Election Views 2016 (Democrat)

Democrat Laurie Fogelman, candidate for House District 137

As a first time political candidate, I have embarked on an experience that has taught me more than I ever dreamed about our political system and about the people who live in my district. 

The best part, by far, has been listening to people as I have gone from door to door. I have been alternately amused, touched or inspired by so many fine people as they share glimpses of their lives and talk about what they would like to see from our government.

I am hoping to become the next representative of House District 137. We are comprised of 15 small towns, two townships and parts of unincorporated areas that are scattered through Penobscot, Hancock and Washington counties. The first thing I learned was that our separate pieces were brought together as a result of the compromises reached in legislative redistricting negotiations. No one I have spoken to claims that there is any substantive reason for us to be grouped together and at least one person told me we were “some of the leftover pieces.” That is a bit discouraging to hear. However, as I have driven through every town in our district, down main roads and backroads that end in the middle of nowhere, I have seen in how many ways we are similar. Much more brings us together than drives us apart.

The people of District 137 reflect the majority of the people of Maine. There is very little cultural or racial diversity. A few people have mentioned that they are concerned that this lack of diversity hurts us on many levels. They feel we should be more open and welcoming to all people. There are fears of terrorists, and some have mentioned that they don’t know enough about the Muslim faith, but not a single person has told me that they blame all Muslims for the actions of a radical few. 

Although I have met a 1-week-old and a 2-month-old baby, most of the residents I have met are older. Many of the oldest have health and financial challenges and tell me that they are not well served by this state. All of them wanted to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Some have families that can help, others do not. I was so moved by one woman who came to the door dragging an oxygen tank. With tears in her eyes, she said she just wanted and needed to keep her independence for as long as she could. These seniors are here and need help now; we have to make it a priority to fund programs that will help them now.

I have also listened to many people talk about problems accessing adequate medical care or finding insurance that actually helps them. I have heard sad stories about $800 a month insurance bills that left a couple less than $400 a month to pay for rent, food and all their other costs. One single woman told me that she makes $1 a month too much to qualify for a better program. A young family struggles with serious illnesses. Sometimes members of these families can work while other times they cannot. They would have been eligible for the Medicaid benefits that Gov. Paul LePage refused to accept. They are heartbroken. We need to help people negotiate insurance choices and problems and allow the 70,000 Mainers eligible to receive Medicaid to get the help that our governor has denied them. 

The effects of all the mill closures, once just news articles to me, have become all too real as I travel in my district. People who earned a decent living working hard in our mills are struggling now to hold on to their houses and pay their bills. Other business people, including loggers and store owners, suffer from the closings too. For them, and for all our young people who want to live reasonably prosperous lives here in our state, we must keep working on new and innovative employment solutions. 

Traveling through my district, it is painfully obvious that there are huge differences in the incomes of our residents. We have beautiful homes and well-kept neighborhoods, but we also have so many houses that are barely standing. Most of the people in these crumbling homes asked only for better paying jobs. It is time to raise the minimum wage in a way that doesn’t bankrupt our small businesses but still gives people a living wage.

Many people I have met have talked about how much they worry about substance abuse. One woman said that her son had struggled with drug abuse but has become sober, which she credits to family support and honesty. She felt that his counselors could have listened better to the family to be effective. People talked about locking their doors and being afraid in ways they never have been before. One couple, so profoundly heartbroken, told me that their daughter had died two months ago from a drug overdose. It will take open minds really listening to each other and working together to make progress with this huge problem. Families, treatment providers, law enforcement, people in recovery all have some answers. I believe that we must stop posturing and blaming each other and work together.

One theme that I hear all too often is discouragement bordering on disgust with our presidential candidates and with politicians in general. 

“You seem like a nice person, why in the world do you want to join the Legislature?” is a question I’ve been asked over and over again. I have really had to think about the honest answer. It comes down to one basic belief of mine. To quote from Ghandi, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” I don’t like the coarse, crude, name-calling and pointless posturing that can be seen on every level in our state and our country. It serves no real purpose other than to make the speaker feel smug and to stop all possibility of a real exchange of ideas. It hurts us all. I will work with members of all parties and listen, really listen, to people of all viewpoints. That is the way, and the only way, that we can tackle the problems in our district, our state and our country. America is already great, but we could be greater still.