Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell said her first priority as governor would be to provide Mainers with the skills they need to “get back to work.”

Mitchell is the Democratic Party candidate in a five-way race for the Blaine House. She serves as senate president and represents the District 24 towns of Augusta, China, Oakland, Sidney and Vassalboro.

She said concerns about income and job insecurity drove voter frustration nationwide and that she hoped people would think about what the outcome of this election would mean.

Education leads the way

Mitchell said 4,000 people were waiting to get into Maine’s community colleges and that training them for energy careers was part of her plan.

“Green energy is a part of our future,” she said.

In terms of consolidation of local schools, Mitchell said the implementation of the policy was flawed. She said she supported choice in public education and that the new process created difficulties for rural communities.

Mitchell said she would be flexible in finding ways to reduce administrative costs, and as an example described the way the city of Augusta involved residents when it closed two elementary schools.

“I want to start talking about the students again,” Mitchell said. She said she would focus on early childhood education and attempt to implement pre-kindergarten in all Maine towns.

Mitchell said renegotiating the state’s contract for liquor sales would allow the creation of a trust fund, matched by money from the private sector, to pay for new and expanded educational programs.

“The business community understands the value [of education],” she said.

Seeks alternatives to student data collection

“If I were a parent I wouldn’t give [my children’s Social Security numbers],” Mitchell said. “It goes too far, to collect that data for life. We spend too much time on data we don’t need and not enough time on the good data we have already in hand.”

“I don’t want to tell school boards how to get there, but we need to develop standards together,” she said in regard to the state’s role in curriculum development.

She said the Department of Education lacked a sense of direction, and she would add more built-in flexibility.

Mitchell said the Many Flags, One Campus proposal for an integrated secondary school, college and career-training campus in Knox County was “a fabulous concept.” She said she supported either a separate campus or the use of existing infrastructure in a downtown area.

Economic development strategy

Mitchell said she would focus on economic development in composites manufacturing, biotechnology, and the natural resources sectors of fishing, farming and forestry.

“Lots of fledgling companies are looking to Maine for people with the skill set to do high-tech,” she said. Mitchell said she would support Pine Tree Zones and help new businesses take advantage of the seed capital tax credit. She touted the Governor’s Training Initiative, which she said invested $500,000 to support training initiatives for Boston Financial.

Mitchell said merging the State Planning Office, the Department of Economic and Community Development and other state agencies would bring economic development functions into one department within the governor’s office and make application and information gathering easier for those wishing to start businesses in Maine.

She said she wanted state agencies to improve their customer service approach.

“People are not saying to me that they want to do away with environmental regulations,” she said. “But they want them timely and predictable.”

Environment tied to broader issues

Mitchell said Maine’s quality of place was the state’s “number one asset.” She said she preferred the current citizen-run Board of Environmental Protection to a panel of judges called for by independent candidate Eliot Cutler.

She said she did not support nuclear power and that local fishermen should be involved in planning offshore wind facilities.

“I think onshore wind development is important,” she said. “But not on top of every mountain.”

Tight budgets force local choices

In answer to a question about the impact on local communities of state budget cuts, Mitchell said local levels of government could do a better job cutting administrative costs.

Mitchell was a selectwoman in Vassalboro for nine years. She suggested select boards and school departments look to capital budgets to see what could be put off.

Jobs will reduce welfare costs

Mitchell said she would examine the MaineCare program to improve the way health care is delivered. She said it wasn’t proven that people came to Maine to receive welfare benefits.

“We want to help people get to work,” Mitchell said. “Some people cycle in and out because there aren’t enough high paying jobs.” She said Maine was not the second highest state with people using food stamps, but that the state did have the second highest number of those eligible for the federal program.

“The best unemployment benefit is a job,” Mitchell said. “I want manufacturing jobs, clean and green jobs, technology, biotechnology. We [should] not send lobsters to Canada for processing.”

Federal plan to bring insurance competition to Maine

“We are ready to transform ourselves into the exchanges, so business can collectively buy better health care,” Mitchell said. She said implementation of Maine’s part of the federal program would allow entrepreneurs to self-insure.

“With the pool, we could partner with anyone in New England,” Mitchell said. She said Cianbro, Bath Ironworks and Hannaford were self-insured.

Supports rail, state maintenance of secondary roads

Mitchell said light rail could provide commercial transportation and alleviate pressure on Maine’s roads, and that private support would be needed to complete an east-west highway.

Mitchell said she did not support a Department of Transportation proposal to turn secondary roads over to municipalities for maintenance.

Mitchell said she had not yet made any cabinet selections but that she wanted people who would “challenge my thinking each day.”

The Herald Gazette can be reached at 236-8511 or by e-mail at news@villagesoup.com.