CAPE ELIZABETH — First-term incumbent state Sen. Rebecca Millett faces two challengers in her bid for re-election in Senate District 29.
Republican Bill De Sena and Green Independent Mark Diehl hope to unseat Democrat Millett in the former District 7, which includes all of Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, and coastal Scarborough.
Millett has lived in Cape Elizabeth for 15 years. Prior to her election to the Senate she served on the School Board for six years. She also co-founded Citizen Advocates for Public Education, a group to advance local education.
Millett said education is still one of her top priorities and she would like to create stronger programming for students at all levels. She said this is especially important for younger children.
“The verdict is in that we need to be getting to our kids sooner, when their brains are still developing,” Millett said.
Millett said she is also interested in getting more funding for schools and wants equitable support for all the schools in District 29.
Millett also wants to consider raising the minimum wage.
“I think we need to take a really close look at minimum wage,” she said. “A significant percentage of the population is struggling to get by and that doesn’t do a lot of good for our state’s economy.”
Millett said she also wants to help the people who are working hard, but still can’t make ends meet.
Along the lines of the economy, Millett said she would also like to see more support for small local businesses.
“We’ve got some really amazing energy in Portland, surrounding start-ups and innovative individuals,” she said.
Millett said she would also like to restore revenue sharing, and also wants to look at issues surrounding solar energy and alternative energy. She said Maine “lags behind all our New England neighbors in this.”
Women’s rights are also of high importance to Millett and as a woman running against two men, she said this speaks to why she needs to be re-elected.
“Women are a minority in legislation, yet we are not a minority in the population,” Millett said. “Our voices need to be heard in Augusta.”
De Sena was an independent, but decided to run as a Republican after John Ridge dropped out. He has lived in Cape Elizabeth with his wife and three children for 15 years.
De Sena has served on various municipal committees, but this is his first time running for political office. He has a background in finance and now owns small businesses in Portland and South Portland.
He said one of the main issues he wants to focus on is jobs and the economy, and his financial background would be helpful if elected.
“When it comes to the fiscal side, I’m a prude,” De Sena said.
He said he doesn’t think the minimum wage should be raised.
“I think any time you move the minimum wage up, you move the cost of products up,” he said. “I’m not so sure moving the minimum wage up is going to put lower-income people in a better stead.”
Instead, De Sena said people who earn lower incomes should have lower taxes, so the costs of products wouldn’t be raised.
De Sena said he wants to look at improving all types of education, because the world is changing.
“I look at education in a broad umbrella – private, public, charter, and virtual,” De Sena said. “Some fit one type of student, some fit another.”
He said he wants education to be looked at equally across the board, so that all kids can have the same benefits and be able to “compete in this global world.”
Because De Sena comes from an independent background, he said he doesn’t have much interest in competing political parties. He said he wants to “resolve the problems and stop the politics” in Augusta.
“I want to work at solving problems and establishing policies,” he said. “I’m not interested in political gain.”
Diehl has lived in Cape Elizabeth for five years with his wife and 13-year-old daughter, a prodigy who is a freshman in college. Diehl moved to the area to be an author after working many years as a corporate litigator in Chicago.
“I left the corporate world and I was going to come to Maine and write books,” he said.
Diehl has two published novels, one of which won a 2014 Maine Literary Award. Prior to this election, Diehl said he never had a real interest in politics.
“The Green Party called and said we had a similar ideas,” Diehl said. “They are the only party in Maine that refuses all corporate influence of any kind.”
Diehl said that after working in the corporate world, he realized how much he disliked it. He said he “couldn’t get past how abusive it all was.”
Diehl said three of the things he’d like to focus on if elected are environmental issues, social issues, and protecting working families. He founded Think Local and said he cares about small local businesses. He also said he wants to keep small businesses from being taken over or shut down by large corporations.
“Small businesses are disappearing and it’s not because they’re less efficient,” he said.
Diehl said he hopes to resolve some of the issues created by major political parties.
“Until we all realize we are being manipulated and until we as a whole universally reject corporate influence in our government, government will represent corporations instead of us,” Diehl said.
He said corporations are “using both parties equally to rob us” and that he hopes to change this.
“If we are going to fix anything in Maine, it has to be done for the voters,” Diehl said.
Diehl said he understands that many people may be skeptical of voting for someone who doesn’t belong to one of the major political parties.
“It’s time to change the view that someone from the outside is a wasted vote,” he said. “The way to truly waste your vote is to vote for someone in (the Republican or Democratic) parties.”