Continuing the series of interviews with candidates for office, Tim Rich, Democrat for Congressional District 2 in 2018, has agreed to answer questions about his candidacy!
Thank you allowing me to interview you! Please give me an introduction to who you are and why you are qualified to be our next Congressman.
My name is Tim Rich, I am a 7th generation Mainer, a successful small business owner, a former health care reform advocate for the SEIU, and a former Union Organizer for the MSEA. What qualifies me is that I’m not a career politician looking for another stepping stone. Honestly, up until this point I have never really had a taste for political office. But I couldn’t sit by and watch things getting harder for you and me and for our state and our country – and not do anything. I feel compelled to run for the people who have been left behind by politicians who said they have our backs but have done nothing to address our problems in any meaningful way. I’m running to represent every family that is living paycheck to paycheck, still struggling to make ends meet. I’m running to represent the working families of Maine who understand the minimum wage just isn’t enough.
It’s expected that there will be a crowded field of candidates, why are you Democrats’ best shot against Poliquin? Specifically, what will your campaign do differently than Emily Cain’s campaigns of 2014 and 2016?
I am the best candidate to run against Poliquin because I am a progressive business owner who has lived my values while creating jobs in my community. I am best suited to articulate an economic message that’s based on experience — not partisan politics — that will resonate people across our district. Simply put I have a vision for the 2nd district and for rural Maine that will bring better jobs, with better benefits, so that Mainers can build stronger families.
I’ve known Emily for a long time and I have a lot of respect for her. I was delighted to hear that she has taken on a larger role in Democratic politics in her new role as Executive Director for Emily’s List and I think she’s going to make a big difference for women running for office across the country.
I think the biggest difference between my campaign and the two campaigns she ran is that I am not a politician and until this point have never run for political office. I think people all across Maine and America are seeking someone who is authentic, genuine, and is willing to speak honestly about the struggles that are facing people of the district.
Poliquin is often criticized for not being transparent with his constituents, specifically on the topic of healthcare. Can you provide a couple of examples of how you would be more transparent than Poliquin, in times of critical votes?
Healthcare reform is something that I have been clear about since day 1 of my campaign. If we’re ever going to ensure that every man, woman, and child in this country has access to high quality and affordable healthcare then we need to take a sledgehammer to the insurance companies and move towards a universal healthcare system. In the meantime, I am willing to work with anyone — Democrat, Republican or Independent — to address some of the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act. I will always be honest and open with the hard-working families and small business owners of Maine. I will seek input from all people affected by major legislation, especially those who disagree with my position, so that I can make the most informed and practical decisions on policy which is why I have committed that my first act as the newly elected representative will be to hold a town hall. To me, elected office isn’t a right; it’s a responsibility – and one I will take seriously. I pledge to listen to everyone, as much over the course of the campaign as after, so that I can be their voice in Congress.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, what’s the best thing Poliquin has done during his time governing as Congressman?
Bruce Poliquin and I don’t agree on much but I will give credit where credit is due. Rep. Poliquin has done some good work bringing focus to some important veteran’s issues.
Many Democrats say that simply supporting the idea of universal healthcare/single payer healthcare is not good enough, but that we need our Congressperson to champion it and fight to get it implemented. How would you do so?
In the short term, we need to secure the gains we have made in the health insurance sector since 2009, protect the Affordable Care Act and expand medicaid everywhere we can. Which is why I’m not just asking for people’s vote next year but asking people to support Question 2 on the ballot this year. As a former healthcare advocate, I will always be a champion of any legislation that lowers the out-of-pocket expenses Americans have to pay for their healthcare and brings reliable, affordable, and universal health care coverage to every American. I’m happy to see more and more Democrats come around to this idea. In the past week we’ve seen strong progressive leaders AND mainstream members in the Democratic Party support Bernie Sanders’ plan for a medicare-for-all style healthcare plan. However, I think the first step to addressing health care is electing a progressive majority in Congress and that starts right here by flipping the 2nd District.
Congressional District 2 has demographics that are much different than CD1, what is one of your biggest priorities that is specific to the people of CD2?
The 2nd district has a drastically different makeup than the 1st district. For one thing, the district is HUGE geographically. It’s the largest district east of the Mississippi river. It is also one of the most rural districts in the entire country. If there are “Two Maines” as some like to describe it, I would say it’s not a North – South split, but rather a Maine who can pay their bills and those who cannot. If we are ever going to bring rural Maine back from the brink and make it an economic force again in this state we need to focus on economic development, health care, and working with directly with communities to address their specific needs.
For instance, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure to sit down with the Millinocket Town Council. They have been devastated by the loss of the mills in the region. However, they have a significant chance to bring in new businesses who are looking to the old mill sites to house large state-of-the-art data centers for some large tech firms.The town partnered with a local non-profit, Our Katahdin, to enter into a private-public partnership to buy the mill site. However, thanks to poorly designed laws that came out of Augusta, Cate Street, the company that extracted millions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies from the state and failed to develop the mill, left over a million dollar tax lien on the property which is preventing the town from developing the site. I would work with Millinocket, Our Katahdin, and the IRS to negotiate a lower lien on the property so that the region can move forward and see real economic growth again. This is just one example of smart, innovative economic development solutions coming out of our local communities that I would fight for while I’m in Congress.
What are your thoughts on college campuses handling their own investigations into sexual assault, rather than it being done by the state?
Anyone who commits a sexual assault should be punished under the full extent of the law and it seems to me that the state would be better equipped to handle cases of sexual assault than college campuses.
Poll after poll shows that Democrats have popular policies, but the messaging is poor, ineffective and contributes to many election loses. What should our messaging be?
Despite recent losses by Democrats nationwide, the Democratic Party has never lost the argument on values. The Democratic Party stands for ensuring every single person in the country — regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic status — has the same access and opportunity to live a better life and succeed. I think if the Democratic Party wants to start winning again, both here in Maine and across the country, we need to focus on our economic agenda and passing legislation that will allow people to get better jobs, with better benefits, so people can build stronger families. When I opened The Independent Cafe, instead of paying people minimum wage I’m proud of the fact that we paid all our employees a livable wage right from the start. Believe me, there were lots of sleepless nights when I’d lay in bed worrying about making payroll, or whether that check I just wrote was going to clear, or if I could pay my own rent. But at the end it was well worth it because I believe business owners have an obligation to take care of the community and employees that helped us grow and thrive. We need messengers who have the real-world experience to articulate our economic agenda in real terms, how it can help people, and how we achieve it. More importantly, we need people in office who are willing to listen to communities and understand what they want and need and not just tell them what is best for them.
Decades ago, college campuses around the country were bastions of freedom of speech with students sharing radical ideas and being at the center of the civil rights movement where much being said was, at the time, “radical” and offended some. Over the past few years, campuses have evolved to be completely the opposite where now controversial speakers are protested, invitations rescinded and specific words are banned. Do you see this as a problem, and if so, how do we address it?
I see a disturbing trend among college campuses limiting free speech over the last couple of years. Colleges and universities should always be bastions of free speech and incubators of multiple points of view. I’m not saying that we should allow white supremacists or other hate groups a platform to spread their message on college campuses but when colleges and students disallow conservative points of view or points of view that aren’t generally accepted by the mainstream academic community, I believe it puts the ability to think critically and to learn about the the world at risk. If we’re going to be a tolerant nation, we must be willing to hear all legitimate viewpoints, especially those viewpoints that we disagree with.
Any final thoughts or comments? And where can readers go to find more information about you?
Yes, I just want to say that this campaign is going to make some noise and blow the doors off this state in the next year. We are going to be a lighthouse, a beacon, for every child who goes to bed hungry. For every parent who isn’t sure if they’ll have a job next week. For every retired person who worked hard their whole life and now has to choose between heating their home and paying for the medications they need to live. And we’re not going to do it because we’re democrats or republicans or progressives or conservatives. We are going to do this because here we live by our state motto. Dirigo. We’re going to do it because we’re Mainers and that means something. It means we lead.
Thank you to Tim Rich for answering my interview questions! Tim is the first candidate of CD2 interviews, to see my 2018 Governor interviews, check out my other interviews here, including Democrats Betsy Sweet and Adam Cote and Libertarian Richard Light.