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House District 115: Green Berner challenges incumbent Democrat Lovejoy

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House District 115: Green Berner challenges incumbent Democrat Lovejoy

PORTLAND — The state House District 115 race pits first-term incumbent state Rep. Stephen Lovejoy, a Democrat, against Green Independent candidate Seth Berner.

Republican Chase Martin is also on the ballot, but he could not be reached and officials from the Portland Republican City Committee said he is a "placeholder" candidate who is not actively campaigning and whom they have not been able to contact recently.

District 115 represents the Back Cove neighborhood.

Seth Berner

Berner, 53, lives on Clinton Street with his partner, Deb Sawyer. He has a private law practice and is a legal director for the Portland Chapter of the NAACP.

He said the notion that government should be run as a business bothers him.

"It leaves people behind," Berner said. "Government needs to be run like a family."

Berner said the state tax code should be rewritten, because it is asking people without money to pay taxes they cannot afford. He said tax breaks are happening at the top, rather than the bottom.

"If you're troubled about where you're going to take your third vacation in a year, you can afford to pay more taxes," Berner said.

A Brandeis University graduate, Berner said that if elected he would also look into emissions testing for vehicles, improving public transportation and the safety of cellular phones.

He also said he would like to see licensing of elder care programs.

Rep. Stephen Lovejoy

Lovejoy, 60, lives on Norwood Street with his wife, Nancy Hearne. They have several adult children and three grandchildren.

A former business professor at the University of Maine at Augusta, Lovejoy this year served on the Education Committee at the statehouse. He said his first term in the Legislature was a learning experience.

If re-elected, he said, he would like to work on several education issues, including re-evaluating the formula used to determine English Language Learner program funding.

Lovejoy said he is concerned about changes in special education requirements over the past few years that have reduced the student eligibility for services. Students used to be able to get special education services retroactive to six years from diagnosis; that was scaled back to four years, he said, and then two years.

"It allows schools to avoid their responsibilities," Lovejoy said. "I want to get it back to four years."

When it comes to the budget, Lovejoy said he thinks the state could save money by spending a little on enforcing current rules and regulations, rather than cutting services.

"We also need to streamline and cut out duplication of services," he said.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net