Joe Brooks (U-Winterport)
I moved from Bangor to Winterport in the early 1980s; am a retired journalist after nearly 40 years at the Bangor Daily News. I have served on the Winterport Town Council for the past several years, a couple of years as its chairman; also served on the Planning Board and a few other town committees and business organizations. I served three terms in the Maine Legislature. I am married to Mary (MacDonald) Brooks, formerly of Bangor; we have one daughter, Danielle, who resides with her husband, Brian Greenleaf, and one son, Tyler Scott, in Ellsworth.
Why are you running?
Nearly two years ago, I switched my party affiliation from Democrat to Unenrolled because of the partisan gridlock that exists in both Augusta and Washington. I joined the more than 40 percent of the voters who are unenrolled, and I feel I can make a difference by helping to mediate compromise.
What government services, if any, do you feel should be privatized?
Not sure at this point which should be privatized. There are both gains and losses when you privatize. Each should be taken individually and make a decision based on the impact to consumers and cost-savings. I believe privatization of Medicaid would be a disaster.
What services do you feel need to be protected from budget cuts?
Some cuts this year to mental health services may be devastating to consumers. All parts of state government need to be scrutinized, but we need to cut with great care to the impact.
What services that are private now should be taken on by the government?
Not sure at this time; I need more specifics.
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?
I would not support this Romney proposal. I see the federal government only wanting to shift the cost onto the state. We all know what happens when that occurs. The feds forget to send along supporting funds.
What is your position on women's health issues, including insurance coverage for contraceptives and the option of having abortions to terminate unwanted pregnancies?
Women should the right to make choices for themselves. It is rare that I would support government intrusion into the dignity of choice for anyone!
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?
Voter fraud can be checked without making further intrusion into the freedom to vote. It is every American’s right to vote and access to the ballot should never be regulated.
Why aren't there more jobs?
Problems that currently exist with the economy are the primary cause of the slow jobs growth. The recession has left all of us with little confidence in the market and in the economy. This recession needs to improve before investment confidence will return and job creation begins to grow.
What would you do for those seeking to start businesses and create jobs?
With only a few exceptions, now is not the time to start a new business. I would suggest to wait until next year before making strong investments in new business.
How would you address the challenge of providing higher education for low- and middle-income young people who cannot afford college without massive loans?
The community college system is a great start for people of low income to gain a good education. Many are already getting community college degrees and later moving on to universities to improve their degree standing.
How can we help Maine people transition from traditional energy sources, particularly for heat, to renewable sources?
Continue to offer tax incentives that encourage investments in alternative energy. The government needs to return to the study of tidal power and continue the work on offshore wind power to move toward freeing ourselves from petroleum-based energy sources.
What should be done to protect Maine's environment and resources? Is this issue a priority for you as a candidate?
I have always been an advocate for Maine to protect it natural resources. Tourism and hospitality industries are the leading revenue producers in the state. We need to invest more in these industries, while at the same time protecting against environmental harm as we continue to encourage the in-migration of new residents and businesses.
Do you support state government buying more land to preserve it as state parks or local farmlands?
Yes, I see this as protecting Maine for generations to come. The death of the farm industry in Maine is a tragedy.
Where do you stand on campaign financing?
I was one of the first to sign up for campaign financing and still today rely on the funding to support my campaign. I believe that campaign financing opens up the avenue of candidacy for those who would otherwise not have the funds necessary to participate in the election process. More importantly, I believe that state financing also removes the influence of special interest groups.
What should be done about the state's welfare programs, including disability benefits, MaineCare, and substance abuse treatment subsidies?
These programs must be funded in order to take care of those not able to manage on their own either financially or medically. Monitoring each of these programs is a must, but as a society, we will be judged some day on how well we take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
Do you support allowing gay marriage in Maine?
I support the question on the November ballot. The question this year includes a section that exempts religious organizations from having to perform the ceremonies if their faith is opposed. I believe that removes most of the objections to the issue and provides yet more dignity to the right to make choices for ourselves.
How do you feel the Tea Party movement has affected local, state and federal politics and policy decisions?
I believe that the Tea Party movement nationwide made a difference in the last election, and contributed greatly to Republican wins in nearly every state. Locally, I believe we witnessed a shift in the majority in both House and Senate and the governor’s race selected a Republican for the first time in nearly 30 years. This time, we will see much less of the Tea Party influence over election contests, especially local Maine races. The Tea Party has lost a lot of its influence in the past two years.