DURHAM — A political neophyte and a current member of the Maine House will vie for a seat in the Senate that represents Durham, Greene, Leeds, Lisbon, Litchfield, Sabattus, Turner, Wales and Wayne.
Republican Sen. Garrett Mason holds the District 22 seat, but will be termed out come November.
This will be Democratic candidate Lois Kilby-Chesley’s first time running for elected office. Her opponent, Republican Jeffrey Timberlake, who represents House District 75, did not respond to several requests for an interview left via phone and email.
Kilby-Chesley said she first began thinking about running for a seat in the Legislature two years ago, when “things weren’t working out for education.” A former school teacher and president of the Maine Education Association, Kilby-Chesley said education has always been her primary focus.
“I started wondering when my term (as president of the MEA) expired in July, what else I could do to be supportive of education,” she said.
Rather than running for a seat in the House, Kilby-Chesley said she feels it’s more important for Democrats to run for the Senate because it’s a “smaller group” and is currently held by Republicans.
Along with education, Kilby-Chesley said her top priorities are health care, the environment and the job market, specifically noting the fishing industry.
“When the message that we put out is, ‘Maine is not a friendly place to bring business,’ that’s the only message people see,” she said. “I think we need to change the rhetoric and invite people to start businesses here.”
The biggest issues facing District 22, Kilby-Chesley said, are the same ones challenging the state: jobs, education and health care.
“It’s a very diverse district … Some of the school districts in my Senate district are high receivers and some are not,” she said.
Adamantly supporting the expansion of Medicaid, Kilby-Chesley said she’d also like to explore universal coverage.
“I can’t say right now whether or not it’s best for Maine, but if that’s what we were to find out, then that’s what I think we need to be doing,” she said, adding she doesn’t think residents should be required to be employed in order to receive health care coverage.
Kilby-Chesley said she’s also in favor of Question 1 on the state ballot, which would establish universal home care for the elderly and disabled by imposing a tax on those making at least $128,400 a year. She supports measures to allow people to age in place, noting that she had trouble finding home health care for her mother.
“For me, it’s the same as early childcare,” she said. “We take care of people at both ends of life the least … And we should prioritize them.”
Further, Kilby-Chesley said she supports the petition process that landed the question on November’s ballot.
“It’s important for the people in Maine to have a voice in their Legislature,” she said. “I’m all for supporting the will of the voters.”
In terms of education, Kilby-Chesley said she’d like to see the state take another look at its funding formula and focus more on early childhood.
To combat the opioid crisis, Kilby-Chesley said the first step the state should take is implementing treatment programs for those already incarcerated. She also thinks schools should start talking about drug addiction earlier on.
“I’m glad to see now that there’s some attention being paid to (the crisis),” she said. “But we need to do more.”
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Family: Single, two children
Occupation: Retired educator
Education: Bachelor of Science, University of Maine; graduate school, New Mexico State University; Master in Educational Leadership, University of Southern Maine
Political/civic experience: Maine Education Association president, vice president, treasurer and board member; Androscoggin River Alliance Board