Candidates in Portland’s House District 42 have opposing views of government

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PORTLAND — The race in House District 42 is the same as 2016, when incumbent Democratic Rep. Ben Collings defeated Republican challenger Susan Abercrombie.

The candidates are also holding to their same views about the role of state government.

“I honestly think the government should be creating a level playing field, giving everyone an opportunity to succeed,” Collings said.

Abercrombie’s position is exactly opposite.

“Government should not be trying to do everything for everyone,” she said.

The candidates are running traditionally financed campaigns.

House District 42 extends from Back Cove through East Deering to the city boundary with Falmouth, and north and west along Washington Avenue to Allen Avenue.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Ben Collings

Seeking his second term, Collings, 42, of 33 Johansen St., said he is also looking forward to taking on more leadership in the role of assistant majority leader.

If he attains the post, he would replace Rep. Jared Golden, the Democrat challenging GOP U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the 2nd Congressional District.

A native of Aroostook County, Collings said the leadership role will be a collaborative one as he looks to create a smoother-running Legislature with a better relationship with the incoming governor.

After initially supporting state Sen. Mark Dion in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor, Collings is now backing Attorney General Janet Mills.

The results of the just-completed 128th Legislature frustrated Collings.

“If most people are going to be honest, a whole lot did not get done, which I knew going in,” he said. “I knew gridlock would be there; I still wanted to reach out.”

With his rural upbringing and prior experience as a consultant and lobbyist, Collings said he can forge ahead in the next legislative session backed by a consensus of varied legislators.

Collings served on the Joint Standing Committee on Insurance and Financial Services, an experience he said gave him a better understanding of how some efforts to protect consumers and improve health care were blunted by overriding federal regulations.

He would like to renew a bill he sponsored to require employers to provide paid sick days for veterans “to attend scheduled appointments at a medical facility operated by the United States Veterans Administration.”

The bill also encouraged employers to create “veteran-friendly” workplaces, but did not survive a 2017 veto by Gov. Paul LePage.

Taxation, fighting opioid addiction and providing better mental health services are areas Collings said would draw more of his focus if elected to a second term.

He supports the expansion of MaineCare, largely through federal funding, and said the Legislature has already found ways to fund the state’s share.

Collings said he supported the 2016 referendum that added a 3 percent surcharge on incomes of $200,000 and more to fund education, and would also look to gradually restore income tax cuts the Legislature approved during LePage’s tenure.

Health-care partnerships such as Maine Medical Center and the Preble Street Resource Center are models Collings wants to consider statewide while also emphasizing substance abuse disorder prevention efforts, beginning with early education.

While he would prefer it start at a local level, Collings also said the state should consider safe injection sites for intravenous drug use, both as a way to prevent overdoses and to help people begin their recoveries.

Susan Abercrombie

Abercrombie, 73, of 48 Malilly Road, called herself a “rock-ribbed Republican,” in her family tradition.

“I am running for the same reason I ran the last time,” she said. “There was no Republican or conservative ready or willing to stand up and say ‘if this is not what you want, vote for me.’”

Abercrombie endorsed Republican Shawn Moody in the gubernatorial race, but said her first choice had been former Maine Department of Health & Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

She shares Mayhew’s view that the DHHS should be pared down to serve those truly in need of help.

“The fundamental objective of any department is to increase its budget, not to do something useful with the money they have,” Abercrombie said. “That is why government never does anything effectively.”

Abercrombie opposes the expansion of MaineCare.

“Expanding it to cover able-bodied working age, childless adults at the expense of everyone else is an absolute travesty,” she said, while adding the lack of affordable private insurance to cover major medical conditions is a problem for too many.

Abercrombie said the state needs more treatment options and beds for people recovering from substance use disorders and opioid addictions, and a better recognition of the root causes.

“I suspect part of the increase in usage is following the increased availability of Narcan,” she said. “It has become a freebie. I can go drug out and someone can bring me back with Narcan and it is not my problem. I’m sorry, it is your problem.”

Abercrombie said she is less concerned about the level of state education funding than whether students are learning.

“I don’t know what a proper share is,” she said. “Portland schools are more expensive to operate than more of the smaller communities. I don’t know that it is the responsibility of the state to cover that.”

Abercrombie said better evaluation of teachers is needed.

“If students are not interested in learning, that is a problem their parents should solve,” she said. “If teachers are not interested in teaching, they should be fired.”

She would leave economic development largely to the marketplace, but can see a place for government to provide business loans while “not decreeing in advance about who gets it.”

If elected, she promised to push for accountability.

“I have no clue what committees I would end up on, but whatever they were, I would press for (departments) to tell me what you want to do, what you expect to achieve and show me you did,” she said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Age: 42

Residence: 33 Johansen St.

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Family: Unmarried, three children

Occupation: Consultant

Education: University of Maine Fort Kent, degree in social science

Experience: Completing first term in House District 42.

Website, social media: 

www.facebook.com/benjamin.collingsBenjamin.Collings@legislature.maine.gov

Age: 73

Address: 48 Malilly Road

Party: Republican

Family: Unmarried, no children

Occupation: Retired, worked in information technology

Education: Double major in math and psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Experience: Ran for seat unsuccessfully in 2016

Website/social media: None

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.