Times Record: Benoit for Senate (Aug. 26, 2013)

Regarding tomorrow’s special election, let’s keep it as simple as possible.

It’s not about Paul LePage, special interests, the Blaine House in 2014, ”vote splitting,” the tea party, or the balance of power in the Senate.

Tomorrow’s poll is about who you, the voter, think is the best choice to help create peace and prosperity in our piece of Maine, for a one-year term.

Who shows up will decide.

Losing Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, a veteran legislator and majority leader, is a tough one. Whatever your political persuasion, you want a representative with a leadership position who sits on committees important to your district. Goodall provided that.

Filling out the remaining year in Goodall’s term will be a challenge, but our readers have a very high-quality problem on their hands: three smart, personable candidates with experience solving problems. Whomever is elected Tuesday, we are grateful for the dedication of all the candidates, who put forth their best ideas in a civil, issues-oriented campaign. Any one of them would make an excellent senator.

We are asking our readers to vote for Paula Benoit for state senator on Tuesday.

Despite what the Democratic mailers say, Benoit is not a LePage Republican and she went to great lengths, understandably, to distance herself from him during the campaign.

In fact, if you were the type to bemoan the tortuous death of the Republican Party at the hands of the tea party, Benoit presents a moderate option: a pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-education Republican with experience working with others in the Senate.

We believe Paula Benoit can help bridge the increasingly wide gap between the Democratic majority and the moderate wing of the Republican Party, which may simply need someone new to give them permission to be reasonable.

In Eloise Vitelli, we found an incredibly bright candidate with a long track record of helping the less-fortunate attain work and self-reliance.

In Daniel Stromgren, we found a bright thinker with creative ideas who has indeed attained his goal of changing how we think about Green Party candidates: His was a message of pro-business and smaller government, and his work life — dealing with the clients of social services that Mainers love to debate — shows us he is in touch with everyday people.

Unfortunately for these two candidates, conditions are such in the Legislature that experience will matter a great deal.

We asked Benoit how she would approach problem solving; she continually stressed a consensual approach of getting stakeholders together and “locking the door” until compromise is achieved. That sounds like excellent counsel for the current Legislature, which could not agree on the weather.

“I’m not a fighter,” Benoit told us. In an era of hyperpolarization where nothing seems to get done, that’s refreshing to hear.

If Benoit says she will make decisions based on facts or science, we will hold her to that. Our concern is that we’ve seen more than our share of legislating by anecdote — especially in social services, especially from Republicans.

It’s a tendency that Benoit, also, will have to curb. Asked at a recent forum, Benoit described knocking on a door where a woman in her pajamas answered at 2 p.m. in a puff of smoke. “Why are they not working,” she asked, “when you’ve got an elderly person that lives right down the street that could easily lose her farm?”

Does Benoit know that the modern work force — full of virtual offices, part-time workers and independent contractors — means this could have been a work-at-home mother? Someone who works nights? Or just enjoying a day off in the privacy of her home?

To cast aspersions on people based on the way they look, the way they live, or the way they appear — that’s just not the Maine way.

But if this is an election about the person best qualified to bridge gaps and reject partisan politics, we feel that person is Paula Benoit.

You may feel differently.

Either way, please vote tomorrow.

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