Voters’ Guide 2008: State Senate District 9
By Chris Busby
It’s a political David and Goliath story in State Senate District 9, which includes the northern half of off-peninsula Portland and part of Westbrook.
David is being played by Republican Nick McGee, a 28-year-old, stay-at-home father of one who does some part-time consulting for his former law firm. McGee is a former chair of the Republic Party’s Portland city committee. He relinquished that post to make his first run for office this year. He’s married, and has a degree from Providence College, where he double-majored in history and political science.
Goliath would be Democrat Joe Brannigan, the 77-year-old patriarch of the Portland delegation to Augusta. Married, with one grown son, Brannigan has seven non-consecutive State House terms under his belt, and five (so far) in the State Senate. He attained a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine, and has been the executive director of Shalom House, an agency that provides housing and services to adults with severe mental illness, for many years.
Let the first stone be slung…
(Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. For additional notes on some questions, see the bottom of this guide.)
Do you support a ban or any further restrictions on assault weapons?
Joe Brannigan: “If a ban came up, I certainly would support it.”
Nick McGee: “I’m OK with the way the gun laws are written now.”
Do you support the proposal to allow a casino to operate in Oxford County?
Brannigan: No. Added that he is “not against casinos, necessarily,” but specifically opposes the part of the proposal that would give this casino’s owners the sole right to operate a casino for 10 years. “It’d be better if it’s a racino, and we owe it to the tribes. To turn them down in Washington County and then turn around and have an out-of-state group [run a casino] would be a slap in the face to the tribes.”
McGee: Not without significant changes; e.g. opposes lowering the legal age to gamble and the 10-year moratorium on other casinos in Maine.
Should Maine abolish its lottery and scratch ticket games?
Do you favor any further restrictions on abortion?
McGee: No. Added: “I don’t support taxpayer-funded abortions.”
What measures would you support to make the state’s medical marijuana law more effective?
Brannigan: Given the federal government’s opposition to any marijuana distribution, is not sure what can be done; was an early supporter of medical marijuana. “I would hope we could find a way, but we’re up against the feds all the time.”
McGee: Undecided. “I would want to know how many people actually have legitimate prescriptions for medical marijuana.”
Would you support a statewide ban on smoking on bar and restaurant patios and decks?
Brannigan: Undecided. “That probably will be left up to local control.”
Should Portland and other municipalities be allowed to levy a local-option sales tax?
Brannigan: “Absolutely. I put those bills in in the early ’80s. It’s never gone anywhere.”
McGee: No. Would rather see more revenue sharing of sales tax receipts. Said if the question is, “Do I want to give nine more people the authority to tax me? My answer is no, not really.”
Should the state provide money to build a megaberth at Ocean Gateway?
Brannigan: “The state doesn’t have any money. At the present time, I juts think none of that is feasible…. Maybe in better times.”
McGee: “It would be great if the state of Maine helped out with that.
It’s an economic development proposal. The state should be involved in investing in economic development projects.”
What’s your position on Question 1, the referendum to repeal the beverage tax?
Brannigan: Opposes repeal.
McGee: Supports repeal.
Should intelligent design be taught in public school science classes?
McGee: “Do I believe it should be part of an overall curriculum? If you’re going to teach evolution, I would say yeah.”
Should state lawmakers consider making the legal drinking age in Maine 18 again?
Brannigan: “I think it should be discussed. I don’t know where I’d come out on it.”
McGee: No. “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
A few notes on the questions…
• As compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: At present, there are no state restrictions on the sale or possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons in Maine. Gun owners are not required to register with law enforcement authorities. Gun dealers do not need a state license, but must keep a record of on-premises sales. Individuals and collectors are not required to keep a record or perform a background check on those who purchase assault weapons at gun shows or through private transactions. There are no restrictions on ammunition magazines that allow the shooter to fire scores of rounds without reloading. Cities and towns are prohibited from imposing any restrictions stricter than state law. There is no waiting period required for gun sales.
• According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Maine currently restricts access to abortion by prohibiting public funding for the procedure for low-income women eligible for state-funded health care. Women under 18 must have the written consent of one parent or other adult family member to get an abortion; that mandate cannot be waived in cases of rape, incest or child abuse, but can be waived if a doctor determines the young woman’s health is threatened and she is of sound mind to give consent. Individual health care providers, hospitals and clinics can refuse to perform abortions with no legal ramifications. No woman may have the procedure without being advised by the attending physician of the estimated length of her pregnancy and the risks associated with pregnancy and abortion.
• Ten years ago, Maine voters passed an initiative allowing doctors to recommend marijuana to patients suffering from a handful of specific illnesses and symptoms (including nausea and wasting syndrome resulting from AIDS and cancer treatments, glaucoma, epileptic seizures, and muscle spasms associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis). Patients can grow a few plants and possess 2.5 ounces or less of the drug, but there is no formal or state-sanctioned system to provide the medicine (or the seeds or plants needed to start growing), leading most patients to turn to the black market or forgo the medicine’s benefits.
• A “local option” sales tax is a tax levied by towns and cities — typically an increase on the state sales tax on meals and lodging — that allows the municipality to keep the additional revenue (rather than send it to Augusta) for local purposes and projects. State lawmakers from cities like Portland have tried unsuccessfully for many years to convince their more rural and suburban colleagues to allow such a tax.
• The “megaberth” is a large dock capable of handling modern cruise ships that was originally planned to be built as part of the Ocean Gateway marine passenger terminal next to the Maine State Pier. When Ocean Gateway ran over budget, the megaberth was cut, and city officials are now trying to figure out how to get the money to build it. Ocean Gateway was built using a mix of local, state and federal funds, and some argue that because ships using the berth would bring an economic benefit to communities beyond Portland, the state should pony up more dough to finish the job.