Candidate Garrett Mason Speaks to WaCo Republicans

Sen. Garrett Mason, 32, said that his youth is not a liability when he spoke to the Washington County Republicans in East Machias on Saturday, Feb. 17. “People say that I’m too young to be governor, but I’m the guy that you’re trying to keep here,” he said. (Photo by Sarah Craighead Dedmon)

By Sarah Craighead 

Dedmon

 

Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon Falls) is the first person on the Republican ballot for Maine’s 2018 gubernatorial election. “If the election were held today, I would win in a landslide because I’m the only person on the ballot,” quipped Mason, who currently serves as Maine’s Senate Majority Leader. 

After graduating from Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Florida, Mason entered the workforce in sports management with the Lewiston Maineiacs hockey team. He became the youngest hockey executive in the U.S. at the age of 23. “It was really in hockey that I figured out how the government can interfere in your life, how it can really interfere in your business,” said Mason.

At 25 he unseated an 18-year incumbent to win his seat in the Maine senate.  Now at 32 years of age, Mason is the youngest person in history to hold the senate gavel as president pro tempore, the first person in 50 years to be senate majority leader for back-to-back terms, and proud to have been elected three times in a district where the average age is 62. 

Mason is proud to be running as a Clean Elections candidate. “The best addition to my campaign is my fiancée,” he said, adding that he became engaged only last weekend.

“A lot of people tell me in this race that I’m too young to be governor, but I’ve been the youngest at just about everything I’ve ever done, and I’ve been successful at it,” said Mason. “And I’ve been able to make improvements that help make other people’s lives better along the way.”

Prison

Mason fielded many questions about Governor LePage’s handling of the Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF), which the governor closed this month, despite the fact that the prison was fully funded through June. 

“The problem is this —  a promise was made to Washington County,” said Mason. “We need to make sure there is a pre-release facility located somewhere in the Machias area to maintain those jobs and maintain that economic development that happens there.”

Mason said he voted for Rep. Will Tuell’s bill (R-E.Machias) that would have kept DCF open until mid-2019.  “I am disappointed in the way the governor handled what he did,” said Mason.

“The next governor of the state of Maine has to be able to tell the people, tell the voters, tell the state that you can be a conservative and not be mean about it,” said Mason. “You can implement conservative policy just as good as Paul LePage, but with a little bit of sugar.”

The top three issues

Mason has three top priorities for Maine. 

First, to “decrease to elimination” the state income tax. Understanding that the legislature often assigns taxes to behaviors it wants to discourage such as excessive drinking and smoking, Mason said he finds it perverse that we tax labor.

Mason is devoted to improving Maine’s education system. “I think that education is the number one most life-changing force that you can have in society,” said Mason.

A longtime proponent of school choice, Mason said that we expect choices in business and choices in life all the time. “We should expect the same out of education,” he said. 

Mason said he doesn’t like the way that schools struggle to hold onto teachers when they can’t compete with the pay rates of other schools.  “I am actually in favor of the state taking over all teacher’s salaries,” he said.

But above all, Mason believes Maine needs to reform the citizen initiative process, which was used recently to create legislation for ranked choice voting, and to legalize recreational marijuana. 

But how?

“The first thing you can do is make it tougher to make the ballot.”  Currently a citizens initiative can be put on the ballot with signatures equal to 10 percent of the votes cast for governor. Mason proposes changing that to 10 percent of the votes cast for president. 

Also, a citizens initiative item can currently be put on the ballot with signatures from one single geographic area. Mason proposes changing it so that 50 percent of the signatures come from within the more urban first congressional district, and 50 percent from the more rural second congressional district. “So you can’t just stand outside of the Maine Mall and get signatures,” said Mason.

Mason said he prefers an initiative model used by the Australian government, whereby the citizens express their views on a subject, as they recently did with same sex marriage survey, but the vote is not tied to specific legislation. Once the Australian people indicated support for same sex marriage, Australia’s parliament set to work on the legislation.

“The thing is, we live in a representative republic, we do not live in a direct democracy,” said Mason. 

Marijuana

Mason said he did not support the marijuana bill that had a local option sales tax in it. “It’s not because I'm against it, it’s because I think we need to have a broader discussion on allowing municipalities to tax,” he said.

But, beyond the question of taxation, Mason thinks Maine has bigger legal issues surrounding the marijuana referendum of Nov. 2017. 

“It doesn’t matter what Maine does, it matters what Jeff Sessions does,” he said, referring to the U.S. Attorney General who signaled in January that he was removing Obama-era policies protecting states which legalized recreational marijuana despite federal laws prohibiting it. “We need to watch very closely what Washington is going to do,” said Mason.

Mason hopes that Maine voters can see his youth as an asset,  not a liability, especially in light long standing difficulty in attracting young workers to Maine. 

“People say that I’m too young to be governor, but I’m the guy that you’re trying to keep here,” he said. “I want to be your governor because I am the guy who is going to bring you into the future.”