Environmentalist looks to clean up Maine’s referendum process

A self-identifying moderate Republican, Cathy Nichols said she was motivated to run for the Maine state Senate to be a “voice of our silent majority.”
Cathy Nichols poses for a photo
Cathy Nichols hopes to work toward creating a stronger tax base and building economic stability by reforming Maine’s referendum rules.

Cathy Nichols has cleaned up a fair share of messes in a 32-year career devoted to environmental causes.

With PPG Industries in Oregon, she developed environmental and safety programs for a glass-coating operation. As an environmental specialist for Chevron, she educated the public about the impact of gas drilling and helped shape inspection criteria for the company’s operations after it faced allegations of water contamination. She worked in the waste-management business for nearly 15 years and has tackled Superfund investigations for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now that she’s been in Maine for five years, Nichols is looking to turn her energy toward the state Senate. If elected in District 25, she hopes to work toward creating a stronger tax base and building economic stability by reforming Maine’s referendum rules.

Nichols is interested in restricting referendums to non-tax or budget-related issues, explaining that she believes lawmakers, not the public, should be the decision-makers on policies that could impact taxes. She fears that citizens could be too easily swayed by “outside interests.”

“Another good idea would be to not allow outside money to be funding referendums,” she noted. “That might be something more reasonable for both parties.”

Without a policy like this in place, Nichols believes that individuals and businesses can get into economic trouble because of an inability to predict how much they’ll have to pay in taxes each year.

“(Property taxes are) very unpredictable and businesses don’t do well,” she said. “Small businesses, people trying to work hard with two incomes – they’re all troubled by this.”

Nichols, who describes her assets as her “detailed mind, science training and (diplomacy),” initially signed up to run for Maine’s House of Representatives in the 2018 race. After Republican leaders struggled to find a committed candidate for District 25, Sen. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) and the Senate Republicans’ chief of staff, Shawn Roderick, approached Nichols to see if she was interested in taking on the challenge.

“I said, ‘Put me where I’m needed most,’” Nichols said.

A self-identifying moderate Republican, Nichols said she is motivated by a drive to be a “voice of our silent majority.”

“The people that are quietly working hard and the people that don’t understand how our services can actually support them better – those people need better representation,” she said. “They’re the ones with the soft voice or they’re so busy they don’t have time to say ‘This bill is lousy’ or ‘Please stop this unnecessary licensing.’ I want to listen to those folks who just don’t have the aptitude for, you know, complaining about politics.”

The daughter of teachers in the military-school system, Nichols grew up overseas. She first brought her passion for environmental outreach and advocacy to Maine in 2013 and has worked with the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine, the Manufacturer’s Association of Maine and the Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee for Falmouth.


Name: Cathy Nichols

Party: Republican

Age: 54

Occupation: Environmentalist

Hometown: Falmouth

District: 25

District includes: Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook.

Campaign website: http://bit.ly/2PmXUfg

Twitter: N/A

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2OLn9IX

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2RegFPr

Opponent: Incumbent Catherine Breen (D). Here is Breen’s campaign website: http://bit.ly/2O2CVtr


Meg Robbins

Formerly a Maine Monitor (Pine Tree Watch) fellow and freelance contributor, Meg joined the staff as Managing Editor in February 2020. She was previously a reporter at the Morning Sentinel newspaper, where she covered local government, schools, spot news and enterprise stories in the greater Waterville area. She also spent a year directing and producing a documentary about the decolonization of stand-up comedy in South Africa, which has played at the American Museum of Natural History's Margaret Mead Film Festival and other venues across the world. Meg is a graduate of Bowdoin College.
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