Vote or Quit Bitchin’ 2006
Local election coverage
Voters’ Guide: State House District 116
Harlow and Gauger share waffles over TABOR
By Chris Busby and Erik Eisele
House District 116 covers much of northwest Portland, including the Riverton neighborhood, and Democrat Charlie Harlow has been this area’s representative, in one capacity or another, for most of the past 15 years.
Harlow held this part of town’s City Council seat (District 5) for three consecutive three-year terms in the 1990s, before he was edged out of office in ’99 by Jay Hibbard, formerly a top official in the Maine Republican Party. (Keep this detail in mind.)
Two years ago, the former teacher, coach and Catholic school guidance counselor got back into politics, this time at the state level. He squeaked past a primary challenge by a more progressive Dem, then edged a Green challenger by a few hundred votes to win the District 116 seat.
The Republican in that race, John Linscott, got less than a third of all the votes cast. But this year there’s no Green; the Republican, Jan Gauger, is a stronger candidate than Linscott; and TABOR is riling up the electorate.
Readers of the local print press may be understandably confused by the coverage of this contest so far. The headline of an Oct. 12 piece in the Portland Forecasterdeclared “District 116 candidates agree: No on TABOR.” On Oct. 27, the Portland Press Herald glanced at this race and reported that Gauger “supports the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” Harlow, wrote PPH reporter Josie Huang, “thinks [TABOR is] a bad idea but would support it if voters pass it.”
The alternative being what? Move to Mexico? Commit hara-kiri?
What’s the real deal here? Well, grab the butter and syrup, kids – the waffles are ready.
Reached by phone today, Gauger, an assistant principal in South Paris and first-time candidate, said she’s “leaning toward” voting for TABOR. The statewide spending-cap measure is “not perfect,” Gauger observed. “If it passes, it needs a lot of work…. But Augusta is not listening to voters…. Augusta needs a wake-up call.”
Harlow told us last month he’s opposed to TABOR.
So of the two candidates, Harlow would change his position on TABOR if the majority of voters support it, and Gauger would work to change the law if the majority of voters support the law as written.
Voters of District 116, you have my sympathies.
The two candidates’ takes on other issues don’t shed much more light on their differences.
Both are pro-choice, in favor of an assault-weapons ban, and against the death penalty. Harlow favors giving cities the ability to levy a local-option sales tax on meals and hotel rooms; Gauger is opposed. Gauger’s not sure whether there should be more opportunities to gamble in Maine; Harlow’s sure there should not. But Harlow’s not sure Peaks Island should get the green light to secede from Portland; Gauger said islanders should be allowed to form their own town.
Both are clueless on the issue of creating more “drug-free safe zones” (that is, they support these invisible imprisonment mechanisms) and neither offers any real hope to Maine’s few remaining fishermen, though Gauger suggested they get training for other careers while fish populations rebound, and Harlow said he’d like to reduce restrictions on the industry, but wasn’t specific as to which ones.
Don’t be surprised if a write-in candidate ends up winning this seat. Our prediction: Aunt Jemima by a landslide.