Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 4, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, October 4, 2018
Taxes, health care among top issues in race for House District 133
by Anne Berleant
Two women seek to win the House District 133 seat, Republican candidate Nancy Colwell from Surry, who unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Ralph Chapman in 2012, and Democrat Sarah Pebworth, a first-time candidate from Blue Hill. Both spoke to Penobscot Bay Press on issues important to District 133, which includes Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Sedgwick and Surry, and to Maine, in general.
Nancy Colwell, Republican
A Deer Isle native who has lived in Surry for over 20 years, Colwell said she decided to make a second run for state representative because “I know the district. I know the struggles, I’ve lived the struggles. To me it’s personal. This is my home, where I raised my kids.”
Registered as an unenrolled voter until six years ago, Colwell enrolled in the Republican party when she became politically active because, at the local level, “you have to have party support,” she said, and, as a Republican, “you’re allowed to have an independent thought.” She considers herself socially moderate and fiscally conservative.
Top issues are high property taxes, and taxes in general, health care costs, and lowering utility costs, she said. Her campaign literature also lists referendum reform, including that petitions “pass a constitutional test;” the opiate crisis, with tougher sentences for drug crimes and better addiction treatment; vocational training opportunities; and support and protection for small businesses, farmers and commercial fishermen.
Colwell “absolutely” believes in compromise in politics.
“I’m not in this for the party, I’m in this for the people of this district,” she said. “I’m willing to change my decisions on the facts put to me. The district may want something different than me, and I will vote the district.”
When speaking with people in her district, Colwell said a top concern she hears is health care costs. “Maine pays higher rates simply because we’re in Maine. Why should we have to pay more?” She advocates being able to purchase health insurance outside of Maine.
“If you opened the market completely, the price would go down. People should not to go the pharmacy and [have to] pick which medication they can afford this week. … Unfortunately, the biggest problems with insurance [are] at the national level.”
Colwell also questions high utility costs, and why Central Maine Power Company customers pay higher rates than Emera. “We really need to look at alternatives that work, not gimmicks. Everything needs to be reviewed.”
As a working parent who “cashed in my 401k to put my daughter in college,” Colwell said she works “paycheck to paycheck like most people in this district. I’m not going in to tax, tax, tax because it’s going to personally affect me. In Augusta, there’s a lot of rich retirees who it’s not going to affect.”
A mother of two children, one a military veteran and one on active duty, Colwell is a Risk Manager at Maine Shellfish Company.
Sarah Pebworth, Democrat
“My motive for running is, can I do good? Can I be helpful?” Pebworth said. A former board member of the Blue Hill Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Pebworth serves on the Blue Hill Library board and Blue Hill Word festival steering committee and was a 2011 participant in Leadership Hancock County.
“I’ve been promoting this area for over a decade,” she said.
For Pebworth, issues such as affordable health care, economic growth and education investment fall under a larger issue, the economy: small business owners can’t afford to provide health insurance; young people leave Maine for employment; high property taxes exist alongside tax cuts to “the wealthiest of Maine to the detriment of middle and lower-income residents.”
“I do see issues of poverty and financial insecurity playing out in property tax issues. We see again and again people living so close to the edge that one broken down car affects getting to work, getting medicine.”
Pebworth relates a recent incident to the current political landscape: “I was on a walk in the winter and a car had driven into a ditch, with four men inside.” She called a nearby friend for a tow. “Never once did I think are these from a different political party? Do they deserve my time and energy?”