Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 18, 2012
House District 37 candidates talk public service, bipartisanship
As part of the ongoing Election 2012 coverage, Penobscot Bay Press is publishing excerpts from a questionnaire sent to candidates in local Maine House and Senate races.
The two candidates running for Maine House of Representatives District 37 are Democrat incumbent Ralph Chapman of Brooksville and Republican Sherman Hutchins of Penobscot.
Chapman is a scientist and industrial engineer with a background in energy efficiency. Hutchins is building and grounds manager for the Wilson Museum in Castine, and has 25 years in the small construction business.
House District 37 includes Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Surry.
Why do you want to be, or continue to be, a public servant? If elected, how will you make sure you are available and accessible to your constituents?
Ralph Chapman: My continuing intent is to bring the skills of science and data analysis to bear on problems of public policy. For me, politics is not enjoyable, but my being useful in solving problems for the public benefit is. A scientific approach (collecting data, scrutinizing assumptions, applying logic, attaching meaning to statistical analyses, and communicating results) can be helpful to the process of public policy formation.
If voters return me to the Legislature for another term, I will continue to represent all of us, and therefore need to be mindful of all of our needs, not only those of my supporters. The primary lesson I learned in the past two years of service to our community is a heightened awareness of the importance of communicating with those with whom we disagree.
I have been particularly active on several non-partisan efforts: education reform issues, local foods issues, and lobster processing issues. I have also worked on more politically charged (though not completely partisan) issues involving energy, energy efficiency, and metal mining.
Most importantly, because I feel that good government can only come from active participation by those governed, I have tried to help our citizenry understand the legislative processes in my attempt to encourage their further involvement.
With the continued community service provided by the Penobscot Bay Press, I hope to publish another four dozen informative columns. I continue to get inquiries by both email (chapmanHD37@gmail.com) and telephone (326-0899) and hope that constituents will not shy away from contacting me.
Sherman Hutchins: There are many ways to help in the community where you live. I feel honored to have had the privilege to serve my community in a number of areas. I served as a selectman for Penobscot for eleven years (nine years as chair); a member of Hancock County Planning Commission for sixteen years, Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (Hancock – Washington County) for three years, and the 114th Legislature; President of George Stevens Academy Alumni Association for seven years, and moderator for several towns in the last 25 years. I also enjoy history and enjoy being a part of the Penobscot Historical Society.
If elected to the legislature, it is my job to be accountable and accessible to the people of District 37: Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick, and Surry. As a former legislator, I am aware of the importance to stay informed on current issues that affect my district. I encouraged my constituents to contact me, and always tried to respond to requests and concerns in a timely manner. It is important to attend local meetings, town offices, and businesses. As a town moderator for about 100 meetings in Penobscot, Orland and Dedham, I have interacted with thousands of great people. I feel I have been effective in bringing people together on a vast array of issues. I note that voters make good decisions when given solid information and, when they need to correct a problem, they face it straight on. I enjoy local democracy in action—the town meeting process offers a transparency that works well.
Are you willing and able to work across the aisle? How would you accomplish this?
Ralph Chapman: Essential to a well-functioning government is the ability to work with people who have a wide variety of viewpoints, including those with whom one disagrees. My ability to work “across the aisle” in the last session was particularly evident in my work with the Senate chair of the Education Committee and the House chair of the Energy Committee.
The organization OneMaine has endorsed my candidacy. This organization is particularly concerned with the ability of elected officials to work together and not let partisanship interfere with doing the people’s business in the best way possible.
We can learn from what is known about bullying and apply it to the way we conduct ourselves in public life: it is the responsibility of the bystanders and observers to call out the inappropriateness of the bullying behavior and not leave that task to the victims. For this reason, I have made numerous calls to my colleagues (and fellow Democrats) to express my dismay when their behavior crosses the line of appropriateness. I hope that others will do the same because no one benefits from extreme divisiveness while working on solutions for us all.
For those interested in voting records, I defied my party’s “leadership” on the first vote I took (and many times thereafter) and am proud to have cast a deciding vote on a very partisan issue in which I voted with the other party. Sheep-like followership does not play a useful role in the formation of good public policy.
Sherman Hutchins: One of my hobbies is photography. As a former legislator I often took pictures of things we were doing around the State and shared these pictures with other House and Senate members, regardless of party. It made a good chance to exchange ideas and to build a working relationship. I sought opportunities to lunch with Democrats to discuss issues affecting people in Maine. Anyone who knows me knows that I can boldly express my views, but will always listen to the opposing side.
What is your stance on Super PAC monies being used in regional and state elections? If given the chance, would you work toward legislation to address the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows for the use of unlimited corporate funds in elections?
Ralph Chapman: Democracy should work on the basis of votes, not dollars. The Supreme Court, in Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission, ruled (5-4) that corporations have the right to spend unlimited money on elections. In so doing, the court enabled the formation of “super political action committees” (super-PACs) and removed restrictions on corporations designated by the IRS as 501-c-4 non-profits. The majority on the court ignored the argument that unfettered expenditures could drown out individuals’ speech, and in essence ruled that corporate speech should be afforded greater protection than human speech.
Because political advertising works (especially when negative) and because now, due to the court ruling, it cannot be limited, we can expect much more of it in elections at all levels. More insidious than super-PACS are the 501-c-4s that do not have to disclose their donors.
Public officials are limited in their ability to hold slanderers accountable and, therefore, political advertising does not have to be truthful. Fortunately, within our community, common decency is still common. Unfortunately, we have no control over outsiders’ advertising, even in local races.
Will our elections, and therefore our government be bought by unnamed (even foreign) sources through the new freedoms afforded corporations that can spend as much as they want and not be accountable to truth? The seriousness of the consequences demand that we all stand firmly in opposition to the court’s ruling. I believe that removing “corporate personhood” through a Constitutional amendment is probably the best approach to fixing this problem.
Sherman Hutchins: As long as the first amendment remains in tact it will be difficult to stop corporations, unions, and private citizens from speaking out on issues and candidates. It costs a lot of money to reach large numbers of people. When Kellogs Corp. wants to introduce a new brand of cereal to the country it costs 100 million dollars, or more, just for advertisement—without the issue of an opponent. Freedom is guaranteed under our Constitution, and it is an integral part of the DNA of Americans. This freedom was realized by our ancestors as they arrived in their new land. My aim is to ensure that future generations enjoy this same freedom provided for in the Constitution and continue to be proud Americans who honor their country and feel privileged to be a part of the electoral process.