House District 119: Democrat, independent compete to replace Adams

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PORTLAND — House District 119 will elect a new state representative on Nov. 2.

Rep. Herbert Adams, D-Portland, cannot run because of term limits.

Democrat Jill A. Barkley, of High Street, is facing independent Benjamin Chipman, of Mayo Street,  for the seat that represents Parkside, Bayside and East Bayside.

The candidates admitted they agree on many issues, but argued that their individual experiences and backgrounds set them apart and will make them more effective.

Chipman said his experience as a public policy advocate, legislative aid and community organizer will allow him to hit the ground running.

Barkley said her experience as an advocate against domestic violence has put her in touch with the specific needs of many struggling families in the district, as well as the legislative process. 

Jill A. Barkley

Barkley, 29, is the public awareness and policy coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. She has been a resident of Portland for more than six years and lives with her domestic partner, Diane Hitchcock.

Barkley holds a masters in public administration from the University of Colorado. She has never run for elected office, but has volunteered for political campaigns and local nonprofits.

Barkley said her experience fighting against domestic violence will allow her to “make informed decisions with compassion,” especially when it comes to potential service cuts.

“I have direct interactions with legislators on a regular basis, so I know how Augusta works,” she said. “I have the ability to bring people together, build coalitions, and I’m willing to compromise when I need to for the greater good.”

Barkley said she supported the Legislature’s last attempt at tax reform, which was repealed by voters in June. If elected, she would pursue components of that reform, including expanding the sales tax, but would refine the income tax provisions by lowering taxes for low-income families and adding more upper-level tax brackets.

“If you’re making a large salary, you should have to pay a fair share of the taxes,” she said.

Barkley said she would hope to jump-start the economy by investing in renewable energy, which would not only reduce energy usage and costs, but increase demand for green jobs from things like wind turbine construction and home weatherization.

Expanding the state’s transportation infrastructure is also important, she said. Barkley said she would look to reallocate revenue generated from the gas tax to for rail and bus projects.

She said she would also consider raising the gas tax to bring in more revenue for infrastructure projects.

Barkley said she would support an effort to change the state education funding formula so it can adequately address the challenges faced by districts with large immigrant populations.

The state should increase its focus on prevention programs, she said, rather than crisis response, when it comes to poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health issues.

Benjamin Chipman

Chipman, 35, has worked for the last 15 years as a self-employed public policy advocate. He worked as a legislative aid to former Rep. John Eder, a Green Independent, from 2002-2006 and has been an activist in the Green party, although he is on the ballot this year as an independent.

In 2005, he was acquitted by a York County Superior Court jury of charges he and other Green workers commited campaign fraud in the distribution of absentee ballots to elderly residents of Biddeford during a special legislative election in 2004.

Chipman, who holds a liberal arts degree from the University of Maine, was elected to the Portland Charter Commission last year and has served on the city’s Downtown Noise and Polling Place task forces.

Chipman said his prior work in Augusta makes him the best candidate for the job.

“There’s a steep learning curve,” he said. “It took me a year to figure things out. I will be more effective than your average freshman legislator, for sure.”

Chipman said his top priority would be overhauling the state’s finances. He said he is frustrated that budget shortfalls have become an annual occurrence, but wouldn’t advocate for cuts to education or social services for the truly needy.

“If a budget comes out that cuts education, I will not support it,” he said.

Instead, Chipman said the state should pass “meaningful tax reform” that expands the sales tax on tourism-related goods, including separating lodging tax from the meals tax and increasing the lodging tax to as much as 9 percent from the current 7 percent.

“I think (tourists) would still come to Maine if it was raised to 8 or 9 percent,” he said. “You don’t want to go too high.”

Chipman said the state should also lower income taxes for low- and middle-income earners, while creating another upper-level tax bracket with a 9 percent to 9.5 percent tax rate. 

“For someone who’s making $30,000 to pay the same percentage as someone making $250,000 isn’t very equitable,” he said, noting reform should be revenue neutral.

Chipman would support changing the state education funding formula to place more weight on incomes, rather than property values.

Chipman would not support weakening environmental regulations to attract business to the state, but would be open to repealing the business equipment tax.

He said would also support a state bond to invest in renewable energy, both to reduce costs and create jobs.

Chipman said he supports wind power, but only if local residents support it. But, the state’s best opportunity for renewable of energy is tidal power, he said.

“Tidal power is more predictable,” he said. “The wind might not blow, the sun might not shine, but tide will continue to go in and out.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

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Democrat Jill A. Barkley

Independent Benjamin Chipman

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