Portland Democrat faces independent challenger in Senate District 27

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PORTLAND — State Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, is challenged by independent candidate Crystal Canney as he seeks a second term in state Senate District 27.

“I am looking forward to working with new legislators and ones I have known,” Chipman said.

Canney, who is making her first run for public office, said she decided to run because she is “tired of the partisanship ruining our state and country.”

Both candidates are running with state funding through the Maine Clean Elections Act.

Senate District 27 covers the city’s peninsula and the Casco Bay islands, and extends north and west beyond Back Cove along Forest and Allen avenues to the Falmouth town line.

All state legislative seats carry a two-year term. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Ben Chipman

After eight years in Augusta, six of them in the House of Representatives, Chipman is ready for change, and to help guide the change.

“I am looking forward to having a new governor,” he said. “I think it will change things a lot.”

Chipman, 43, of 5 Mayo St., is supporting Democrat Janet Mills to replace Gov. Paul LePage.

He also supports Question 1 to fund home health care services for senior citizens and people with disabilities, although he is not sure if the 3.8 percent surcharge on incomes $128,400 and higher is the correct funding mechanism.

“On principle I support the idea of having adequate in-home services for our disabled and elderly,” he said. “How to pay for it should not get in the way of something bold and significant.”

Chipman supports the four bond questions on the ballot funding water quality, roads and bridges.

In a second term, Chipman said he wants to focus most on fighting opioid use and other substance use disorders while also providing better mental health services in Maine.

As the lead Democrat on the Legislature’s Health & Human Services Committee, Chipman said he would like to become chairman should Democrats gain the majority in the Senate.

Chipman supports the expansion of MaineCare, and said the money is already available to pay for the state’s share.

“I think the important thing is, we implement it as soon as possible,” he said. “People’s lives are on the line.”

After feeling the effort to fight addiction and overdoses had slowed in the last session, Chipman said he is ready to push more.

“As soon as possible, we need to make sure treatment is available for anyone who needs it,” he said. That help would cover any substance use disorders, he added.

Mental health and substance use disorder issues have also contributed to homelessness, which Chipman said burdens the city unfairly. He plans to submit legislation requiring communities to ensure their homeless residents are housed locally, using General Assistance funding.

Chipman said he will work to see the city gets a better share of funding for education and municipal operations.

“Rather than talk about what to cut, I would rather talk about how to raise revenue,” he said.

To help restore some education funding, Chipman would change the formula so average real estate values would be measured for more than a two-year span. He prefers five years as more realistic.

Chipman also thinks it is time to consider local option taxes as a way to help alleviate the property tax burden.

Crystal Canney

Though making her first run for political office, Canney counts on her experience as a TV journalist and communications director for independent U.S. Sen Angus King and former Gov. John Baldacci to give her familiarity in Augusta.

Canney, 55, of 103 Gleckler Road, said she is also running because she wants a better future for her daughter.

“If I have to be louder to be heard, I will be louder and I am fine with that,” she said. “The culture we are leaving our daughters is despicable.”

While Canney has not yet endorsed any of the four gubernatorial candidates, she is not supporting state bond Question 1.

“Caring for our disabled and senior citizens is critically important,” she said. “I do believe this was well intended, but the execution is poor on many levels …  it is up to the Legislature to do its job and make this a priority.”

Canney supports the four other referendum questions proposing bonds for water quality, highway and bridge projects and upgrades to the state universities and community colleges.

While wary of Question 1, Canney said she supports the expansion of MaineCare, saying the Legislature will be able to fund its share if it makes doing so a priority.

With an expansion of MaineCare, there is also a need to revamp the Maine Department of Health & Human Services. While Canney was pleased at the steps taken to protect child welfare, they are not enough, she said.

Canney said she would like state schools to have training programs to help staff the department, and said caseworkers need greater support within the department in terms of counseling and debriefing.

Saying the city does not get its fair share of education funding from the state, Canney would look to the Maine Municipal Association for ideas on how the funding formula could be changed.

Frustrated by the lack of results and length of time needed to close out the 128th Legislature’s work, Canney said her independence, experience, and northern Maine roots will be catalysts for greater consensus.

“One thing I am good at is building rural coalitions,” she said.

She also wants to give rural legislators a closer look at city problems.

“I would like to bring legislators in on a bus and tour Bayside, because you can’t believe it until you see it,” she said.

Canney said running independently will sharpen her focus.

“Nobody owns my vote but the voter,” she said.

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

Age: 43

Residence: 5 Mayo St.

Party: Democrat

Family: Unmarried, no children

Occupation: Small business owner

Education: University of Maine, degree in liberal arts

Experience: Incumbent seeking second term in Senate District 27; three terms in the Maine House; member of Portland Charter Commission

Website, social media: votechipman.com, www.facebook.com/ChipmanforSenate, @BenChipman1

Age: 55

Address: 103 Gleckler Road

Party: Unenrolled

Family: Married, one child

Occupation: Communications consultant and strategist

Education: Emerson College, degree in communications with a minor in political science

Experience: First run for elected office

Website, social media: www.votecanney.comvotecanney@gmail.comwww.facebook.com/votecanney, @CrystalCanney

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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.