Voters will choose during a special election on Tuesday which of the three House District 11 candidates will replace the late Rep. Everett W. McLeod Sr., R-Lee, who died on Dec. 20.
With varying success, the three candidates — Democrat Deanna House of Lee and Republicans Beth Turner of Burlington and Phil Merletti of Lee — braved Friday’s heavy snowstorm and high winds to campaign in the sprawling district, which includes portions of Penobscot, Washington and northern Hancock counties.
House, 50, and Turner, 52, were nominated by their parties, and Merletti, a 67-year-old tea party member and constitutionalist, is a write-in candidate who has challenged the GOP’s nomination of Turner. The three bring varied backgrounds of public service to their candidacies.
Turner has more than 20 years’ experience in various elected positions. For 15 years she served on the SAD 31 board of directors, including several years as chairwoman, and just finished a term as a selectwoman in Burlington, where she remains the town’s deputy treasurer and also works as a photographer.
House teaches Spanish at Stearns and Schenck high schools in the Katahdin region and helps her husband, Paul House, run a retreat for injured servicemen.
Merletti is a retired U.S. Army sergeant first class who for 19 years worked for the Maine Department of Corrections and Department of Human Services helping foster children.
The three agree that improving the district’s economy and public education and improving government efficiency are important. Merletti and Turner want to create more jobs by curtailing state and local government bureaucracy, while House wants to build partnerships among businesses and nonprofits to create employment.
“Government cannot create jobs,” Turner said Friday. “We need to get out of the way and allow businesses the right to [create jobs]. We need to not overregulate businesses.”
“Jobs are important, and so is school consolidation in rural areas,” House said. “I think we need to be very careful and not attempt to balance the state budget on the backs of state workers and service employees, and I am very big on protecting our natural resources.”
Merletti is a passionate fan of the federal and state constitutions — he prefers the former — who prior to his election run studied government trends via the Internet for as much as four hours daily. He believes that residents have lost too much control of local and state government and need to take back control. He favors, for example, abolishing the Land Use Regulation Commission and having county commissioners do LURC’s work.
“I want to bring Augusta to the people and have town meetings not facilitated by local governments but by the people and hear their complaints,” Merletti said. “This is what I hear from people — that they fear they have lost control of their government. They fear their government. They worry that they are going to lose more money from the government taking money from them.”
House favors curtailing school consolidation in much of northern Maine.
“Making these efforts apply to all schools is ineffective,” she said. “It might work for Bangor and Brewer, but it wouldn’t work for Danforth and Houlton, where you have to ship kids over these big distances. I like the idea of doing it with the sharing of superintendents and administrative overhead. We need to find more good ideas that work and not be so dogmatic about ideas that don’t work.”
Turner said she would like to see less government spending and more government debt reduction, including having the state pay off its huge MaineCare debts to local hospitals and health care centers. She also wants to see the state education funding formula rebalanced to pay more money to northern Maine schools.