CAPE ELIZABETH — Two candidates are competing in a special election on Tuesday, Aug. 16, to represent House District 121 in the state Legislature.
Democrat Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig and Republican Nancy Thompson are both active in the community. They are long-time residents, come from large families and have volunteered in the school system.
Both candidates said they support education and feel strongly about Maine’s environment. But they disagree on various decisions made in the last legislative session.
The winner will complete the term vacated by Cynthia Dill, a Cape Elizabeth Democrat who was elected to the state Senate in a special election in May.
Monaghan-Derrig, 52, lives on Russett Lane with her husband and daughter.
She received a bachelor’s degree in ballet and dance from the Boston Conservatory of Music and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Maine. She is working toward a master’s degree in public policy and management at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
Monaghan-Derrig is a marketing and communications professional, currently working for the Segway Tours of Portland tour company.
After an unsuccessful campaign for Town Council in 2009, she won a seat on the School Board last November. She serves on the board’s policy and legislative subcommittee.
Monaghan-Derrig was the staff manager for former U.S. Rep. Thomas Andrews, D-Maine, Maine congressional coordinator for the Democratic National Convention, and staff aide to the Maine Senate Majority Office and the Maine Senate secretary.
Locally, she serves as the co-chairwoman of Citizen Advocates for Public Education, is a board member of the Maine State Ballet, a volunteer for the Cape Elizabeth Middle School and Pond Cove Elementary School theater productions, a member of the Share Our Strength/Taste of the Nation organizing committee, and a volunteer at St. Bartholomew’s Church.
Monaghan-Derrig is a former secretary of the New England Society of Convention and Visitors Bureaus and served on the Department of Economic and Community Development/Maine Officer of Tourism Event Marketing Committee.
“This campaign is not about who I am running against,” she said. “It’s about running against Republican values and leadership of Maine.”
She said she is opposed to the agenda of Gov. Paul LePage and questions its transparency when education funding was pushed through the Legislature at a late hour.
“When you have (Essentials Programs and Services) funding being driven through at a late hour which results in the loss of $200,000 from the southern part of Maine to the northern part of Maine, why couldn’t they have just done that during normal legislative hours?,” she said.
She said the state budget “could have been worse” and is thankful that Democrats worked as hard as they did.
As a member of the School Board, Monaghan-Derrig said she does not support the charter school legislation signed into law by LePage. She said she favors magnet schools over charter schools and would rather see an increase in professional development for teachers.
“There are a lot of charter schools that have yet to have higher scores than public schools and I think a lot more work has to be done,” she said. “We need to invest in our teachers more and make them feel more valued and give them the help and support they need to be the best they can be.”
Monaghan-Derrig said she strongly opposes the repeal of same-day voter registration. She said it disenfranchises the elderly, the young, the disabled and young families.
On the environment, where LePage has said he is “all for conservation (and) against preservation,” Monaghan-Derrig said conservation, preservation and development are not interchangeable.
“I totally oppose the elimination of the Land Use Regulation Commission and don’t think that (LePage’s) views on preservation and conservation are in sync with the views of what real environmental conservation means,” she said. “In his mind it means rolling back environmental laws and letting companies come in and discharge wherever they want and abandon easements. No, I don’t see eye to eye at all on his views with the environment.”
Monaghan-Derrig said she will work to encourage economic development through jobs, education, the environment and equal rights for all, including marriage equality, women’s right to choose and voter rights.
“These are issues that are very sensitive to people and they feel very strongly about their rights,” she said.
Monaghan-Derrig said people want a representative who will clearly represent their views.
“I think that I have a working knowledge of the state of Maine, it’s geography, it’s people, it’s counties, and I’ll be able to bring that understanding to Augusta,” she said.
Thompson, 52, is a resident of Pine Ridge Road, married and the mother of five children. She has lived in Cape Elizabeth for 25 years and works at Living Wealth Partners insurance company in Portland. She attended Boston College and graduated from Katherine Gibbs business school in New York.
Thompson has no previous political experience.
She was a board member of the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation from 2007 to 2010 and a school volunteer for 21 years. She taught religious education at St. Bartholomew’s Church for 12 years and was a member of the public school soccer, basketball and lacrosse boosters from 1995 to 2009.
Thompson founded the annual CEEF Thompson Award and the Cape Elizabeth High School Lacrosse Team Spirit Award in memory of her son Timmy, who died in 2004.
She is the past president of the Junior League of Portland, where she has been a member for more than 20 years. She is a volunteer trainer at the Portland Police Department in the trauma intervention program and serves on the advisory council of the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program. She is an executive board member and vice president elect at the Center for Grieving Children.
Thompson said the first legislative session under LePage’s leadership was very successful. She said she supports the LePage agenda and was impressed by the bipartisan support his budget received.
“(LePage) is looking at the state as he should be, as a business,” she said. “(Maine is) probably the worst state in the country for business, so it’s nice to get a business perspective.”
Thompson said education is an important issue for her and having $200,000 cut from Cape Elizabeth’s state subsidy is disturbing. She said she will be present for every vote and work very hard to support school funding.
“It’s all about the kids and the support of the school system” she said.
But Thompson said she also supports the establishment of charter schools and believes they will create a healthy competition. She said many students could benefit from charter schools, which have proved very successful elsewhere in the country.
She said she also supports the elimination of same-day voter registration and tighter regulations on absentee ballots. She said residents have ample opportunity to register and vote before Election Day.
“(Voting) is a right,” she said. “… But if you want to go ahead and do it, go in and register to vote two days in advance. It’s two days which alleviates a lot of pressure for these (town) clerks.”
Thompson was adamant, even when reminded that the Maine Town and City Clerks Association opposed the change in the law and that Town Clerk Debra Lane said the earlier deadline for return of absentee ballots – not elmination of same-day registration – will provide the most relief for her office.
Thompson said 43 other states don’t have same-day voter registration and Maine should “get up to speed.”
She said she lives in Maine because of the environment and its beauty, which should be preserved. But she said with the right people at the table, it may be possible to conserve and preserve the environment, while developing it at the same time.
“There is a fine line,” Thompson said. “… We’re going to grow our economy and maybe there are some ways we can do it and preserve and help our environment at the same time.”
Overall, Thompson said she will be an advocate for the citizens of Cape Elizabeth.
“I think people know I am level-headed and will hear them. I’m a good listener and I will bring their concerns to Augusta …,” she said. “I’m somebody (residents) can trust through my integrity and character. I can be a voice at the table.”