Phyllis Ginzler, a Republican incumbent from Bridgton, is running for re-election to House District 69 against Walter Riseman, an independent from Harrison. District 69 covers Bridgton, Denmark and Harrison.
Ginzler, 69, is married with one son. She is a retired national sales manager for Hewlett-Packard, and volunteers as president of the Bridgton Hospital Guild. She has served one term in the House of Representatives.
Riseman, 68, is married with eight children and six grandchildren. He recently retired as chief financial officer of Community Concepts, and now works as a substitute teacher. He is also the former owner of Village Tie Up in Harrison.
Riseman has served on the Gray Town Council and as chairman of the Harrison Democratic Committee.
One of the biggest problems facing the Legislature and the state, Ginzler said, is “making sure our state is an attractive, competitive state to encourage businesses and people to come live here, and establish themselves here.”
Ginzler said the state has become more business friendly under Gov. Paul LePage, but the next Legislature should continue to work toward lowering taxes.
As a former teacher, she supports education and wants to “make sure our children have the necessary knowledge and skills so they can compete (with their peers).”
Ginzler said she has conducted a survey among her constituents, and they said the most important issues are improving the economy and building local infrastructure.
Ginzler said progress has been made in combating opiate addiction, especially in seizing drugs as they enter the state and providing more treatment options. In the 128th Legislature, she said, members of the House and Senate should study the programs that are successful, and invest greater resources in these programs.
When asked whether she would support legislative action against LePage in response to a voicemail he left for Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, in August, Ginzler said she would evaluate any proposed action as it is brought forward by fellow legislators.
Ginzler is voting no on Question 1, to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, because “we need to do more homework before we’re ready to vote for the legalization of recreational marijuana,” she said. She said she supported the expansion of medical marijuana as a legislator.
Question 2, to raise the income tax for those earning $200,000 or greater by 3 percent is “probably the worst of all (the referendums),” she said. Ginzler said one of her goals as a legislator is to lower taxes, and this bill is contradictory to that goal.
Question 3, which would require background checks for private gun sales, “goes way too far,” Ginzler said. She said the bill would hurt Maine hunting traditions and “shows no understanding whatsoever of Maine and Maine people.”
Ginzler said she would not vote in favor of Question 4, to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $12 per hour by the year 2020, because the bill “does more harm than good.”
She said it will hurt young people and “people who may have little to no skills but are trying to get their first job.” She also said tagging the minimum wage to inflation will raise the price of goods and services and will hurt people living on a fixed income.
She is against implementing ranked-choice voting, Question 5, because it is unconstitutional, she said. Attorney General Janet Mills wrote an opinion in March saying ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional.
Ginzler will vote in favor of Question 6, appropriating $100 million in bonds for transportation projects, because “infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy,” she said.
Ginzler declined to say who she will vote for in the presidential election.
Riseman is running for office as an independent because “I want to be accountable to the people in the district, not the party system up there in Augusta,” he said.
One of the biggest problems facing the Legislature, Riseman said, is bipartisanship. “Not a lot can get done when two major players are not willing to work together,” Riseman said of the two-party system.
Riseman has distributed a survey to his constituents that asks them to rank 19 issues. If elected, he will work on the top five issues as identified by the survey, he said.
According to the preliminary results of his survey, the top two issues for his constituents are improving infrastructure and addressing climate change while preserving the environment.
Riseman said addressing high levels of opiate addiction in the state will take “not just a one-step solution,” but tackling the problem three ways, through law enforcement, education and treatment.
When asked whether he would support action against LePage, Riseman said he is “not going to pursue past history. I’m going to try to set a new standard of conducting business in Augusta” to foster mutual respect and compromise between the governor and the Legislature.
Riseman said he will vote no on Question 1 because the state recently legalized marijuana for medical purposes and “we need to get that working before we move onto the next phase of dealing with recreational marijuana.”
Question 2 has Riseman’s support, he said, because it would bring millions of dollars back to the education system. He said as a substitute teacher, he sees that classrooms are suffering due to lack of funding.
Riseman will vote in favor of Question 3 because “we need to protect innocent people from people who should not be owning guns,” he said, but added, “I’m not trying to keep guns from respectful, careful gun owners.”
He will also vote in favor of Question 4. “It’s time to step up to the plate and help impoverished folks who are struggling every day, choosing between food and rent, and working really hard,” he said. He said raising the minimum wage will take stress off of families and ultimate help to improve the economy.
Riseman said he is voting in favor of Question 5 because it will ensure people who are elected to public office receive the majority of the vote. Because Maine is known for having independent candidates, “it makes sense to sort that out,” he said.
He will vote in favor of Question 6 because the road bonds will create jobs and provide better transportation in the state.
Riseman said he is “not taking sides” in the presidential election.