GUILFORD, Maine — While only a few Piscataquis Community Middle and High School students are old enough to vote, all of them are old enough to become engaged in the political process.
That was the purpose of a “Get Out the Vote” rally held Tuesday at the school, during which several candidates running for public office shared their visions with the students.
The students will take part in statewide mock elections Wednesday and also express their preferences among candidates for local offices.
Attending the rally, which was moderated by history teacher Rex Webb, were Kevin Scott, independent candidate for governor; Jim Mitchell, husband of Libby Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for governor; Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, and Sue Mackey Andrews, D-Dover-Foxcroft, Senate District 27 candidates; Paul Davis Sr., R-Sangerville, House District 26 candidate; and Peter B. Johnson, R-Greenville, House District 27 candidate.
Bryan Russell of LaGrange, a Penquis Valley High School senior who was appointed by his community to serve on the SAD 41 board of directors, also spoke during the rally. Russell told the students he was one of them — he hates doing his English and mathematics assignments — but that he believes in getting involved in his community, and he encouraged the students to do the same.
Scott said he works daily with engineering firms —the world’s largest aerospace, semiconductor and high-tech companies.
“They are not beating a path to get to Guilford, Maine,” he said. “I know that, I recognize that.”
Scott said he believes the state could do more to support agriculture and provide jobs by growing food indoors year-round. He envisions farms throughout the state growing food that would be served in Maine schools.
“We need to make sure that the next four years, the governor is committed to reduce spending,” he added.
Mitchell joked that he was seeking the nonelective office of first lady. If elected, Libby Mitchell will be Maine’s first female governor and the first Clean Election candidate in that position, he noted. She also is the first woman in the United States who has been elected as both House speaker and Senate president.
Mitchell highlighted some of the bills his wife has sponsored that became law, such as the bottle bill; the Percent for Art bill, which designates a percentage of the cost of every public building for art; and a bill that prohibits the discharge of firearms within 250 feet of a school.
Davis, who is seeking re-election, retired from the Maine State Police and is a former SAD 4 school board director. He said there were many April vacations when, instead of taking juveniles to court, he had the young people clean the floors or sweep the parking lots at the high school, which he said “saved us a lot of money.” He said the state needs to create a climate for jobs so students can get their postsecondary education and then return home to well-paying jobs.
“The best days are yet to come, and they will be yours,” Davis told the students.
Johnson, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in business administration, said he spent 30 years in the Army before working for a private company that was worth $110 million and employed 221 people.
“I know what it takes to provide jobs for people, and that’s one of the things I intend to do,” he said. His attributes include hard work, common sense and integrity, he added. He said he supports lower taxes, reducing spending and the size of government, and adequate funds for community schools.
Andrews, who has operated a small business for more than 18 years, consults with states on health policy and education. She volunteers much time in her community for several organizations, serves on the SAD 68 school board and advocates on her own time in Augusta for children and the elderly.
“These are tough times for people. Many people are having a hard time making ends meet,” she said, adding that things can be changed through collaborative conversations.
Thomas, who served six years in the Legislature and volunteers in his community, said that when he got out of high school, there were all kinds of jobs for young people. But today, those jobs are not there.
“One of the reasons our economy is so poor is because we don’t have the best transportation system,” he said.
Thomas encouraged the students to get involved in their community and state. “The world is run by people who show up, and you need to show up,” he said.