PORTLAND — For the second time in as many years, state Senate District 28 is up for grabs.
As in 2016, City Councilor Jill Duson is running for the seat. She is opposed in the Democratic Party primary by state Rep. Heather Sanborn.
Republican Patrick G. Martin, of Westbrook, is unopposed in the GOP primary.
The Senate District 28 seat is open because Sen. Mark Dion is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. The district is comprised of the northern and western portions of Portland and an eastern piece of Westbrook.
All party primaries will be held June 12, with the general election coming Nov. 6.
Duson, the second-longest tenured Portland city councilor, said she is ready to advocate directly for Portland in Augusta.
“I have this kind of nerdy passion for public service, community service,” she said.
Duson, 65, of Pennell Avenue, is divorced and has two grown children. She ran for the Senate District 28 seat in 2016, finishing second to Dion in the Democratic primary.
She said if elected, she will keep serving on the City Council, where she was elected to a sixth term last November. She also served two, one-year terms as mayor before the post became a popularly elected one in 2011.
“My municipal experience and engaging everybody to figure out what is the best road to take will do well for everybody,” she said.
Duson has not endorsed any of the Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for governor, but said it is essential to have a Democrat win the general election in November.
Collaboration throughout the Legislature will be critical, Duson said. Policies, including school funding, need to be handled so there are no big winners or losers in the results.
“It is not a quick job, no matter what you tweak creates benefits and harm in some communities,” she said.
Yet as the city grapples with its education budget, Duson said imbalances in state subsidies need to be addressed.
“Service center communities desperately need funding to be attentive to our needs and what we provide,” she said.
While implementing the will of the voters as seen in referendum elections about school funding and the minimum wage, Duson said it is also important to restore faith in state government agencies.
“It is almost as though having failed at cutting the funding, they have adopted a nonperformance imperative,” she said of the LePage administration.
Duson’s experience managing the Maine Human Rights Commission Compliance Division, directing the state Department of Labor Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, as well as a lobbyist for Central Maine Power Co. have given her the insights and connections to work with everyone in Augusta, she said.
Yet, she said, people need to understand both the roles and responsibilities of government.
“I think for people who are dependent on the community for basic needs, they have a right to well-managed services, and the people who fund them have a right to know they are getting value for their dollar,” she said.
Duson supports expanding MaineCare and is ready to draw on the $129 million surplus left over from the current biennial budget.
“I think it is indefensible to have large surpluses while failing to address children’s health,” she said.
“The opportunity to represent more of Portland and have a bigger voice is important to me, as I have been working on affordable health care and clean energy issues,” Sanborn said.
Sanborn, 41, of Frost Hill Road, is an attorney and owner of Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland. She is married and has a son.
She is completing her first term representing House District 43, where she replaced Dion when he won the Senate seat she is now seeking.
Sanborn has not endorsed any of the seven Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination June 12, but said the general election is critical.
“They will shape the next two and four years in our state and perhaps the next decade of politics in our country,” she said.
The immediacy of the elections may also mean the Legislature can use funding sources at hand to implement initiatives Sanborn said were priorities for state voters over the last few years.
The latest biennial budget period ended with a $129 million state surplus. Sanborn said it is time to put at least some of the money to work.
“We are not in a position where we are looking to increase people’s taxes; we are in a position where we are looking to invest the surplus in people’s priorities,” she said.
Key in this are expanding MaineCare, the state program largely funded through federal Medicare dollars, and ensuring local communities get more state funding for education.
“We have taxed Mainers, held on to their money and not used for education. I find that reprehensible,” Sanborn said.
Some of the surplus beyond what covers state needs in an economic downturn should also be used to fight the opioid use problems in Maine, she added.
Worried about cities like Portland, where increased property valuations have reduced education subsidies without considering area incomes, Sanborn said meeting the state commitment to fund 55 percent of local education costs alone would help alleviate the increased property tax burdens faced in the city and Westbrook.
She would also like a renewed commitment to returning 5 percent of income and sales taxes collected by the state to communities as revenue sharing. The state now returns 2 percent of those collections.
Sanborn said a clean energy policy would benefit the whole state environmentally and economically, but added misconceptions abound.
“When it comes to progressive energy policy, it comes to a lot of also narratives around wind and solar we need to combat,” she said. “Because I have served on the energy committee, I am up to speed and know how to work on that.”