Nearly two months ago, the Sun Journal sent invitations out to all legislative candidates in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. We asked some basic questions about themselves, asked them to answer five questions submitted to us by readers, and then we asked them each to tell you how they intended to vote on the ballot questions.

Our goal was to provide a no-cost-to-them, low-effort platform for candidates to discuss issues, giving our readers an opportunity to hear directly from these candidates and then decide how to vote based on their responses.

These profiles appear in today’s paper in a special Election Guide, and offer some real differences in opinion and position.

In past years, some responses bordered on repetition as candidates toed party lines. This year, though, the candidates who responded to our survey seemed to really take time to reflect on Maine’s current state and were candid about what they see and what they hope to accomplish if elected.

We thank them for taking the time to respond to us, and we’re pleased to bring their perspectives to you to chew on.

Here’s the thing: We sent out questionnaires to 71 candidates, spread among 30 State House races and six state Senate races. Most of the candidates responded promptly, but many needed a couple of reminders and 15 of them — despite multiple reminders and messages sent to the parties to help — did not respond at all.

We find that really curious.

Maine’s citizen Legislature holds part-time hours, but being a legislator is not a part-time job. Once elected to office, that status is not something one can shrug off like a cape. Lawmakers are elected to speak and stand for us, and if they’re unwilling to answer a handful of questions on issues their constituents say are important, what does that represent?

These are the no-responders: Joseph Chisari, D-Fryeburg, seeking the Senate seat in District 19; Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, and Ruth Lyons, R-Topsham, both seeking the seat in House District 54; Matthew Roy, R-Lewiston, House District 58; Elliot Chicoine, R-Lewiston, House District 59; Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, House District 60; Stephen Miller, R-Lewiston, House District 61; Brandon Dickey, R-Auburn, House District 62; Richard Cebra, R-Naples, and Rep. Christine Powers, D-Naples, both House District 68; Michael Twitchell, D-Norway, House District 71; Cheryl Coffman, D-Buckfield, House District 73; James Buzzell, D-Leeds, House District 75; Barbara Chassie, D-Phillips, House District 112; Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, House District 116;

Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, responded to us, but only to say he declined to answer the questions. Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, answered most of the questions, but declined to say how she intended to vote on the referendum questions, as did Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton.

Hickman and Dillingham both said their votes are private, and that the public really had no right to know how they would vote.

Votes are private, but doesn’t the public need to know where candidates stand on policy issues like recreational marijuana and background checks? If they support raising taxes on the rich, whether they would like to see a radical adjustment to Maine’s plurality voting process, and how they come down on raising the minimum wage?

These are issues former Legislatures were unwilling to tackle, and which citizens felt so strongly about that they brought forth petitions to call for votes.

Shouldn’t we know if those we elect to the incoming Legislature are more willing to act than avoid?

When a person runs for office, and is fortunate enough to be elected, their responsibility to voters is enormous. They represent diverse constituencies, from single mothers struggling to feed a child, to parents who want the best education for their children and fixed-income families who can’t afford to pay higher education taxes. They represent the sick and healthy, the poor and the rich. They represent business owners who genuinely want to keep jobs in Maine but are struggling to balance costs, and those who feel strongly about preserving our natural resources and environment.

It’s a tough job to tend to all these needs, and tougher still for such a diverse constituency to pick one person who they believe represents their ideals.

If you can get past the increasingly ugly campaign rhetoric, the role of elected officials — if done the right way, for the right reasons — is noble work. Once elected, we depend on them to decide our future.

We hope today’s Election Guide will help you pick the right person. But, more than that, we hope newly elected officials will take their responsibilities to constituents seriously and arrive to work transparent and ready to represent.

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In today’s Perspective section:

We asked the proponents and opponents on referendum questions 1 through 5 to submit short statements in support of their positions.

These positions are paired in today’s Sun Journal, along with the text of each referendum question.

We hope these clear summaries will help you decide the issues, and encourage you to make time to vote on Nov. 8.

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