It’s deja-vu for 8th Senate District voters this year, where incumbent Democrat Ethan Strimling will take on Republican David Babin and a yet-to-be-named Green Independent challenger.
In 2004 Strimling’s Republican challenger dropped out in August; Babin took the spot and lost 76 percent to 24 percent. This time he says he will have more time to gain support and people are fed up with the last thirty years of Democrat rule.
The two candidates represent opposite ends of the spectrum: Strimling is a progressive Democrat, and Babin is a conservative, though openly gay, Republican. (See “Out in the GOP,” by Tony Giampetruzzi, October 8, 2004.) Right down the line, where Strimling says yes, Babin says no, and vice versa. Strimling supports DirigoHealth, rejects TABOR and is pro-choice. Babin rejects DirigoHealth, embraces TABOR and is pro-life.
Strimling says the sales tax is not doing its job, and he would support raising it on certain goods and services. “There are too many special-interest exemptions,” he says, like for ski lift tickets and moorings, and it’s forcing towns to make up the differences with the property tax. He says increasing the food and lodging tax would increase revenue for the state without hurting Mainers.
Babin disagrees, saying he sees no reason any tax should go up. “There is plenty of money going to Augusta,” he says, but not enough restraint on how it is spent. He would like to see government run more like a business, with less waste and more accountability.
Both candidates agree the state has a problem holding on to educated youth, but their solutions are different. Strimling says he’d like in-state college to be free to Mainers, but they would have to commit to staying in-state for a certain length of time once they are done. Babin says it has nothing to do with education; it is about jobs. “People come here to go to college and then leave” because there is no good work, he says, and Maine has to cut taxes on businesses to lure them into the state.
Babin, despite his sexual orientation, supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which Strimling opposes. Babin opposes “special protection” for homosexuals, and says last year’s campaign slogan Maine Won’t Discriminate is laughable. (Strimling was a supporter of that effort.) “There hasn’t been one documented case of discrimination against homosexuals in Maine. Not one. Their slogan should have been Maine Doesn’t Discriminate,” says Babin. (See “The Connolly Question,” October 14, 2005, and “Changing of the Guard,” December 9, 2005, both by Tony Giampetruzzi.)