Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The candidates in House District 50 are both in their first legislative race, but they have experience representing others.
Democratic candidate Joel A. Pitcher, of Jefferson, is a ship-fitter at Bath Iron Works and chairman of the human rights committee for International Association of Machinists Local 6 at BIW.
Republican candidate Ellen A. Winchenbach, a cosmetologist, is a former Waldoboro selectwoman and serves on the town and Lincoln County budget committees.
They are running to succeed Rep. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, who decided not to run for re-election.
Pitcher, 41, said he has no political experience and wants to push back against Gov. Paul LePage's anti-union agenda. Last year Pitcher testified before legislators against the public-sector "right-to-work" bill.
"The very idea that the economy was the way that it was, and there were so many other things they could have been trying to work through, and they spent so much time wrangling on that, was a little bit disappointing," he said.
Winchenbach, 56, owns Hair Country salon and has long been active in local Republican politics, including volunteering for at least one of Dow's campaigns. Winchenbach said she is not ideological.
"I'm more centered to make decisions, and I don't get too far off the track," Winchenbach said. "I don't have an agenda; I just want to represent the people fairly in my district."
Pitcher said he understands the experiences of working- and middle-class Mainers and that his work as a union officer has taught him how to find solutions in disputes.
"I'm good at listening to people, figuring out where they're coming from on both sides of an issue, and coming to an agreement," he said.
Pitcher served eight years in the U.S. Army after graduating from high school and has worked at BIW for 15 years. As chairman of the human rights committee, he works to ensure that BIW employees are not subjected to harassment or discrimination and directs them to resources for problems such as substance abuse.
In addition to promoting workers' rights and career and technical education, Pitcher said he wants to protect social programs that support elderly people.
"If we have to take a long, hard look at how we're going to spend our tax revenue, and we have to pick and choose who we're going to help and who we're not going to help -- and I do think we'll have to pick and choose -- I want to make sure that retirees and elderly people are taken care of," Pitcher said. "They shouldn't have to go without health care."
Pitcher is running a publicly funded campaign.
Winchenbach said people are being stretched by property taxes, energy costs and health insurance premiums.
"We need to do something with the affordable health care premiums," she said. "I don't know if we've done enough in this state to make it affordable."
Winchenbach said property tax burdens could be eased if the state would pay for 55 percent of education costs, as voters mandated in a 2003 referendum. The state has never met the 55 percent goal and is paying about 45 percent this year.
Winchenbach said she would be an advocate for small businesses and support more technical and business education in high schools.
Winchenbach is running a privately financed campaign and has raised $3,375.
Susan McMillan -- 621-5645