Republican candidates for governor, from top left, Shawn Moody, Garrett Mason, Mary Mayhew and Ken Fredette. Credit: Troy R. Bennett (4)

The months-long race to succeed Republican Gov. Paul LePage becomes public and policy-oriented with the first major Republican debate Monday in Waterville.

The hour-long Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce debate at Colby College is open to the public, but in case you just can’t wait, we’ve polled the Republican campaigns on four immediate issues they would face as governor.

Running for the Republican nomination are former Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew of South China, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and businessman Shawn Moody of Gorham.

The Bangor Daily News has edited some responses for length and to keep them focused. We will examine how candidates’ positions have evolved from their past stances in a future report.

Question 1: Medicaid

Maine’s voters, hospitals and most doctors support expanded Medicaid eligibility, but opponents argue it will break Maine’s budget. Where do you stand? If Medicaid expansion is the wrong route, what is the right one to expand access to the health care in Maine?

Shawn Moody: “Proponents of Medicaid expansion, even after all of this time, still have not shown how Maine can pay for it. … Maine should focus on ensuring services are provided to those truly vulnerable Mainers, and not providing taxpayer-funded benefits to able-bodied, non-disabled adults. … As a business owner, I have seen massive health care cost increases. We need to tackle all of the causes of increased costs and not just focus on spending more taxpayer money taken from the paychecks of hardworking Mainers.”

Mike Thibodeau: “I have a clear record of opposing Medicaid expansion because of my concerns about it creating barriers to people joining the workforce and contributing to their economic future success. However, the voters have passed this, and if the left is committed to supporting it, they should identify where the resources are going to come from.”

Garrett Mason: “I have been and remain opposed to Medicaid expansion. Maine has made this mistake before. Last time Maine expanded Medicaid it ended up with almost $1 billion owed to Maine hospitals. I think we are dangerously close to making that mistake again. This is another example of the citizen referendum process being used to further special interest causes.”

Ken Fredette: “The voters have passed Medicaid expansion, but the Legislature has not yet funded the state portions of the costs necessary to implement it. The Democrats must come forward with a funding mechanism to pay for Medicaid expansion.”

Mary Mayhew: “The King and Baldacci years of out-of-control Medicaid spending diverted limited resources away from education, public safety, and roads and bridges. I am adamantly opposed to Medicaid expansion. When the state expanded previously, individuals dropped their employer-sponsored coverage to enroll in Medicaid. We need the federal Affordable Care Act repealed so that Maine can once again provide more affordable health care coverage options for individuals and businesses.”

Question 2: Abortion

What is your specific stance on abortion and what role should states have in regulating it?

Mary Mayhew: “As governor, I will support legislation that protects the lives of the unborn. I will support parental consent, I will support laws that ban late-term abortions, I will support waiting periods, I am opposed to public-financing of abortions, and I am also proud to say I implemented a policy that stopped the use of tax dollars for abortions by Planned Parenthood.”

Mike Thibodeau: “I am pro-life and always have been.”

Garrett Mason: “I have been and always will remain pro-life with the only exception being saving the life of the mother. I am opposed to any state money being used to fund abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. I believe in the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that delegates many matters to state governments, including this one. I believe state government should have control over these matters.”

Ken Fredette: “I have a 100 percent pro-life voting record and will continue to support life.”

Shawn Moody: “As someone who is personally pro-life, we are all living under Roe v. Wade as federal law. Governors can, however, make important decisions which fall under state law. I will work to ensure no state taxpayer dollars are spent on abortion services. I will support efforts requiring that both the risks and alternatives to abortion be fully explained prior to any procedure. I support requiring 24-hour waiting periods and, very importantly, requiring parents or a legal guardian be notified and consulted before minor children receive an abortion.”

Question 3: Citizen initiatives

Are the requirements in Maine’s citizen initiative process appropriate? What changes, if any, would you support as governor?

Garrett Mason: “No, they are not appropriate. The bar has been set far too low and been corrupted by special interest groups. As governor, I would support using the presidential election year rather than the gubernatorial election year as the basis for determining the amount of signatures needed to get a measure on the ballot. I would also support a measure to ensure that signatures must be collected in both congressional districts and would further allow the Legislature to make changes to the legislation before it goes to the ballot. These are three common-sense measures among many to fix our very broken citizen initiative process.”

Mary Mayhew: “The initiative process is undermining and detracting from the legislative process and distorting priorities for our state. I support robust legislative debate and review of information and data that is fundamental to that process to make informed public policy decisions. A two-sentence question on a ballot simply does not provide adequate and comprehensive information and analysis to inform that process. At a minimum, we need to require that signatures be collected throughout the state to have greater geographic representation. I support legislation to require a certain percentage of the signatures to be collected in each state Senate district. I would also require each initiative to undergo an independent assessment regarding the cost of the initiative and whether the proposal is constitutional to be paid for by the individual or group proposing the initiative. If there is a price tag, the proposal must include a recommendation for funding the cost. This would allow voters to make a more informed decision on not just the policy question but whether they agree with the funding.”

Ken Fredette: “The referendum process is being abused by liberal, progressive, out-of-state interests. In order to fix it, Republicans and Democrats must come together on reforming the process to include proportional voter signature gathering in each county, increasing the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, and increased transparency in who is funding these referendum efforts.”

Shawn Moody: “Out-of-state liberal interests with massive budgets have hijacked Maine’s referendum process by funding efforts to place questions on Maine’s ballot and then funding the campaigns to pass them. Maine’s referendum process needs significant reform. There is no comprehensive vetting process, and consequently, we are all too often seeing well-intended Maine voters passing a law that is in direct conflict with the state’s Constitution and federal law. Forced referendums financed by out-of-state money are not focused on the best interests of Maine people. We must have a vetting process and tougher requirements to ensure Mainers are being served by these efforts.”

Mike Thibodeau: “I will work to pass a constitutional amendment to prevent far-left organizations from increasing the tax burden on Maine’s small businesses and doing harm to our economy. Out-of-state interests are manipulating public policy in our state, and there needs to be changes how we allow paid signature gathering to be conducted in Maine.

Question 4: Policy priority

What would be your policy priority after the election? The biennial budget would likely be the first bill you propose, but what within that would be most important?

Ken Fredette: “The two-year state budget is the most important bill the Legislature acts on. My priorities in the budget would be income tax reduction, reducing the size of state government and reducing the number of state employees our state has. The size and role of government has outpaced our ability to pay for it.”

Shawn Moody: “I will work to fix the referendum process which has been taken over by out-of-state interests. I will immediately work to present a budget that is smart, affordable and spends taxpayer money wisely by further working to eliminate waste and redundancy; just like I have done as a voice on the University of Maine trustees where we eliminated over $80 million in operational overhead. … We will also prioritize incentivizing former Mainers who have left the state to return to the thousands of job opportunities that growing Maine companies haven’t filled. … We must continue to reduce red tape, lower taxes and create an environment where our small businesses can thrive and create jobs like I have done in my own career.”

Mary Mayhew: “I will be prepared to hit the ground running with a budget proposal to set the course for our state focused on eliminating the state income tax, growing our economy with good-paying jobs, investing in our roads and bridges, creating accountability in our educational system, and effectively prioritizing the needs of our elderly and disabled. … As governor, my focus will be on growing our economy, not growing government. … We need to respect the value of private sector job creators in Maine and make sure that decisions in Augusta are not standing in the way of families and businesses thriving and prospering in Maine.”

Mike Thibodeau: “A beefed-up Maine Department of Economic and Community Development would have the resources they need to implement proposals that have already been identified to create the jobs our economy needs and to bring our young people back home. This would be the focus of my administration.”

Garrett Mason: “The budget is both a financial and policy document. The first budget of my administration would focus on continuing the reduction of the income tax, ensuring education dollars are spent wisely and fairly, and reforming the citizen initiative process. As a legislator who has been through multiple budget cycles, I know that the budget document is the single best opportunity to move the governor’s agenda along.”

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Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.