PORTLAND — Three Democrats are competing in the June 14 Democratic primary in state House District 40.
Herb Adams, of 231 State St., Anna L. Kellar, of 244 State St., and Rachel Talbot Ross, of 39 Washburn Ave., all hope to replace current Democratic Rep. Ben Chipman. Chipman just completed his third term and is running for the Senate District 27 seat vacated by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland.
Also on the ballot, but unopposed in their primaries, are Republican Carol C. Taylor, of 633 Congress St., and Maine Green Independent Russell E. Hoskins, of 52 Smith St.
House District 40 include the Bayside and Parkside neighborhoods and extends to the area surrounding the University of Southern Maine. The seat carries a two-year term. The general election will be held Nov. 8.
Adams, 62, served in the district from 2002-2010. He said he has four policy objectives.
“The final two years (of Gov. Paul LePage’s term) can either be constructive or chaos,” Adams said. “That choice may not be entirely in the Legislature’s hands. For the sake of us all, the people’s chamber better be ready to govern.”
Adams, 62, is also a former School Board member, a co-founder of the Parkside Neighborhood Association, and ran unsuccessfully against Chipman in 2012 and 2014.
He said he will push to revise the funding formula for state school subsidies to base it on a district’s median income and the percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunch, as opposed to the property valuation in a district, which “gives a false index of wealth to a place like Portland.”
Adams proposed a housing bond to fund work by the Maine State Housing Authority, similar to the $55 million bond he proposed in his last term, which failed to get out of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.
The amount of any new bonding would be determined by the political climate in Augusta.
“The situation is much more dire in places like Portland,” Adams said. “The city council is in a position of literally deciding what kind of people they do not want living in Portland.”
Adams also wants a new bond for acquiring conservation land as part of the Land for Maine’s Future program, which he helped establish.
“The rest of the world is either sold off, used up or given away. What Maine has is what the rest of the world wants,” he said.
Future energy generation and use is also a priority, Adams said. Whether wind, solar or tidal, he wants the Legislature to take a comprehensive look at energy sources while moving to smaller energy generation plants to feed the electrical grid.
Locally, Adams said he is concerned about gentrification in the city, particularly in Parkside and Bayside, and wants to continue shifting the fight against opioid use into the realm of public health and away from criminal justice.
“Parkside/Bayside is the most densely populated and diverse square mile in Maine and has been since 1980,” he said. “It is also one of the most transitory House districts in Maine, the turnover can be 20 percent or more in a year. When changing times come to Maine, Portland feels it first.”
Kellar, 26, is making her first bid for elected office. “I am running basically because I want to make sure people are getting well represented,” she said.
Kellar grew up in Falmouth and was educated at Yale University and the London School of Economics. She is now program director for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.
Before becoming a candidate, Kellar lobbied legislators in Augusta and said the experience shaped her campaign.
“I got to see in this session how easy it was for the Legislature to ignore what the voters wanted,” she said.
Because her district is completely urban and quite diverse, Kellar said there are “a lot of people who are talked about, (but) not necessarily heard.”
This includes immigrants and younger families whose concerns may not be as apparent to legislators from rural districts.
“I’d like to get the legislators to Portland and see what the problems are,” Kellar said.
She said she will focus on improving education, more assistance for people with mental health and substance use disorder issues and improving housing.
The diversity of the district means not all opinions on solutions are shared, and Kellar said she has appreciated the variety of opinions.
“I’ve enjoyed having an excuse to talk to people who seem like they are doing interesting things and have some ideas how things could be done,” she said.
Kellar also said her youth would be a benefit in the district and Augusta, because of USM and also the ravages of the opioid epidemic: Kellar said she has three friends who have lost siblings to overdoses.
She said the Legislature should be ready to invest now to reap future benefits and prevent higher costs later.
“It should be really obvious, but you can’t scrounge up money now to help down the road,” Kellar said.
She is also concerned about the potential effects of rising sea levels, and was disappointed the bill to expand generation and use of solar power failed in the last session.
“I’ve seen the maps that put half of my district underwater,” Kellar said.
Kellar said she will be ready to do some “harder bargaining” to protect the city’s interests and wants to ensure the city can sustain a diverse population.
“There is this draw of Portland as such an attractive place to be, but it is becoming unaffordable to live here without the jobs to make that be feasible,” she said.
Rachel Talbot Ross
Talbot Ross, 55, is president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP and former director of the city office of Equal Opportunity and Multicultural Affairs. She said her perspective is imbued by her upbringing, and grounded in the common experiences of her district.
“I am certainly not asking people to vote for me only because I am a woman of color,” she said. “I’m running because I believe in my 23 years of professional, volunteer and community service and my experiences growing up in Portland provide me with a solid foundation with which to serve the people of District 40.”
She is also the daughter of Gerald Talbot, the first African-American elected to the Maine House, and said she is ready to continue her family’s tradition of public service.
Talbot Ross said she will advocate for developing more affordable housing, the expansion of MaineCare health coverage, and fighting opioid use and addiction through more treatment and recovery resources and education, rather than as a matter of criminal justice.
“We need to go to the root and see how this takes shape in someone’s life,” she said about substance use disorders and opioid use.
The work done by the City Council Housing Committee could play a role in crafting affordable housing solutions at the state level.
Talbot Ross complimented Chipman for staying in touch with his constituents by walking the district, and pledged to be a consistent voice while remaining aware of what is happening locally.
“It is about the continual interaction with people,” she said, adding she wants constituents’ voices “to be a constant force in our deliberations and the way we think of solutions.”
Talbot Ross promised to fight for more state education funding, expanding economic opportunities to keep younger residents in Maine, and to help locally owned small businesses develop and grow.
She contrasted and compared the concerns in the district by highlighting Back Bay Towers and Franklin Towers, about a mile apart on Cumberland Avenue.
“What I hear in both of those towers is, they cannot afford to live there,” Talbot Ross said. “They are living in a state of anxiety and fear because they don’t know if they can stay where they are.”
Adams, left, Kellar, and Talbot Ross.