Franklin Countys First News

District 89 candidates debate the issues

FARMINGTON - Although both House District 89 candidates agreed during a debate held tonight that the economy is their number one priority, they each had their own ideas of how to fix it.

Democratic candidate Dennis Haszko of Farmington and Republican Lance Harvell of Farmington debated for one hour in the House District 89 candidacy debate, which was prompted by numerous questions submitted by the online readers of the DailyBulldog.com, which sponsored the event, and by the audience of nearly 100 people attending the event this evening at the University of Maine at Farmington's Lincoln Auditorium.

Moderator Woody Hanstein of DailyBulldog.com read the questions and asked follow-up questions and the candidates were allowed to ask follow-up questions of their opponent at any point in the debate.

This is all in preparation for a special election to be held Tuesday, Feb. 3 in the District 89 towns of Farmington and Industry to fill the seat vacated by Janet Mills, D-Farmington, after she was elected attorney general last month.

Harvell, 45, an employee at Verso Paper Co. in Jay, began by saying he's "seen every job leave this community. There's no economic opportunity here." He added his best advice to his 17-year-old son is "to get on a bus ticket and leave."

He pointed out the state has an $838 million shortfall and that the state's spending "is out of control," as it grows more unstable as its infrastructure continues to deteriorate.

"We need to set real priorities," Harvell said. Infrastructure, fire, police and education are pirorities, "everyone else get in line." He suggested cutting Gov. John Baldacci's small business insurance initiative Dirigo Healthcare and find ways to cut the state Department of Health and Human Services, "because it's a third of the state's budget."

Candidate Haszko, 41, who manages a patent practice within Eaton Peabody Patent Group LLC, took a different view of the state's economic fix.

"My advice would be more than a bus ticket out of here for my children," Haszko said. Investing in research and development and to support education is the way to grow prosperity, he said. Pine tree Zones, a tax incentive program to attract businesses here is a good idea, he said, and should be expanded.

"The biggest issue of the economy is growing jobs and getting help for small businesses," Haszko said. In response to Harvell's plan to scrap Dirigo Healthcare, Haszko agreed it does have problems, but that maybe it can still be fixed.

"Affordable healthcare is something I care about. Maybe we can still salvage Dirigo," Haszko said. In general, he noted, the state's budget "has already been cut to the bone" so we need to look elsewhere for answers.

"We need to increase efficiencies and not be so shortsighted," Haszko said. At one point, Harvell turned to Haszko and said pointedly, if enough revenue isn't coming in, cuts have to be made.

Haszko responded by saying the the two largest state expenditures at DHHS are for the elderly and for the  children.

"Are you advocating we cut services to them?" Haszko shot back. "Where exactly would you make the cuts?"

Harvell said that by discontinuing Dirigo, $100 million could be saved in a few years. "My point is that the reality is you have to get the money from somewhere," he added.

"There's a lot of hope that the stimulus package money coming from the federal government will help, but we have to get our ducks in a row," Haszko said.

On the question of whether they would vote to allow the town of Carrabassett Valley to annex a portion of Redington Township so a wind power project can move forward after it was turned down twice by the Land Use Regulation Commission, Haszko said he would vote for it. Harvell said it was "troubling if it proved to be an end-run around, but added if it wasn't, he would approve it.

Overhauling Maine's tax structure, both agreed, needs to be done. Harvell said decreasing property tax and increasing sales tax may be the way to go. Haszko noted the current structure is most unfair to the lowest wage earners who pay a higher, disproportionate tax amount. He suggested transferring a larger tax burden to non-residents, which Harvell pounced on by saying "You cannot tax one property more than another because of who they are."

On the gay marriage legislation proposed in the current session, Haszko said he supports a civil union affording the same legal rights as traditional marriage. Harvell said he doesn't support gay marriage. He added that the proposed gay marriage legislation simply "diffuses the issue of Baldacci's failed economic policy." It's meant to distract from the real issues at hand, he added.

On the move to consolidate schools and jails both said the idea is fraught with problems.

"The savings people think they'll get may not be all it's cracked up to be," Haszko said, and added, in the end it may cost more because of the larger bureaucracy needed to run it.

Both said there are tough times ahead when asked if things will be better or worse off two years from now.

"People are going to have to live within their means," Harvell said. Haszko agreed there are hard times ahead but, "I'm hopeful we will be better off than today."


House District 89 candidates Dennis Haszko, at left, and Lance Harvell debated Wednesday night at UMF.

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14 Responses »

  1. Looks like I missed an excellent debate. I am glad we can get online and read news stories with substance for our community, on issues that affect us. Thanks to the Daily Bulldog. I'll go with Dennis Haszko as the winner. His ideas were much less cynical and involved finding proactive solutions for the problems we are facing and are about to face.

  2. I was at the debate and it was an excellent event. However the article in the Daily Bulldog did not clearly reflect the discussions from the debate. Both did a fine job, but Harvell's intimate understanding of our state's dire financial situation and Maine government’s process to deal with the current problems at hand was far ahead of Haszko’s wish list of approaches.

    Harvell presented his solutions for the problems at hand, not solutions that “might” work years down the road. To add to the importance of Harvell's approach is the announcement by the state that there is a “double-counting revenue error” for the last two years, producing a $22 million dollar accounting error furthering the State’s budget woes.

    Harvell is correct in reviewing the “big ticket” items of the State’s balance sheet when serious cuts are needed. It a great political sound bite for Haszko to say that cuts here will impact the elderly and children, but there is much more than that in the DHHS budget, one only needs to look at the salary side of their budget rather than the program costs given to our most needy.

    Cuts will be needed in many areas of our state budget and Harvell only indicated where to start looking for these. I’d rather that we elect someone who is ready to deal with the immediate issues at hand rather than playing the same “feel good” "creative economy" approaches that this state government has used for so many years that placed us in the situation we now find ourselves.

    Harvell also understood that the "only" open committee seat left in Augusta was on the DHHS sub committee and our elected representative would likely have the best seat to find "some" of the needed cuts the state will have to face. Harvell was not cynical, he was trying to present an honest approach to the situation this State is in, there is a time for "creative" hope and ideas, but this is a time for informed and decisive action.

  3. Jason, and everybody in the district, should see the debate on Mt Blue TV next week. I was in the front row, and Harvell blew him out,. Several undecideds in the room approached Lance after the debate and told him they would be voting for him after seeing both candidates in action. Watch it yourself. Lance is ready to roll in Augusta.

  4. Save Dirigo, take a look at raising taxes in some areas??? I was at the debate and Haszko looked completely out of touch and unprepared to go to Augusta. Lance dominated the debate with a realistic look at the true struggles facing everyone across the state. We are in no position to sit back and wait on a government bailout, Lance looks like he is willing to go to Augusta and make some hard choice and make some real sacrifices for the people of Maine. But, If you don't want to take my word, take Roberts advice and Watch the Debate on Mt. Blue TV.

  5. For those who missed the debate, and have local Beeline Cable, it will be aired on Channel 11 at the following times:

    8:00 PM Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday
    2:00 PM Saturday, Sunday, and Monday

    IMO Mr. Harvell responed with specific and well thought out ideas born of being raised in the area and tempered by several campaigns in the past few years.

    The democrat candidate was not able to show the same high level of experience and knowledge in local and state issues as Mr. Harvell. He appeared to not have the grasp of issues or the understanding of the workings of state government or budget that would be necessary to fulfill the postion of Legislator. He just isn't ready for the job.

  6. I grew up in Weld and have known Lance my whole life as a friend and hunting and fishing partner. The sportsmen and women in Maine should be very proud to have a candidate like Lance working to make a difference in Augusta. Lance is very passionate about what he believes and I am looking forward to him spreading that passion to some of the more complacent members of the House. Good Job Lance!

  7. This debate clearly showed that Mr. Haszko is not prepared to go to Augusta. Lance answered the tough questions directly while Haszko danced around the answers. One of the few questions he answered was regarding how we are going to get out of the state financial mess that we are currently in. Harvell's answer, tighten the belt and make cuts in programs that we cant afford. Haszko's answer, hope the the Federal Governments bailout covers Maine. Maine doesn't need anymore tax and spenders in Augusta.

    Everyone really needs to watch the debate when it becomes available online. Just reading this article doesn't show the leaps and bounds that Harvell is above Haszko. I truly hope the rest of District 89 will join me in voting for Lance Harvell, the right man for our State Representative.

  8. I attended the debate and truly feel Lance Harvell is best candidate to represent us in Augusta. While Mr. Haszko was floundering on the questions and proposing little to no solutions Lance was delivering idea after idea. I do not feel Mr. Haszko has been in this community long enough to experience the plight of Western Mainers, so he would not be able to represent them effectively. Mr. Haszko does not know what it is like to watch a mill close and for a town to be devastated, he knows what it is like to write patents. We need a representative who knows and deeply cares about the people of Farmington and Industry and I am certain that man is Lance Harvell.

  9. I think that Mr. Haszko is a nice fellow. He came across that way to me when I saw the Haszko/Harvell debate. I think that the summation of the debate in the Bulldog was ballanced, but the debate in reality was not at all. Mr. Harvell was in command of the subject matter. He apparently has a good grasp of economics, understands state government, and he tells it like it is. Mr. Haszko was unsure of his answers and did not have an adequate grasp of the workings of state government, nor of situation we face here in Maine, but that is understandable since he has not been here long in the state. One point Mr. Harvell brought up which is so important, is the fact that the Legislature keeps changing the laws. Few can keep up, and, in the case of Verso Paper in Jay, it cost a lot of money, hence puts the company at a market disadvantage. Private citizens too face the daunting, even impossible (in practical terms) task of keeping up with an ever changing body of laws the Legislature, for some unknown reason, keeps grinding out. I would say Mr. Harvell came out the winner in this event. Please try to view the debate during the times mentioned above and decide for yourself.

  10. First I should say that I have worked with Lance while at the mill and find him to be a very dedicated and caring man. He truly cares for the community and has a passion like no other. I did not attend the debate and have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Haskel.
    Dirigo Health is a novel idea, I would love to see everyone have health care. Maybe we wouldn't have such a strain on our hospitals if everyone had health care and could pay their bills. My problem is there is a cap on how many people can be on the plan. If the plan needs more income you need to let the plan grow, not throw money at it to fix it for the short term. I say take our 11,000 or so state workers and put them on the state run plan. That would definitely give it an influx of cash.
    I am horrified that people would think that the stimulus package coming would help pay the state's bills. First of all the stimulus is borrowed money that the tax payer has to pay back. It is not free money, it is creating a deficit. Cuts have to be made. It is hard choices but that is what we send a representative to Augusta to do. So Mr. Haskel maybe you shouldn't be asking Mr. Harvell where he would he make cuts, but asking yourself where would you make cuts. It is time that state government had a little house cleaning.

  11. Franklin County needs economic development initiatives now more than ever. The Republican candidate seems to think that bulldozing into Augusta to slash away at budgets will solve all of our problems. It's not that easy. What about our long-term prosperity? While balancing the budget and making hard fiscal choices is necessary, we need a Representative with substance and sound ideas about how to create jobs and bolster Western Maine's economy at the same time. I'll be voting for Dennis Haszko because he has a proven track record of helping businesses succeed and lives in a world of ideas and initiatives--not complaints.

  12. Having run for the District 89 seat myself I now know what the towns of Farmington and Industry need, a lifelong resident of District 89 to represent themselves. State and local politics is pure government in which people do not vote on party lines but on the quality of the candidate. Lance Harvell is the quality candidate and this debate shows it. The reality is harsh in these harsh times and instead of pan handling and making empty campaign promises Lance has shown resolve, thought, and clarity in his answers to the tough questions. He did not dance around the question or avoid responding. That same resolve and thought will be brought to Augusta if the voters send Lance Harvell to the State House on Feb. 3. Let's send an everyday man who the voters of District 89 can relate to, to Augusta, not another lawyer.

  13. Logged in by admin for Flanagan:

    Having known Dennis Haszko, both professionally and personally for more that 10 years, we were very excited to hear that he is running to fill the seat in House District 89, Farmington and Industry. It is not news to everyone that governments at all levels are facing very challenging times. Our district needs to send a representative to the state who can contribute to the solutions and mindfully make difficult decisions. Dennis Haszko is that person. He is intelligent, he will listen carefully to his constituents and peers, he understands small business, and he is an excellent communicator. Dennis himself said it best, “It isn't about more government or less government. It's about smarter government.” Isn’t that all what we are looking for?

    Stephanie and Dennis Flanagan
    Farmington

  14. Lance came across a feeling strongly for what he believes in. He intensely wants to cut DHHS. He did a wonderful job of articulating that. I listened closely, but I did not hear how or where in DHHS he would like to see cuts made. I also did not hear any other clear plans for the future, other than "cut government". I know both candidates desperately care about making a difference for their community and the state. I am supporting Dennis Haszko, because I believe he understands questions do not have easy one-line answers, and I believe he will listen to all of his constituents, not just those who were born here, or who do not need the services of DHHS.

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