Around the Region

Two familiar faces in House District 104 race

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    Two familiar faces will square off for the third time in the Maine House District 104 race next month as incumbent Republican Rep. Ray Wallace faces Democrat David Pearson for the third time.

NE-HD104Wallace-DCX-PO-43    Wallace defeated Pearson in a special election for an open seat in November 2011 when former State Rep. Fred Wintle resigned from office after being charged with a firearms violation a few months earlier. Wallace defeated Pearson again in November 2012.
    Wallace, who was born and raised in Dexter, worked for Dexter Shoe Company as a pattern maker until the plant closed in 2001. He later worked for Maine Highlands Regional Credit Union and as a pattern engineer in New York City.
    Wallace is a Vietnam War veteran and a member of the Shirley B. Carter VFW Post, the Dexter Kiwanis Club and the supervisory committee of the Maine Highlands Regional Credit Union.

NE-HD104Pearson-DCX-PO-43    Pearson will be retiring from his position as Sangerville town manager at the end of this year. Prior to his arrival in Sangerville three years ago, Pearson worked for the town of Dexter for over 25 years as code enforcement officer, tax assessor and town manager.
    Pearson has served as vice chair of Penquis CAP and Dexter Regional Development Corporation, as treasurer for Child Development Services and served as master of the Wayside Grange.
    The four issues the Piscataquis Observer discussed with the candidates included expansion of MaineCare, the state’s school funding formula, the proposed East-West Highway and improving economic opportunities for the area.
    Wallace said he opposes expansion of MaineCare for two major reasons. “Out of the 70,000 that the Democrats wanted to add to the rolls, about 50,000 were eligible for other existing types of health insurance coverage,” Wallace said. “Even if we voted to add the remaining 20,000, we would have only been reimbursed at 60 percent of the cost of coverage.”
    Wallace said that he’s always wary of any program based on an influx of federal funds. “Federal reimbursement rates on all programs have been going down for the past five years,” he said. “This is something we just can’t afford.”
    Pearson, however, said that the opportunity for MaineCare expansion “was handled badly by the governor. The concern for increasing costs for Maine was addressed by Republican Sen. (Roger) Katz who proposed accepting the federal money and covering 70,000 Mainers, but having Maine pull away as the shift to state funding occurred. This seemed like a proposal that the governor should have been able to get behind, but it seems that ideology is often in the driver’s seat with LePage.”
    Pearson added that “uninsured patients are driving hospital charity costs up again and this time there is no liquor business to sell to cover the shortfall … We are setting up for another hospital funding crisis.”
    Wallace voted in favor of a bill that would have funded a comprehensive study of the East-West Highway, but said that the Democratic majority “basically killed it. At this point, I couldn’t say whether I’d vote yes or no on the highway itself because we simply don’t know enough about it.”
    Wallace said that the study “would have been a wise investment because we’d learn more about the road and its impact. We, as lawmakers, have to deal with facts when we make decisions, not emotions.”
    Pearson described the highway as a “proposal that serves Canadian interests and Cianbro — who will make millions on construction of bridges, etc. What marginal benefits some Maine businesses will get are offset by the destruction of farms, forests and local roads that will become dead-ends all along its length.”
    The Democratic candidate said that the state “should continue to improve its existing roads to encourage Canadian trade, but the experience that other states have had with these private roads should be a warning. I would oppose spending even another dime of public money ‘studying’ this Trojan horse.”
    Both candidates agree that the school funding formula is hurting rural districts.
    “Our town budgets are getting killed,” Wallace said.
    During the state budget deliberations, Wallace said he tried to introduce a bill to cut expenses by 2-1/2 percent “across the board. But they (the majority) wouldn’t even discuss it — I was completely ignored. As a result, I voted against the budget.”
    Wallace said that his measure “would have minimized the cuts to revenue sharing and our schools. The state promised to pay for 55 percent of school costs years ago, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
    Pearson said that Maine’s school funding formula “used to be the model for other states and is still fundamentally sound, but needs to reflect the transportation needs of rural areas which are significant compared to urban areas. The state needs to fund the 55 percent (cost) that the voters approved, which the legislature continues to ignore and the governor actively undermines by including Augusta personnel as part of the ‘local’ costs and shifting pension funding to municipalities.
    On economic issues, Wallace was one of the principals involved in trying to restart a shoemaking operation in Dexter last January. But so far, the project is on hold.
    “I’ve talked to everyone at the state level I can think of about getting help, but they haven’t offered us anything,” Wallace said. “Nobody wants to make a move. They’ll spend millions of dollars on a pulp mill in northern Maine that’s closing down, but nothing for us and it’s very frustrating.”
    Wallace said that economic development will be high on his priority list, if reelected. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next session, but they’ll hear from me,” he said.
    Pearson said that the state “should be actively supporting our small farms and the state should be coordinating marketing throughout New England. We should be encouraging our congressional representatives to negotiate fairer trade terms with the Canadians. This is not free trade at present. There should be broadband Internet access everywhere in our district and failure to accomplish this should make current officeholders ashamed. We need to market value-added materials, not just raw resources.”
    House District 104 consists of Dexter, Garland, Charleston, Exeter and Stetson.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.