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Three Portland Democrats compete for open seat in Maine House

In World
May 30, 2024

May 30—Three Democrats are competing to represent a part of Portland in the Maine House of Representatives and fill the seat held by outgoing House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross.

Former state Rep. Herb Adams, outgoing state Sen. Ben Chipman and former Portland school board member Yusuf Yusuf will face off in the June 11 primary. The winner of the primary is expected to be unopposed in the November general election.

The district is a Democratic stronghold and there is no Republican running for the seat. No independent candidates have stepped forward so far, although they have until Monday to file nomination petitions with the Secretary of State’s Office. Write-in candidates must declare by Aug. 27.

Talbot Ross, a Democrat, has held the seat since 2016 and cannot run for reelection because of term limits. She is running to fill the Maine Senate seat being vacated by Chipman, who also is prevented from running for his seat again because of term limits. Talbot Ross, who does not face any challenger in the Democratic primary, has not made an endorsement in the race for her House seat.

House District 118 includes part of the Portland peninsula, stretching from Falmouth Street and Interstate 295 to Congress Street and from Deering Avenue to Washington Avenue.

While the race has not drawn large amounts of spending, Yusuf has raised slightly more than his opponents. He has raised $4,700 while Chipman has raised $1,000 and Adams has raised $400, according to campaign finance reports.

The candidates outlined a number of overlapping priority areas but said their experiences differentiate them.

“Energy. Experience. Enthusiasm,” said Adams, 70, when asked why he is running. A former state representative, Adams also represented part of the city of Portland in the Maine House from 2002 to 2010.

Adams said he wants to ensure permanent funding of Maine’s free community college program as opposed to year-to-year funding. He also said he wants to expand student debt relief, increase state funding to help the city respond to the needs of asylum seekers and issue bonds to make more money available for the Land for Maine’s Future program and for housing development.

And he wants to see an equal rights amendment added to the Maine Constitution to prevent sex discrimination. “That’s long overdue,” said Adams, who works as an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College.

Chipman, 48, is wrapping up his fourth term in the Senate and said he wants to continue his work in the House.

“I think the biggest difference between the three candidates is experience and current experience,” said Chipman, who served in the House from 2010 to 2016.

“I’ve been serving in Augusta since 2010 continuously. And so over that time I’ve built relationships with colleagues and staff up there. I know the process of how things work very well. I know as much about how to pass a bill as how to defeat a bill that’s bad (and) that we don’t want to see passed. And I’ve proven that over the last 14 years.”

If elected, Chipman said he wants to continue working on increasing funding for education, affordable housing, expanding mental health services, addressing homelessness and substance use and pushing for a local option sales tax.

As Senate chair of the Transportation Committee, he said he also has prioritized pedestrian safety, laws benefiting bicyclists and the expansion of passenger rail and bus service.

And he said he hopes to revisit a Democratic effort this past legislative session to enshrine reproductive rights, including the right to abortion, in the Maine Constitution.

“We tried to do that this session and fell a few votes short,” Chipman said. “I want to push for that again so that it’s locked into the constitution and future legislators or future governors can’t take away a woman’s right to choose. Making sure that’s protected in the constitution is important to me.”

Yusuf, who served on the school board from 2020 to 2023, said he is running because the experience opened his eyes to the need for better coordination between the city and state, and he believes he can make that connection.

A former mental health case manager, he listed the workforce shortage among mental health and social workers as something he would want to work on if elected. He also named education, housing and protections for tenants and advocacy on behalf of small businesses as priorities.

While his opponents have experience serving in the Legislature, Yusuf, a Somali immigrant who came to the United States in 2007 and moved to Portland in 2016, said he is uniquely positioned to connect with immigrants and asylum seekers and to understand their needs.

“I have the energy and enthusiasm to bring to the table a different approach,” Yusuf said. “In my experience on the school board, I learned a lot about approaching any issue in different ways. My engagement was very helpful and was different from a lot of people that already did that work. I want to bring to the table a new approach and new energy.”

The race will be decided using ranked-choice voting. If no candidate gets more than 50% of votes in the initial count, an instant runoff will be conducted by redistributing the last-place candidate’s votes based on the voters’ second choice. In-person absentee voting, which runs through June 6, is underway in the State of Maine Room on the second floor of City Hall.

Absentee ballots may also be requested online, by mail or by calling 874-8677. Ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

MEET THE CANDIDATES

HERB ADAMS

Age: 70

Political experience: Four terms in Maine House from 2002 — 2010. Served on Portland School Board from 1997 — 2003. Co-founder of the Parkside Neighborhood Association.

Education: Studied at the University of Southern Maine. Attended executive program at Harvard Kennedy School.

Profession: Adjunct professor in social sciences and history at Southern Maine Community College.

Website: Herb Adams — Candidate for Maine State House District 118

Social media: Herb Adams on Facebook

BEN CHIPMAN

Age: 48

Political experience: Served on Portland Charter Commission from 2009 to 2010. Three terms in Maine House of Representatives from 2010 — 2016. Served in Maine Senate from 2010 — present. Worked as a legislative aide from 2002 — 2006.

Education: Associate degree in liberal arts from University of Maine Orono.

Profession: Owner and manager of two apartment buildings. Small business owner conducting closings for title companies.

Website: None

Social media: Ben Chipman on Facebook

YUSUF YUSUF

Age: 44

Political experience: Served on Portland school board from 2020 — 2023.

Education: B.S. in sociology with a minor in psychology from Western Washington University.

Profession: Self-employed running a personal care agency.

Website: Yusuf for Maine House District 118

Social media: Yusuf Yusuf for Maine State House on Facebook, @ysufjaale on Instagram

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