Amar Ojha: What would the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) passing mean for jobs in Maine?
Emily Cain: TPP is bad not only because it’s something negotiated in secret by people and organizations and lobbyists who are not looking out for businesses and working families here in Maine, [but] because when we give away our labor standards, when we compromise our environmental standards, we’re not going to be able to compete on a level playing field in the world. And that means jobs in Maine are going to go away. I’ve been opposed to the TPP since day one. And it’s in stark contrast to my opponent.
AO: Cutting income taxes is often seen as a fiscally conservative staple. Can you talk a little about why you believe this to be vital for Maine’s families?
EC: I served in the legislature for ten years. I was Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee during the toughest recession we’ve seen. I was able to work across the aisle and balance five unanimous budgets that received overwhelming bipartisan support. A few years ago I was able to work with—as I was the Democratic leader—Republican Governor Paul LePage—Democrats and Republicans—on a budget that ended up being the largest tax cut in Maine’s history because of lowering the income tax.
AO: What role can Maine play in the fight against climate change? Specifically, what policies would you like to see implemented for the state to lead the effort?
EC: Our natural resources are the bedrock of our economy. Period. Our natural beauty is one of the things that makes us such a great place to live. I think Maine needs to be a leader … in things like offshore wind and technologies in solar that can really expand our access to clean energy, while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint and creating jobs here in Maine. I think that future generations are counting on us to act.
AO: What do you hope to accomplish to ensure every Mainer gets the quality health care they deserve?
EC: Everyone deserves to see a family doctor when they’re sick. Period. Right now, Congress is so stuck on doing things to benefit their special interest donors that they’re missing commonsense opportunities to lower prescription drug prices right now. There are thousands and thousands of Mainers who rely on Medicare. Congress has forbidden Medicare from negotiating down the cost of prescription drugs and using their buying power to lower the cost that seniors pay. That’s wrong. The Congressman we have now was a part of that. I’m going to bring that same tenacity to Congress that I brought to solving those kinds of problems here in Maine.
AO: What would you say to students who despite their hard work are unable to afford college tuition, or are suffocating under student debt upon graduating?
EC: You should be able to pay that debt off in a way that makes sense, the same way when you buy a house, you can refinance your mortgage. Congress is so beholden to the big banks and Wall Street that they won’t even take it up. They laugh it off. It’s awful. We can’t overlook the role of two year degrees and certificate programs, skill-based programs, not just for young people, who want to become small business owners, but also for those who’ve lost their jobs across Maine. We need to make sure especially those two year and skill based programs are as affordable as possible, if not free, because those are the kind of skills we need to put to work in our economy right away to build things.
AO: What changes, if any, must we make to address the gun violence epidemic without infringing upon legitimate Second Amendment rights?
EC: Here in Maine, the right to keep and bear arms is important at the family and community level. Background checks are an important way that we can keep guns out the hands of dangerous criminals, domestic abusers, and those with serious mental illness. In the legislature, I am proud that I’ve worked with gun owners on keeping the right to bear arms and to do it safely here in Maine.
AO: How do you intend to work with police departments across the state to change the culture of policing as well as ensuring they are trained to do a very demanding job?
EC: Maine has one of the lowest per capita murder rates in the country. But if you are murdered, you are most likely to be murdered … through domestic violence. One of the ways we’re working to combat that is by working with law enforcement to give them more tools to respond effectively, to de-escalate situations, to prevent a lethal result, and to protect victims. We do that by allowing for greater interaction between law enforcement, community members, and the judicial branch to share information, so that when a response comes in, it’s the right response to the incident, not one that doesn’t match the situation. I think that same philosophy of working with law enforcement as a partner … get into such deeply seated issues of racism. I’m proud to have done that kind of work and that’s the kind of community-based leadership that I would want to be a part of to help solve these issues, bring more understanding, and reduce the violence.
AO: What would you say to the many individuals who are disheartened by the divisive and dangerous rhetoric seen on both a state and federal level by government officials or candidates?
EC: It’s not about policy, positions, or plans. It’s about personalities. That’s not what our democracy is based on. Our democracy is based on an exchange of ideas, about compromise, about being able to speak your mind, be heard, and have the ability to listen to others as well. I believe I can be a productive part with my experience having worked with Governor LePage, having worked with Democrats and Republicans to bring that sort of commonsense results-based leadership to Washington. Sit down and think about what [you] care about most. Is it student debt? The environment? An international affairs issue? The Supreme Court? Sit down and look at where the presidential candidates [are] on those issues, and go to the polls this year for your issue. You don’t have to go cause you like one better than the other. Go because the issue you care about matters.