Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 11, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, October 11, 2018
Arruda, Hutchins seek House District 131 seat
by Anne Berleant
On Election Day, November 6, voters will choose between two candidates experienced in local and state politics to fill the House District 131 seat. Democratic candidate Nathalie Arruda, of Orland, describes herself as an “involved citizen” familiar with the legislative process. Republican candidate Sherm Hutchins, of Penobscot, is a one-time state representative, longtime town meeting moderator and nine-term Penobscot selectman. District 131 includes Dedham, Orland, Otis, Penobscot, Verona Island and two towns in Waldo County.
Nathalie Arruda, Democrat
Arruda has been involved in politics from a young age, she said, and currently is secretary of the Hancock County Democratic Committee and a volunteer with Maine AllCare, a healthcare advocacy organization.
“I’m familiar with the process in Augusta,” she said. “I understand how to work together with a great team to get things done.”
Arruda lists health care, economic development and expanding rural internet access as top issues for her district.
“I think it’s really important to grow business and industry, and to take care of the people working in those areas,” with a living wage and, when possible, benefits, while not ignoring environmental concerns. “I was taught from a young age, if you make a mess, you clean it up.”
A degree in behavioral science has trained her to listen, an advantage in navigating the political, often party-driven legislative process, she said.
“The most important thing is to listen. We can lay our issues out on the table and move forward.”
She points to a top issue for candidates and voters this election: “We might disagree on the best method to provide healthcare to people in Maine, but people are unified in pointing to the influence of money [in healthcare]. There are ways we can join together.”
Compromise is critical, she said. “If it’s ‘my way or the highway,’ we end up in a partisan gridlock, which we’ve seen.”
If elected, Arruda said she would hold town hall-style meetings to “air what’s going on in Augusta,” hear from constituents, and “bring that back” to the legislature.
“I’m good at hearing folks with different viewpoints,” she said. “It won’t always be in line with what I want but will make a balanced decision … and be able to account for it in a responsible way.”
Arruda said voters in her district are concerned about the economy, road conditions, education funding, and concerns over elder care.
“I’m hearing a lot of hesitation about Question 1 whether this is the way to do it, but a lot of concern about elder care.”
(Question 1 is a citizen-initiated ballot question that seeks a tax on higher incomes to fund in-home health care services for elderly and disabled Mainers, and to create a government board to administer those funds.)
Arruda is running as a clean election candidate. She is the mother of three children and works at Down East Family YMCA.
Sherm Hutchins, Republican
Hutchins stepped in to run for House District 131 when current Rep. Karl Ward decided not to seek re-election shortly after the primary election. Hutchins seeks office “to make Maine a place our grandchildren can stay,” and said that his top issues are economy and freedom.
“When the economy is strong, a lot of the other troubles, in general, tend to be less troublesome. The safety net isn’t used as much, which is good for the state,” he said. “But you have to have the safety net there because there’s folks who need it. If they need it, they deserve to get it.”
A stronger economy gives people freedom to change jobs, switch schools and “is such a part of America as a whole,” he continued. “I think rural areas are especially aware of it, the feeling of being able to do for oneself.”
A longtime town moderator in Penobscot, Orland, Dedham, Lucerne Village and Otis, Hutchins served on the Hancock County Planning Commission for 12 years, is a life member of the National Rifle Association, and also served on the Hancock/Washington County Regional Transportation Advisory Committee.
“I have a background in many different things over the years and have interacted with many different people,” he said.
Hutchins said his decades of experience as town meeting moderator will also help in Augusta. “I don’t mind speaking in front of 150 people because I’m comfortable. I think I can be effective.”
Compromise is a part of everyday life, Hutchins said, including politics. “You have to make some adjustments. You can fight for your issues, state them strongly, [but] you may have to move a little bit to get something accomplished.”
Hutchins said that “on the Republican side, party loyalty” may not be the right term. “I vote the way I think the issue rolls out,” he said. “Some statement or piece of information can change your mind on an issue, or part of it. It’s just a matter of working your way through those things.”
He added: “If you’re going to represent the people of the district, you let them do the talking. You usually pick up some very good pieces of information.”