Candidates have the opportunity to compete for these constitutional positions; thus I would favor having a statewide popular vote.

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Is the size of Maines Legislature appropriate? Should the pay for legislative service be increased?

Bellows
I think we could potentially decrease the size of the legislature, but it would be important to ensure we have sufficient representation in rural areas. I dont think legislative pay needs to be increased.

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Cutchen
I believe you could reduce the size of the legislature and direct the savings increase the pay to enable and encourage more citizens to run for office.

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Pietroski
I believe that the size of the Maine Legislature is appropriate especially in view of the geographic area that must be represented. The legislative pay is adequate; but does not reflect the considerable time necessary to fulfill the requirements of the position. The pay does discourage some people from running. Using myself as an example, raising a family of six children, the legislative pay did discourage me from running until my children were grown and out of college.

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Would you support sanctioning another elected official if he or she made public comments or statements that were considered racist, offensive or prejudicial?

Bellows
Yes, but it depends on the circumstance. Ive been a long-time advocate of both free speech and civil rights.

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Cutchen
I would support amending the constitution to provide for a process to censure an elected official who violates published ethical guidelines.

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Pietroski
Yes. Elected officials have to be held to a higher standard. Without high standards, we negatively affect the values and lifestyles other citizens and their children and grandchildren? I am also concerned that such immature actions are affecting how people outside the state look at Maine as a place to visit, to move to, or to invest in.

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Would you support a so-called right to work law in Maine?

Bellows
No. I support the right to organize and will oppose measures that undermine workers rights to advocate for better pay and better working conditions.

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Cutchen
Yes.

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Pietroski did not answer this question.

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Would you support legislation or a ballot question to allow more casinos in Maine?

Bellows
It depends upon the specific proposal and costs and benefits of the development to our state.

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Cutchen
I would support legislation which would go through bipartisan debate but not a ballot question.

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Pietroski
No, Maine's two casinos seem to be filling the need. Is their really a public demand for more casinos or is it just some well financed group trying to buy into the State.

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What is the biggest barrier to economic development in Maine and what can the Legislature do to address it?

Bellows
We're not doing enough to attract the types of jobs that will provide a good living, especially for younger Mainerstoo many are leaving the state. We need to make Maine a place where people can stay and find work and raise a family. We can attract and retain these jobs by investing in infrastructure, supporting small businesses and start ups and research and development of new products and manufacturing opportunities. For example, Maine should invest in reliable, high speed Internet service for rural communities to support telecommuting and small business development. Better Internet service would also allow Maine companies a greater ability to market Maine-made products to the rest of the country and the world. Maine has an amazing workforce and wonderful quality of life as well as rich natural resources. We need to leverage these assets to grow the economy.

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Cutchen
Cumbersome permitting and regulation. Maine needs to process permits more quickly and ease the regulatory burden.

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Pietroski
Maine lacks a well-educated available workforce. We must increase retraining opportunities, raise incomes for in home health care workers, provide more affordable housing options in communities where businesses are looking for employees, and most of all adopt high school curriculums that provide students with the opportunity to graduate from high school with at least one year of community college courses completed. Getting more Maine students to complete at least a two-year community college degree will greatly help provide the educated workforce that will provide employers with the workforce they need. I might also mention, the with Maine's fast growing senior citizen population, we need to encourage these individuals to come back to work, perhaps in part time positions to help meet the need for employees.

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Census data show Maines population is aging and decreasing, with some economists suggesting that immigration is the best way to reverse those trends. What should the state do to address this demographic trend?

Bellows
Maine is already a place where people want to live. We need to make Maine a place where people can make a living. That means supporting small business and entrepreneurs, and investing in infrastructure that would connect young people to the national economy. We should support and strengthen incentives like the Opportunity Maine tax credit that helps Maine graduates who decide to stay and work in Maine. We should look at other ways to help graduates pay off student loans if they stay and work in Maine. We need to help businesses find workers with appropriate job training programs and legal immigration. We can reverse the brain drain, and we should.

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Cutchen
Create an environment which attracts business and creates a job demand which will bring more people to Maine to work, not burden social services.

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Pietroski
First provide opportunities for senior citizens to continue to work at a pace that they could like, for instance 4-5 hours a day, three days a week. Second, I agree with the economists that immigration is an important part of addressing the need for workers and families.

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What is the most pressing issue in Maine these questions have not addressed?

Bellows
Property taxes. Voters across Senate District 14 agree that property taxes are too high. It's the number one issue I'm hearing from voters as I knock on doors in my district. I've met many seniors worried that they will not be able to stay in their homes because they're on a fixed income and can't afford rising tax bills. The state is not paying its fair share back to the towns for schools and infrastructure. I will fight for lower property taxes. I will advocate for property tax relief for seniors, families and small businesses. I will work hard to build a coalition of Democrats, Independents and Republicans to get the state to pay its fair share back to the towns for education and infrastructure. I will strongly support restoring municipal revenue sharing. I will be a strong voice for a more responsible and fair state budget.

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Cutchen
You've hit on the two most important, stopping the drug crisis and creating jobs. These two will address the biggest second order issue we face: many of our children reporting to school not ready to learn. An intact family, with an employed breadwinner, in a drug free home environment, is the best way to ensure our children have the best possible opportunity to succeed. They are our future and raising young adults with a strong work ethic, sense of personal responsibility and strong core values is our primary mission as parents.

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Pietroski
I am disappointed that you did not include in your main list the failure of this State and its Legislature to provide necessary services for adults and children with disabilities including autism and mental health issues. Each year nearly a thousand students graduate from Maine high schools with special needs and disabilities. There are not enough services available. So hundreds are placed on a waiting list that might last years. What happens when these young adults are not provided with continuous services? Many of the things they have learned, are negated by the last of programs. We have got to do better. Many of these young people can become productive citizens if the services are available to them. One of my legislative priorities will be to work to provide services for every student coming out of high school and for all the adults who are still working for opportujites to live independently and to find appropriate job opportunities.

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