SOUTH PORTLAND — Victoria Morales, the Democratic candidate in House District 33, said she first considered running for office when she realized the laws she was applying to cases as a lawyer could better serve the community if they were amended.
House District 33 encompasses the portion of the city north and west of Broadway and Main Street. The district is represented by Independent Rep. Kevin Battle, who is not seeking re-election and has endorsed Morales.
Republican Christopher Hoy remains on the ballot, but said he is not actively campaigning. Hoy said he agreed to be listed as a placeholder, but no other candidate opted to seek the office. He has raised no money, according to the Maine Ethics Commission.
Morales, 43, of South Portland, is a Clean Elections candidate and, as of July 23, had raised $8,500, according to the commission.
As an attorney, she said, it is not her role to craft legislation. But gaps and nuances in the law she recognized as a litigator set in motion her desire to do so.
Morales graduated from Emerge Maine in 2018, a six-month program designed to recruit, train and inspire Democratic women to run for office.
She has been a staff attorney for the city of Portland and the Maine Department of Transportation, and has worked with youth in the nonprofit sector.
After graduating from Boston College with a degree in Spanish literature and education, the native New Yorker worked for Catholic Charities in South Boston, operating an after-school program for students in South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. She said the program addressed community issues such as gang violence, drug use, and relationships.
Morales, who a year ago opened her own law practice specializing in land-use issues, said there is not a lot of opportunity in the law for youth work, but she remained involved in that area by founding the Maine Youth Court.
In the early 2000s, Morales said, schools were in crisis: suspension rates were high, as was youth incarceration, and graduation rates were dropping.
This crisis, however, was a catalyst for bringing community leaders together to found the Maine Youth Court.
Prosecutors, school administrators, social workers, immigrant refugee community leaders, and others met to develop the system to divert youth from the court system. The idea came from a restorative justice course Morales took, where she learned how communities resolved certain crimes on a community level.
“It’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” she said. Morales still serves on the advisory council for the organization.
Morales said her first priority will be the people and constituents she has been meeting during the campaign and by going door to door.
“That starts with our young people. They are the future of our state right now,” she said.
Without more investment in opportunities within the state, the brain drain will not stop, she said, adding people pursue educational and work opportunities in other states at a lower cost. Morales said she wants people to have the ability to return to the state to work, or start businesses.
Two bond referendums on the November ballot that would invest in technological and job training, as well as research and the University of Maine education system, would help promote growth and opportunity, she said.
Another issue Morales said is important to the community is health care.
“There is no reason anyone should go bankrupt because of health-care costs,” she said, adding she wants to help achieve affordable access through a buy-in to the Medicare system as an option that leads to a Medicare for all system.
Because of a recent knee injury, Morales said she has personally seen the health-care system at work. She said it is easy to see why people may go without care due to the cost of treating a debilitating, yet not life-threatening injury,
“I hear it at the doors all the time, it’s the biggest issue people are talking about,” Morales said, adding she has been insured through the Affordable Care Act since starting her own practice.
Residence: South Portland
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Husband and three children
Website/social media: https://www.facebook.com/Victoria-Morales-for-Maine-House-205846269978477/