June 06, 2020

Students in Palmyra grill candidates > Hour-long visit offers a living civics lesson

PALMYRA — Political candidates visited the Palmyra Consolidated School Tuesday morning, to answer questions posed by inquisitive students.

“This is the biggest audience I’ve seen yet,” quipped Alton “Chuck” Cianchette, candidate for a Democratic seat in Senate District 9.

Other candidates speaking to the students were Patrick McGowan, Democratic candidate for 2nd Congressional District; Ave Maria Dover, write-in candidate for Senate District 9; State Rep. Robert Tardy, D-Palmyra; Gary Merrill, Republican candidate for Senate District 9.

During the hour-long appearance, the candidates tailored their answers to the youthfulness of their audience, making explanations simple and clear.

Frankie Rapp asked Cianchette, “How many more jobs would you create?”

Cianchette answered, “The State of Maine needs to find a way to employ more people.” He explained that if 40,000 people were put back to work, it would almost equal the $1 billion budget deficit.

Dover told the children, “Your moms and dads have to work very hard today. They are getting less and less in return. I’m trying to change that. We need to create jobs. We need to invest in you, in every one of you.” Dover said that education should be a number one priority, both with the state and with the children.”

“Augusta is broken and it doesn’t work,” Merrill told the young audience. He also said that politicians need to work together, but he added that it was important for the children to know the differences between Republicans and Democrats. When asked about recycling and education, Merrill said, “Recycling programs are way overdue. But we need to figure out how to make it profitable.”

Merrill also defined a bureacracy for the students. “A bunch of people that nobody elected and they run things. A lot of money is spent on administration, not on tools, teachers and classrooms.”

When a student asked Merrill’s opinion of welfare, he said he was in favor of a work-fare program. “If we use welfare money to give people jobs, we will help them financially and they will also feel good about themselves. We will help create a ladder so they can help themselves.”

McGowan said he was running to represent the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River.

“When I served in the state legislature 10 years ago, I worked on problems that were important to the state of Maine,” he said. He also talked to the student about an environmental issue, the efforts to save the spotted owl in the Northwest. The controversy has to do with cutting big trees and sending them outside the United States to be milled. “That is wrong. It’s time to take care of our own people again,” McGowan said. He urged the students to listen and learn over the next 21 days.

Palmyra School Principal Ted Boyce said the students have been studying elections and the campaigns over the past several weeks and would continue monitoring them until Oct. 29, when they will participate, along with many other Maine schools, in a mock election.

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