Ken Fredette, an attorney who was elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 2010, is among four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for governor.
Fredette is currently serving his fourth term in the House and was elected as the House Republican leader. He earned a bachelor’s from the University of Maine at Machias, a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law and a master’s from the Harvard Kennedy School.
Fredette talked with Maine Public’s Steve Mistler about what makes him stand out from his primary opponents:
Mistler: There are three other candidates in this race and many of them are promoting very similar ideas. What specific proposals makes you different than your primary opponents?
Fredette: I think it’s really the commitment to those specific ideas which is really important. Two opponents are recent welcomed converts to the Republican Party, and I think that’s an important distinction — that this is something I’ve done for most of my life. So it’s about that commitment to the true, real conservative Republican values that you’re going to find in me, and find in my history. I think my military background is something that I think that makes me different from them. But I think most importantly it’s the actual work that we’ve succeeded in doing in the Legislature here over the last eight years — that it has really brought this economy to where we are today: $200 million in the rainy day fund and basically full employment. So I don’t think anybody else can look at that track record and say that we’ve been there and done that.
Mistler: What is the biggest challenge facing Maine, and what would you do as governor to respond to that?
Fredette: There’s no doubt that the opioid crisis is the biggest crisis facing Maine right now and a lot of it is underground, and part of an undercurrent. And while we can measure it — we had 418 opioid overdoses last year, a record in Maine, and I suspect the number is actually much higher - I think that it’s a far bigger crisis than we realize. I think part of it is we have gangs that have moved into Maine, particularly in the cities, and that there’s some real underground crime being associated with this. And as governor, it would be my top priority that we have prevention and treatment. But the first thing, and my highest priority, would be enforcement. I like to joke that we’d build a wall at the Kittery bridge and put a police officer checking every car coming in. We won’t go that far, but making sure that enforcement, that those drugs that are coming into Maine, are going to be stopped, and the people that are doing it are going to go to jail. Prevention and treatment are critical, particularly in our K-12 schools. I went down and visited the Hub and Spoke program down at the Biddeford medical facility down there where that’s being done. I think that needs to be replicated, taken to scale throughout the state. But most importantly I think that people not having access to drugs in an open free way keeps them from getting hooked to drugs in the first place. And we really have people that know how to do this, bring the drugs into Maine, get people to experiment with them and then when they’re hooked, they’re hooked.
Mistler: Polls continue to show that jobs are the biggest concerns for voters in Maine. What would you do as governor to help grow the economy?
Fredette: What we realize is back in 2010, when we had the Great Recession and we were at 8.5-9 percent unemployment, we probably had lots of people that weren’t even being counted in that that had given up looking for jobs. Today we have virtual full employment, where basically we have jobs even in rural Maine, where we have help wanted signs where there used to be foreclosure signs. So I think it’s a real difference, and it’s a real measure of how far we’ve come. I think that we have farther to go, and I think one of the reasons why we have to do that is because it helps to rise incomes. Because we don’t want to just have jobs that are $8 an hour, $12 an hour jobs, you want it to be real good jobs. And the more competition there is for people, you’re going to have a better jobs with better benefits.
Mistler: Maine voters will be using ranked-choice voting in this primary election. Assuming that you will rank yourself as the top choice, how are you going to rank your opponents?
Fredette: My answer to that always is any of the four Republicans are a better choice than the Democrats, because I think that they’ll simply take us backwards and undo a lot of the work that we’ve done over the last eight years.
This interview has been edited for clarity. For a longer version of this interview, aired as part of a Public Affairs special program, click here. For more on Fredette’s stances on the issues, and other Republicans in Maine’s gubernatorial race, click here. Visit our Your Vote 2018 page for more elections resources and information.