Erin Herbig (D-Belfast)
Waldo County — A true Mainer, I have family that reaches back five generations in Waldo County. I am the granddaughter of Ray Paul, a longtime poultry farmer in Belfast, and Charlie Herbig, who was the owner of Herbig Shell Station, which was a downtown Belfast fixture in the 1970s.
I am a graduate of Belfast Area High School, where I was a state champion track and cross-country runner. I earned a scholarship to Boston College, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Science. I am the outreach coordinator for Maine Farmland Trust, and I work hard to protect and preserve farming in Maine. I am on the board of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, Waterfall Arts, Our Town Belfast, and the Maine Coast Economic Development Alliance. In my first term in the Legislature, I served on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.
I live in Belfast and am a proud member of the Belfast Curling Club.
Why are you running?
As someone who grew up in Waldo County and continues to live and work here now, I have seen far too many of our young people and families leave for better opportunities elsewhere. I am committed to getting Maine’s economy back on track, creating good paying jobs, and making our community a place where everyone has the opportunity to work hard and provide for their family. I will continue to work every day to promote sustainable economic growth, create jobs to keep our young people here, and enhance the quality of life that all Mainers deserve.
I know the struggles many Maine families are facing with rising fuel costs, health care costs, and job loss because my family has experienced these same challenges. As the granddaughter of a Belfast poultry farmer, I have seen first hand the dramatic ways this community has changed over the past several decades. Valuing our heritage industries such as farming, food production and boat building, is an essential aspect of our economic growth. Enhancing opportunities for all Mainers through good education and training specific to these industries needs to be our top priority. By attracting new and innovative businesses and training our workforce with skills relevant to our future economy, Maine can create well-paying jobs and offer good opportunities for our all Mainers.
What government services, if any, do you feel should be privatized?
Just because the government provides a service, that does not mean a private business cannot. I support any business that gives our citizens the choice to receive services privately rather than through the government.
What services do you feel need to be protected from budget cuts?
The first thing we need to do is be more efficient in the services we provide. We can balance our budget by cutting the waste rather than eliminating services.
What services that are private now should be taken on by the government?
Mitt Romney has proposed kicking Medicaid costs back to the states to administer and cutting federal funds for them. Would you support this plan, and how do you think it would impact state government and taxes?
Any decisions that are made locally are better than those made from Washington.
What is your position on women's health issues, including insurance coverage for contraceptives and the option of having abortions to terminate unwanted pregnancies?
Health-care decisions are best left to patients and their doctor, not the government.
We have seen a push, particularly from Republicans, for more identification at the polls. What are your thoughts on balancing the need for preventing voter fraud with the need to provide access to citizens wishing to vote?
Although it may be an issue in other states, the number of incidents of voter fraud in Maine is extremely low. We have more important issues to worry about than creating more governmental regulations to non-existent problems.
Why aren't there more jobs?
Industries have finally recognized what Belfast has to offer and in turn, Belfast’s economy is doing much better than most. There have been 46 new or expanded businesses in Belfast alone the past two years. We have Athena Health, Bank of America, Front Street Shipyard and Coastal Farms and Foods all continuing to hire despite the economic challenges we have faced. I don’t know of any other city in Maine of the same size that can compare with the potential of Belfast.
It is essential that we continue to attract new and innovative businesses to our area. We can attract new businesses with a well-trained workforce that possesses skills relevant to our future economy. In Belfast we have already seen this with our heritage industries such as farming, food production and boat building. These industries are an essential aspect of our economic growth. Enhancing opportunities for all Mainer’s through good education and training specific to these industries needs to be our top priority.
Our small businesses will only have the potential to expand if we continue to support them. These businesses need adequate rural road systems, expanded broadband access, and improved markets for their products and services. We must further utilize our coastline as a way to expand our access to new markets and get locally produced products to the consumer.
What would you do for those seeking to start businesses and create jobs?
We need to eliminate the red tape put in the way of business owners. The success of a new business should depend on its merits, not on filling out paperwork and waiting for it to be approved.
How would you address the challenge of providing higher education for low and middle-income young people who cannot afford college without massive loans?
We need to improve the opportunities for students to attend technical and vocational schools so that they leave college with the skills necessary to find good paying jobs immediately.
How can we help Maine people transition from traditional energy sources, particularly for heat, to renewable sources?
As technology develops, we will see renewable resources become much more cost effective for Maine people. When costs come down, the transition will occur naturally.
What should be done to protect Maine's environment and resources? Is this issue a priority for you as a candidate?
It is a priority for me. Maine is a special place because of its environment and natural resources. It is important for our culture and our economy that we ensure that they are preserved for our children.
Do you support state government buying more land to preserve it as state parks or local farmlands?
Preserving local farmlands and land for public use is an issue that is very important to me. I don’t want Maine to be another state of strip-malls. Some of my best memories as a child are from the time spent on my grandfather’s farm and spending time in the woods of Maine. I work at Maine Farmland Trust, where we find private funding to help preserve farmland. Agriculture has already become an important part of our economic development in Waldo County. Keeping farmland in farming creates jobs.
Where do you stand on campaign financing?
Political campaign spending is out of control and, in my opinion, wasteful. We are lucky in Maine to have voters that are smart enough to know who to vote for without being swayed by million-dollar negative campaign ads paid for by out-of-state interests.
What should be done about the state's welfare programs, including disability benefits, MaineCare and substance abuse treatment subsidies?
The people of Maine have always taken care of their neighbors that are truly in need or are going through a difficult period. What we have to do, however, is stop paying for those people that are capable of working, but are receiving welfare because they know how to work the system. Cut the fraud, not the services.
Do you support allowing gay marriage in Maine?
How do you feel the Tea Party movement has affected local, state and federal politics and policy decisions?
Our political system works at its best when citizens are mobilized to bring issues important to them to the forefront. It’s always a good thing when the people in government hear what its citizens are saying.