Priorities

Health, Access, and Safety

U.S. Capitol, Washington DC, 2017: Sam testifying in Congressional Multi-Committee Hearing convened by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, pertaining to the Affordable Care Act.

As a Maine-trained family physician providing primary care to people from all walks of life, I routinely see how access to care matters. The evidence is clear that universal access is a hallmark of high-functioning and lower-cost health systems, which is why I have fought to expand primary care, increase coverage, and preserve protections for pre-existing conditions. Because health and other public issues greatly influence each other, carrying out the Hippocratic Oath for me includes taking a stand on issues that connect to health and wellness. For example, I have forcefully and effectively advocated for Mainecare expansion, fair access to reproductive healthcare, mental health and substance treatment programs, public health efforts, and common sense gun safety.

Public Education and Libraries

I have volunteered and advocated since 2010 in and for public libraries and schools, at the municipal, state, and national levels. Presently, I serve on the Board of the Portland Public Library. I also volunteer regularly in Deering and Portland High Schools providing healthcare, listening to students, and enjoying being part of the school communities. I strongly support spaces and places that bring people together and build community. 

Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability

We clearly face a climate crisis, and Maine should continue to emerge as a leader in containing and reversing the damage humanity has done. Portland and South Portland launched an impressive joint effort in 2019, called One Climate Future. The aim is to develop a broad plan for buildings and energy use, transportation and land use, waste reduction, and climate resilience. In the first half of 2020, the cities will prioritize next steps and finalize the joint municipal plan. In the Maine House, I would be a strong supporter of these efforts. Being a bike and running commuter since 1997, I see there are tremendous opportunities to build bike- and pedestrian-safe infrastructure and enhance public transit. We also must grow Maine’s renewable power capacity. Protecting our environment for future generations is a moral, ecologic, and economic imperative. The decisions we make today will largely determine the future of our planet.

Economic Vitality and Diversity

Diversity fosters sustainability and resilience. It’s true in economics, just as it is in biology and ecology. Our state’s economic viability in the coming decades will largely depend on our ability to retain and attract individuals and families of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. I have been honored to help new Mainers gain a foothold in our community, and to create education and training opportunities for youth from traditionally marginalized groups. Furthermore, I have been a vocal supporter of equal rights for all Mainers. Financial matters affect us all, and affordable housing and affordable cost-of-living are important features of a community where people can live and work. 

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Ballotpedia Survey

Zager completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in 2020. While we have directly republished them, you can read the original survey questions and answers here.

As a family doctor, I have listened carefully to thousands of folks from all backgrounds. THEIR STORIES LIVE WITH ME. Serving my patients involves providing the very best care I can one-on-one, and also looking upstream at the social and structural factors that promote or diminish health for kids, adults, families, and communities. Living, working, volunteering, and enjoying life here in our beautiful Forest City help me understand how public issues affect real people.

I have strongly supported for many years spaces and places that bring people together and build community.

I would bring a unique combination of leadership qualifications and experiences to the Maine state legislature:

  • Family doctor providing comprehensive primary care to a diverse cross-section of people here in Portland. Board member of Maine Academy of Family Physicians.
  • U.S. Naval Academy Distinguished Graduate and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran (time of service 1993-2004)
  • Volunteer in the Portland Public School-Based Health Centers
  • Board Member, Portland Public Library
  • Director, Maine Providers Standing Up for Health Care (standupme.org), 2018 recipient of “Healthcare Hero Award” from Consumers for Affordable Healthcare.
  • Leader in public health, access to healthcare for all, and opioid epidemic response and addiction treatment
  • Community advocate who regularly testifies, publishes, and organizes for a more equitable and just society.

Longstanding Advocate for a just, healthy, and thriving community — Family physician who organizes, advocates, and testifies regarding the health of Mainers. Public health advocate who helped urge Maine’s readiness for pandemic starting in 2017.
Maine-certified Clean Elections Candidate — Maine State House districts are small enough jurisdictions that neighbor-to-neighbor interactions, rather than money, can be the primary mover in elections. To be certified by the Ethics & Elections Commission, I have pledged and proven that I abide by strict spending limits and fundraising rules.
Veteran who has always been devoted to serving others — U.S. Naval Academy Distinguished Graduate (11 years military service) ; Operation Enduring Freedom; proven leadership in a variety of settings.

HEALTH, ACCESS, SAFETY. Universal access to care is a hallmark of high-functioning and lower-cost health systems. COVID-19 reinforces this point. I’ve worked to expand access, lower costs, and protect pre-existing conditions. The Hippocratic Oath for me has included promoting public health, Mainecare expansion, reproductive health, mental health and substance treatment, and common-sense gun safety.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS & LIBRARIES. I have volunteered and advocated since 2010 in and for public libraries and schools, at the municipal, state, and national levels. Presently, I serve on the Portland Public Library board, and volunteer regularly in our public schools providing healthcare.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP. Maine should continue to emerge as a leader in reversing human-caused damage. I am an evidence-based published scientist who supports One Climate Future, the Portland-South Portland climate-friendly collaboration. I also am a bike-run-metro commuter since 1997; we must facilitate green transportation, grow Maine’s renewable power capacity, and protect our environment for future generations.

DIVERSITY & ECONOMIC VITALITY. Diversity fosters sustainability and resilience, and recovering from COVID-19 will involve us working together. I’ve been honored to stand up for equal rights for ALL, help new Mainers gain a foothold, and create training and education opportunities. Financial matters affect us all, and affordable housing and affordable cost-of-living are crucial.

Part of understanding people is having compassion for the things that could have been done better, and admiration for when people are their best selves.

Some people whose biographies and memoirs I’ve enjoyed in the past several months: Satchel Paige whose wit, courage, and talent as a pro baseball player in segregated America paved the way for Jackie Robinson; Cleopatra who was an unbelievable female leader in a cut-throat ancient world; Winston Churchill who arguably made it possible for the Free World to defeat fascism in WW2; Stephanie Land who wrote with great dignity about her experiences as a house-cleaner, and her wisdom about the human spirit; William Kamkwamba who literally brought light and enlightenment to his community in Malawi despite growing up very poor; General Joshua Chamberlain who was a theology scholar who led the 20th Maine Regiment in the U.S. Civil War and is largely credited with winning the Battle of Gettysburg.

COVID-19 has shone a bright light on true leadership. Maine Governor Janet Mills, State Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, and state CDC Director Dr Nirav Shah have helped all Mainers tremendously. With a very human touch, they took early and sustained actions that measurably moved things in our favor against the virus. This has involved preventive measures, infrastructure changes, and coordination of public and private resources. German Chancellor and scientist Angela Merkel has demonstrated how this can be done on the scale of a large nation.

In a different realm, Navy Captain Brett Crozier demonstrated self-sacrificing leadership when he responded to the lethal pandemic aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I wrote an OpEd about leadership in this context.

Integrity, honesty, and a commitment to put others’ interests ahead of their own.

Authenticity. Commitment to service. The ability to listen and amplify others’ voices. Diligent work ethic.

To listen to, advocate for, and serve the interests of those who entrust elected officials with matters of public good.

I would like my family and friends to feel loved by me, and I want in some small way to help build a better world.

The biggest historical event I recall from early in life was when my kindergarten class had a mock 1980 presidential election. Jimmy Carter beat Ronald Reagan in that one.

It wasn’t a formal job, but when I was around 10 or 11, I organized an errand service for seniors. I donated a portion of my summer’s proceeds to the ASPCA.

Later, I worked as a teenage tips-only worker at a country club for two summers. All of my earnings went to pay back a loan for a life-changing trip to visit and learn from Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe called the \”March of the Living.\”

Tough to pick a favorite. These are the books I’ve read or listened to in the past 18 months:

FICTION
Lowry, L. The Giver
Lowry, L. Gathering Blue
Verghese, A. Cutting for Stone
Larson, E. Dead Wake.
Tolstoy, L. War and Peace.
DiCamillo,K . Because of Winn-Dixie.
Thomas, A. The Hate U Give.
Shapiro, B. The Art Forger.
Malone, M. The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Kingsolver, B. Unsheltered.
Whitehead, C. The Underground Railroad.
Stevenson, R. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Doerr, A. All the Light We Cannot See.
Alcott, L. Little Women.
Verne, J. Around the World in 80 Days.
Cambron, K. The Illusionist’s Apprentice.
Kerouac, J. On the Road
Brooks, G. People of the Book.
Brooks, G. Caleb’s Crossing.

NONFICTION
Klinenberg, E. Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life.
Pollan, M. In Defense of Food.
Land, S. Maid.
Harari, Y. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
Harari, Y. Sapiens.
Diamond, J. Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Iftin, A. Call Me American.
Gladwell, M. David and Goliath.
Gladwell, M. Talking to Strangers.
Kamkwamba, W. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Tuchman, B. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.
Booth, S. The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones.
Pullen, J. The Twentieth Maine.
Tyson, N. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Tuchman, B. The Guns of August
Twain, M. Joan of Arc
Friedman, G. The Next 100 Years
Bartoletti, S. Terrible Typhoid Mary
Tacitus, The Histories
McCullough, D. The American Spirit
Coates, T. Between the World and Me.
Goodwin, D. Leadership.
Weinberg. S. To Explain the World.
Hurston, Z. Barracoon.
Sheinkin, S. Undefeated.
Vance, J. Hillbilly Elegy.
Orlean, S. The Library Book.
Woodard, C. American Nations.
Isenberg, N. White Trash
Tye, L. Satchel.
Schiff, S. Cleopatra.
DiAngelo, R. White Fragility.
Snyder, T. On Tyranny.
Manchester, W. The Last Lion, Vol 1.

When I was a boy, I would have said Superman or Batman. Perhaps twenty years later, I listened to comedian and ethicist John Hodgman’s piece called \”Flight vs. Invisibility.\” It aired in the early 2000s on Ira Glass’s \”This American Life\” (WBEZ/NPR). It’s a really funny piece, but also powerful. My take-away is that we ALL have powers and abilities that we can choose to use to serve others, or not. Those that do arguably are everyday heroes, even if not superheroes.

In 2014, my wife, her mother, and I were all diagnosed with tumors in a matter of a few months. Mine ended up being benign, but the year that followed was a blur of surgery, chemotherapy, tears, and agonizing fear for our family. We are grateful to our healthcare providers, the Center for Grieving Children, and many loved ones for helping us through a truly awful time.

Every state besides Nebraska has two legislative chambers. What do you consider the most important differences between the legislative chambers in your state?

State representatives have fewer constituents and often have fewer committee assignments than senators, which enables House members to focus their work differently.

State legislators ought to have previous experience in leadership and a commitment to service, but government/politics is only one arena. It’s beneficial for there to be a diversity of backgrounds and experiences in a legislative body. That certainly includes political experience, but our term limits and Maine’s \”Citizen’s legislature\” concept are rooted in the idea that regular citizens take turns serving in the legislature. This reflects Maine’s political philosophy to guard against fostering a relatively small group of savvy life-long politicians who could grow disconnected to the rest of the citizenry. I respect and appreciate the political experience of many others, and I’d be honored to bring my own diverse background and experiences to the table to collectively figure things out.

1. Climate change. This is the fundamental issue for our state, nation, and world. Without a livable planet, no other political questions will matter. The next ten years are crucial for climate action.
2. Healthcare. COVID-19 has thrown many things into sharp relief. Health is a common good that we all play a role in, and all benefit from. This has implications for how we structure our health system for decades to come. Many steps can be taken at the state level to move in a direction that benefits us all.
3. Economic diversity and strength. Maine’s economy will depend increasingly on access to broadband and future technologies, and being welcoming and supportive of people of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles.

Key considerations for all of these issues: being a largely rural state, and having the \”oldest population\” in the country.

A collaborative and mutually respectful one. We fortunately have a terrific partnership in Maine between the governor and legislature, since January 2019. (There are always going to be some disagreements, but that’s appropriate; when everyone is supposed to believe the same exact thing all the time, that’s dystopian.)

Of course! My 11 years in the Navy and my subsequent 16 years in healthcare taught me how to work towards the common good with people who have all sorts of backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. Speaker of the House Sara Gideon set a great tone when she mixed up seating in the chamber, to permit legislators from \”both sides of the aisle\” to build relationships for the common good.

I am open-minded, but at this point I believe I would have meaningful things to offer many possible committees. Health and Human Services, Education and Cultural Affairs, Environment and Natural Resources, Veterans and Legal Affairs, or Energy, Utilities, and Technology might be good fits.

Former and current legislators–including legislative leaders–have told me that I could offer much in a leadership position. I wouldn’t say that it’s a goal of mine, though. Clearly one’s impact for positive change can be magnified, but titular leadership is not the only type of leadership that matters. I’m going to focus on being a genuine public servant, being principled, and staying rooted in my community. If that someday involves a position of leadership in the legislature, then so be it. If not, I’m fine with that too.

Pulitzer-prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has extensively written about the contributions of and the through-lines among Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She’s a presidential scholar, but her book LEADERSHIP focused on their early careers and state-level work. They were all principled pragmatists, flawed human beings, visionary legislators and executives, and devoted public servants who endured great pains to serve others. All of us have things to learn from them, which is perhaps why Goodwin’s work is so appealing to so many.

No. Being in the Maine State legislature — a citizen’s legislature — would enable me to continue to practice medicine and be there for my primary care patients (on an altered schedule).

A man shared with me his story of overcoming substance abuse through evidence-based treatment. I wrote about this in a published Op-Ed to advocate for expanded health coverage for low-income Mainers. I love how he exemplifies what is possible when we invest and believe in people.

Cleaning up politics

As a Certified Clean Elections Candidate in the District 41 race, I encourage everyone to consider making a $5 contribution (five dollars is the limit!). These are contributions to the State of Maine through the Ethics and Elections Commission. Your contribution will help me qualify for additional Clean Election Funding in the general election, provide funding for other Clean Election Candidates, and generally help the state’s clean election system. Thank you!