Incumbent Portland independent faces 2-party challenge in House District 40

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PORTLAND — Incumbent state Rep. Benjamin Chipman believes Maine House District 40, encompassing Parkside, West Bayside and the area around the University of Southern Maine, needs its independent voice in the Legislature.

Democrat Herb Adams and Republican Mark Lockman are out to prove him wrong on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Adams, 61, of 231 State St., was a state representative from 2002 to 2010. He ran unsuccessfully against Chipman two years ago.

Lockman, of 655 Congress St., canceled an interview to talk about his candidacy and did not return several calls to set up another interview.

Chipman

Redistricting shifted Chipman, of 5 Mayo St., close to the physical edge of his district, but he said he remains at the center of his constituents’ concerns as he seeks a third, two-year term.

“People are telling me I am doing a good job and getting things done,” he said. “I feel like I have been effective in the Statehouse.”

Chipman said he will focus on the expansion of MaineCare health insurance using federal Medicaid funding, saying it would provide coverage to 500 of his constituents. Since legislators came within two votes of overturning the last veto of expansion by Gov. Paul LePage, Chipman said he is cautiously optimistic it can be done.

A community organizer and consultant who also owns and manages properties, Chipman said he is ready to exert some legislative pressure to ensure the University of Southern Maine remains a vital part of the University of Maine system, and of Portland.

He said he supports increased system funding, which has slipped from 9 percent of the state budget about five years ago, to 3.4 percent.

“(I support) putting pressure from a legislative standpoint on trustees to listen to the faculty while also increasing funding,” he said. “Everybody needs to work together to find solutions that don’t mean cuts in the classroom.”

Chipman said he would like to prevent the “sunset” clause that will eliminate the increase in the state lodging tax, which was used last year as a way to restore some state revenue sharing with municipalities.

Chipman said the Legislature needs to consider tax increases targeted at tourist industries, but added tax reform in general is not an easy task.

“I’m not sure there is a great chance of getting the tax structure changed in a way that benefits Portland, without requiring rural communities to pay,” he said.

Chipman said he has enjoyed his work on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, where he worked to stop landfill expansions. He wants to improve the local and state recycling and composting rates, while ensuring other solid waste is directed to trash-to-energy facilities like the one operated locally by ecomaine.

His independent approach has meant he has gotten 10 bills through the Legislature in four years, Chipman said. But not all got LePage’s signature; bills to ban smoking on state college and university campuses, and to study long-term effects of any importation of bituminous “tar sands” oil into Maine, were vetoed.

A supporter of expanding rail service to meet future transportation needs, Chipman said commuter rail to the Lewiston area is “the next logical step.”

“I’m always there, I haven’t missed a single day (of the Legislature) in four years,” Chipman said. “I’m always standing up for the district and involved in getting things done for people.”

Adams

Adams, an adjunct professor of history and government at Southern Maine Community College, has set creating more affordable housing, health care,  education, and continued funding of Lands for Maine’s Future as his goals if he returns to the Legislature.

Unable to run in 2010 because of term limits, Adams said some of his goals are a continuation of policies and programs he advocated and helped established.

Adams said the state needs to expand the MaineCare health insurance program by using federal Medicaid funding, and already has the means to pay for the 10 percent state share required after three years of full federal funding.

“The reason we are not accepting it now is because of ideology and crankiness,” he said. “Maine has been very prudent with its tobacco settlement money, and that could be a source of state funding for the future MaineCare.”

A supporter of Opportunity Maine and its efforts to provide educational opportunities, Adams said he would amend the Essential Programs and Services formula used by the state Department of Education to determine state subsidies to local school districts.

The formula should better consider local median incomes, local property tax burdens, and the number of students receiving free or reduced lunches, he said.

“Both are indications of ability to pay,” he said of incomes and taxes, while free and reduced lunches are “a true index of need in your community.”

The future of the University of Southern Maine troubles Adams because of the shift in leadership.

“It worries me a great deal that President (David) Flanagan is not an academic, he is a number cruncher,” Adams said. “If you like the way he ran (Central Maine Power), you will like the way he runs USM, meaning if the bottom line is the only final factor, then the ride is going to be rough.”

Adams said he supports an increase in the $7.50-per-hour state minimum wage, but has not decided to what amount.

“I believe in an increase, but I don’t know what is the best level,” he said. “A livable wage may be $14 to $16 per hour, and that is not going to happen now.”

If elected, Adams said he would like to serve on the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

“It has vital functions for day-to-day needs for ordinary people,” Adams said, noting he previously worked to ensure every Maine home is guaranteed land-line phone access.

Adams said he supports state aid for developing alternative energy sources and continuing “feed-in” tariffs requiring utilities to pay consumers for energy they generate.

He would also support local-option taxes to help reduce property taxes.

“I think it would be best applied county-wide through a referendum with a revenue-sharing mechanism built in,” Adams said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.