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Island Democrats to help pick House nominee

By Stephen Betts | Jun 23, 2020
Julie Eaton, left, is challenging Rep. Genevieve McDonald, right, for the Democratic nomination to represent Maine House District 134 which includes Vinalhaven and North Haven.

There are few contested primaries on the ballot this year but one is the Democratic nomination to represent the House district that includes Vinalhaven and North Haven.

Incumbent State Rep. Genevieve McDonald of Stonington is being challenged in the July 14 primary election by Julie Eaton of Deer Isle. Absentee ballots are available at municipal offices.

There are no Republicans or un-enrolled candidates seeking the Maine House District 134 seat that represents Vinalhaven, North Haven, Isle-au-Haut, Deer Isle, Stonington, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Swan's Island, Frenchboro, The Cranberry Isles and Marshall Island Township. The winner of the primary is likely to be the winner in November.

Both women are lobster boat captains.

McDonald is serving her first two-year term in the House, being elected in 2018.

"I am seeking re-election because I enjoy serving the people of this district and organizing various groups for effective collaboration. Every issue is a puzzle with a question and a solution. I enjoy the challenge and it’s rewarding when you are able to successfully accomplish something positive for people," McDonald said.

She pointed out she consistently co-sponsored and voted for legislation that made health care more affordable and available to more people. That included enshrining all the protections of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law, increasing coverage of medical treatment options for people with opiate addictions, and requiring MaineCare to cover a full range of reproductive health care options.

McDonald grew up on Mount Desert Island. She is a commercial lobster boat captain and in 2014 became the first woman appointed to serve on the Maine Lobster Advisory Council. She serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources and as a member of the Maine Climate Council.

McDonald is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Maine with a bachelor of arts degree in university studies and a minor in Maine studies, and the mother of twin daughters Evalina and Elise.

Eaton was born in Ellsworth, grew up in Surry, and attended high school at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill. She went to college in Salt Lake City, Utah, and studied aeronautical science with the goal of making a career of her love of flying.

"My career path took a turn when I was 23 and I started scallop diving which progressed into lobstering," Eaton said.

She is a lobster boat captain starting her 35th season working on the water. She has been a scallop diver, with 10,000 plus hours underwater, worked on both a scallop dragger and mussel dragger.  She is married to another lobster boat captain, Sidney Eaton, and they both run boats out of Stonington.

Eaton said she has been very active fighting for fair regulations for fishermen since 2013 when she joined the Maine Lobstering Union and became the chair of the Legislative committee.

Since the beginning of the current session of the Legislature, she has gone to Augusta 53 times and testified in six different committees on bills that concerned the fisheries. She said she was asked to run for office by her community and after graduating from the Emerge program, many discussions with family and friends and serious reflection, decided to run for the Maine House.

The two candidates were asked for their views on the actions taken by Gov. Janet Mills in response to COVID-19.

"Governor Janet Mills has done a remarkable job of keeping Mainers safe and I am thankful to have a governor who prioritizes science and public health," McDonald said. "It has undoubtedly not been an easy task, these are unprecedented times and our Governor has risen to the challenge.

She said the Legislature needs to reconvene to address current concerns and also to complete unfinished businesses. McDonald said Legislative committees need to meet and triage their remaining bills, some can be agreed to be brought forward again in the 130th Legislature, others need to be voted out and moved forward.

Eaton said Gov. Mills has done a good job in response to COVID-19.

"This was an unprecedented situation and there were no guidelines to follow. I think that although not perfect perhaps, the steps taken did keep the impact of the virus lower than it could have been," Eaton said.

"As far as bringing the Legislature back into session, the State of Maine is comprised of very diverse districts, and those people who represent these districts know them best and are more likely to hear from their constituents with concerns. They should have a voice on the handling of this pandemic. More information is seldom a bad thing and boots on the ground give a great amount of current information pertaining to the current situation in the various areas of our State and the individual needs of each district," Eaton said.

Deer Isle resident Eaton said if elected she would work hard to support fishermen who are facing serious challenges to their industries and way of life.

"I would like to explore the means to increase the in-state processing of lobsters so that the Maine lobstermen do not have to rely on Canada for most of their processing needs. It would bring good-paying jobs to our State," Eaton said.

She said she will continue to fight for fair regulations for the seafood industries, support the increased availability of broadband to help small businesses and school children and teachers who are remotely learning.

Eaton said she would also encourage the expansion of solar power as a great source of green energy, said she would fight for the expansion of affordable healthcare and prescriptions

"Healthcare should be a human right as it is in other countries and no one should avoid proper healthcare for fear of facing bankruptcy or be forced to make the choice between food or medications," she said.

Eaton said she would also advocate for more attending to local roads and bridges so the people who live in rural coastal communities of Maine will have safe roads.

Rep. McDonald said her priorities for the next two years are addressing the systematic and structural issues within the Maine Department of Labor that were exposed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, continuing to work on mitigating the effects of climate change through her work on the Maine Climate Council, and building on the work accomplished in the 129th Legislature that helped improve the state's health care system.

"We have made significant progress, but there is still more work to be done," McDonald said.

McDonald said the greatest difference between she and Eaton is the experience of being in office.

"I have worked tremendously hard for my constituents in my first term, both here in the district and in Augusta. This is a time that calls for experienced people in leadership who understand the issues we’re facing and importantly, the process to effectively address them. Our district deserves a strong leader who understands politics, policy, and the people. If I am re-elected I will be able to seamlessly transition and continue to work on the challenges facing our communities," McDonald said.

Eaton said she will always listen to the communities and be their voice.

"There will be times that my opinion may differ from other people and my job is to be the voice of the people. Now, I do have a voice too but it is not better, wiser, or more important than others. I will be the voice of the people of my district. This can only be done through communication with the people in my district. You don't know how people feel if you don't ask," she said.

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