DEER ISLE — Incumbent Genevieve McDonald will face a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Julie Eaton in the race for the House District 134 seat.
District 134 represents the towns of Frenchboro, Swan’s Island, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Stonington, Deer Isle, Cranberry Isles, Vinalhaven, Isle au Haut, North Haven and the Marshall Island Township. Voting will take place on July 14; absentee ballots are available. There is no declared Republican opposition for the seat in the general election in November.
Julie Eaton is a Deer Isle resident and a commercial fisherman who “never thought I’d be running for office.” Eaton is a founding member of the Lobster 207 Union, has served as the organization’s secretary and treasurer and has chaired the union’s Legislative Committee since 2015. For 35 years she has made her living on the sea and while she is currently a lobster fisherman, she has worked as a scallop diver and dragger as well as a mussel dragger. She is married and has 21 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
When asked what qualities make her most suited for the position, Eaton spoke of her determination, her willingness to fight for what she believes in and being a good listener. She also cited her honesty, integrity and desire to make a difference in the communities around her.
As for the biggest challenge facing the district, Eaton honed in on health care, but noted there were many.
“Health care for Maine people should be a right,” Eaton said. “People shouldn’t have to face bankruptcy because they were in an accident or because they have a disease.”
She said that insurance costs in general, and for health care specifically, have been routinely identified by businesses and individuals while she has been campaigning as burdensome and something that negatively affects their bottom line.
When asked specifically what could be done in Augusta to help Maine citizens and businesses emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, she cited the effectiveness of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed and said that the benefits for fishermen and other self-employed tradespeople have made a difference. She suggested looking into a mechanism for the self-employed to pay into an unemployment program that they could draw from as needed.
With a recent decline in Maine’s fishing economy due to a decrease in market demand, Eaton said, “I hope this is just for this year, but we need to be prepared for next year.” She said those who have been selling their catch on roadsides should be able to continue that practice “all the time” if they want and said that she would not shy away from fighting for the fisheries at the federal level, which, Eaton said, is where the regulations that most effect the fishermen are made.
When asked why people should vote for her, Eaton simply said: “I may be unconventional, but I am very effective.” She said that last year she went to Augusta 53 times to testify both for and against different pieces of legislation. She said that if elected, she would continually work to educate herself on all the issues facing District 134 and would always vote in the best interests of the district regardless of her personal feelings one way or another.
Genevieve McDonald grew up on Mount Desert Island and now resides in Stonington. She is a commercial lobster boat captain and in 2014 became the first woman appointed to serve on the Maine Lobster Advisory Council. McDonald was elected to the Maine Legislature in 2018 and is currently running for her second term. She serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources and as a member of the Maine Climate Council.
McDonald is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Maine with a BA in university studies and a minor in Maine studies, and the mom of twin daughters, Evalina and Elise.
When asked what qualities make her most suited for the position, McDonald referenced her strong written, verbal and online communication skills. She also cited the fact that she is an efficient multi-tasker and proficient at networking and organizing various groups for effective collaboration and that she is accessible and responsive to the needs of her constituency and community.
As for the biggest challenge facing the district, McDonald said that just like it is for all Mainers, recovery from the pandemic is a top concern.
“We need to make it safe for people to get back to work, especially in schools and child-care facilities,” she said. “We also have to make sure that there is a threshold level of support for out-of-work families for food, housing costs and health care.”
When asked specifically what could be done in Augusta to help Maine citizens and businesses emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, McDonald said that from her experience helping hundreds of Mainers apply for unemployment benefits, “I have seen firsthand the systematic and structural shortcomings of our unemployment system. Maine has received $1.25 billion in federal relief funding and we need to allocate those funds to the places where we have identified these weaknesses.”
She said she would continue to advocate for working families and small business owners “to assure that all relief funds are properly allocated to the people that need them most, including federal funds and any other emergency funds that are available to help mitigate the current crisis.”
As a fisherman representing a district of many who make their living either directly or indirectly from the sea, McDonald spoke to the decline in traditional markets due to the pandemic.
“The Maine lobster industry is resilient; we have experienced market fluctuations before, and we will recover.” She said that “$300 million was allocated to our nation’s fisheries through the CARES Act, Maine’s allocation was $20 million, and we need to disburse that relief funding to the industry.”
McDonald said she recently arranged for a fisherman to testify before the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and “am hopeful the Legislature may consider additional ways we can support the fisheries during this challenging time. We also need to be looking at ways to diversify our fisheries and strengthen our coastal economy.”
When asked why voters should choose her, McDonald said: “I have worked tremendously hard for my constituents in my first term, both here in the district and in Augusta. This is a time that calls for experienced people in leadership who understand the issues we’re facing and importantly, the process to effectively address them.
“Our district deserves a strong leader who understands politics, policy and the people. If I am re-elected, I will be able to seamlessly transition and continue to work on the challenges facing our communities.”