Independence Party candidate and Cedar-Isles-Dean resident Sigrid Hutcheson took the campaign call on her cell phone as she drove around Roseville looking for a hotel where her 93-year-old mother could spend the night.
Her mother got caught in a bind regarding state nursing home billing rules, she said (pulling over to park.) Hutcheson's mom had finished a two-week rehabilitation and was getting transferred to a nursing home bed at the same facility.
Hutcheson said her mother had improved and needed fewer services -- but was not eligible for the re-evaluation wherein she could pay less for six months. If she stayed, the private-pay bill would be $215 a day.
After a lengthy talk with nursing home staff, Hutcheson learned that if her mom left for a day and came back the next day, they would re-evaluate her as a new admission -- and the rate would drop by about $75 a day.
Her mom could not stay at Hutcheson's home because of the stairs, so with her mom still at the nursing home, Hutcheson looked for a nearby Embassy Suites.
If she wins her race for State House District 60A, such experiences would shape her agenda.
"I have had to learn an enormous amount about options for seniors in terms of living and how to finance them," she said. "It is a major interest [for me]."
Hutcheson works for a Maryland-based consulting firm reviewing substance abuse and mental health programs. She is running against Democratic incumbent Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Republican challenger Tom Gromacki.
Hutcheson is getting used to dealing with weird state rules. Earlier this fall, the Secretary of State's office booted her and other Independence Party candidates off the ballot under a little-known state law that set voter support thresholds -- minimums the Independence Party did not meet. Hutcheson, the only Independence candidate running in a Southwest district, received 31 votes in the primary.
The state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional and reinstated the party. Hutcheson said the election flap cost her some momentum but also rallied people, "because it was so wrong."
Hutcheson decided to run because of the gridlock during the last legislative session, which she said produced little more than a hunting season for doves.
Her idea: Get a modest group of Independence Party representatives to hold down the sensible center, the middle ground, who could serve as the mediators and arbitrators between squabbling Republicans and Democrats, teasing out the good ideas both sides have.
What is the critical mass for such a "modest group"?
"I don't know,' Hutcheson said. "All I know is it is not working the way it is."
If elected, she would work on mental health and substance abuse issues, she said. In her job, she works on a contract funded by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, which gives states block grant money. She leads a team of experts, helping states improve their substance abuse treatment systems.