There are currently four Democrats in Maine seeking their party's nomination in next year's U.S. Senate race. In recent weeks, Maine Public has talked with each of them about the issues that are most important to Maine Democrats, according to pollsters.
Maine Public's Political Correspondent Mal Leary spoke with House Speaker Sara Gideon about taxes, the opioid crisis and, of most concern to Democrats, health care.
Gideon: What I have learned from campaigning thus far is that it's not just Democrats that have this issue as their number one concern. In fact, it's all Mainers who have this as their number one concern, the issue of health care - access to health care and the cost of health care as well. And so where I think we need to be on this issue is tackling the root of the problem. Nobody in Maine should be deciding between whether they go to a doctor, whether they buy their medicine or whether they're putting food on the table. If we want to change that, we need to tackle issues like, number one, reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Number two, making sure that we are protecting people with pre-existing conditions, making sure that young people are able to stay on their parents health insurance until their sound, financially sound enough to be able to afford it on their own.
In terms of Medicare-for-all, my belief is, in terms of expanding health care for people, that we should allow people who want to buy in to Medicare to do so, but for the people who have private insurance and wish to keep it, that they are able to do that. So I just want to add a couple of things in there if I can, because you mentioned that people are worried about the Affordable Care Act, for example. It's part of what they're thinking about when they're thinking about healthcare. Look, in Maine here, we watched what happened in Congress, we watched the vote on the Trump tax bill, which put the Affordable Care Act into extreme jeopardy. And we heard what people in the state were saying about their worries and fear about access to health care. And so what we did was we put the core provisions of the Affordable Care Act into law here in Maine so that no matter what happens in the courts, no matter what happens in a future congressional vote, the people in Maine will know that no insurance company is going to deny us health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Leary: You mentioned the Trump Tax Act. That's one of the other concerns of numbers of Maine Democrats. They're concerned about the fairness of the taxes, that their taxes that they're paying now are not being fairly assessed. In many cases they feel property taxes are too high, which, not much the federal government can do about that directly, butb stillb the overall tax policy, most of what we pay for taxes is income tax. And that will be a direct issue for you if you get elected.
Yeah. So look, again, this is an issue where it's interesting, my perspective is always from looking at the federal government and what is or is not being done to help us here in Maine, and then also the perspective of how we've had to sort of pick up the pieces here in Maine and help Mainers in these ways.
Look, we looked at that Trump tax bill, and when we came into the legislature in January, and we acknowledged that nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts were given to people, not Mainers, primarily, but mostly corporations and the wealthiest families or individuals in America. And yet at the same time now, we thought about what we had been doing and hearing and the people that we have been talking to for the past year in 2018. And what we hear no matter where we are in Calais, or Fort Kent, or Oxford, or Freeport is that property taxes are the burden that people feel are A. unpredictable, B. rising at a rate that they cannot actually absorb, and C. a worry that causes them to think 'we're not sure if we can even stay in our homes as we age and grow old.' And so what we did was we tried to counterbalance what was happening in that Trump tax bill, and actually put together a package of property tax relief bills that we think are going to make a real difference in the lives of Mainers by coming at it in a couple of different ways.
The third area that the polling data indicates Maine Democrats are concerned about is the opioid crisis. What do you see as the solutions? And I'm putting an S on there, because it's not one solution, it's many solutions, to address this problem.
You're right. It is many solutions. And, as you and I have experienced together in Maine here, we have been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic. And we have spent many, many hours and months and years working on how we actually combat it and help people. It does involve combating the issue in a number of ways, and that includes treatment, it includes education and prevention, and it does include law enforcement as well. I think the primary things, though, knowing how pervasive this epidemic has been, is that we are very, very focused on the treatment side of things.
So speaker Sarah Gideon, who's running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Thanks for stopping by and talking about these issues.
Ed note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Originally published Nov. 28, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. ET.