Portland House District 42 seat pits 1st-time candidates

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PORTLAND — Democratic state Rep. Peter Stuckey cannot seek re-election in House District 42 because of state term limit laws.

Democrat Benjamin Collings and Republican Sue Abercrombie are each making their first runs for political office as they seek to replace him. Both were unopposed in their party primaries June 14.

Abercrombie, 71, lives at 48 Malilly Road, is single, and has no children. Collings, 40, is a resident of 38 Sawyer St., is single, and has three children.

House District 42 encompasses the neighborhoods north and west of Back Cove to the Falmouth town line.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

“Peter was well known, very active, and did a lot of good,” Collings said. “Now that he is termed out, I think I can fill his shoes.”

Abercrombie promised changes if she is elected.

“I am concerned about some trends in what is happening in Augusta,” she said. We’ve been trying to do too much, we have been spending too much and we need to get real about it.”

Collings has worked as a labor organizer for the AFL-CIO and the state presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont. He has also been part of Sanders’ outreach to Native Americans.

Collings was also arrested in May by Portland police on an assault charge, which was later dropped.

“I’ve worked in around Augusta for about 25 years; I know a lot of people in the (Capitol),” he said.

Abercrombie draws on her heritage.

“I am a lifelong Republican from a family that has been in Washington County for over 200 years,” she said. “I’m proud of my heritage and connection to Maine and it animates my interests in trying to improve what we are doing.”

If elected, neither candidate said they will seek to censure or impeach Gov. Paul LePage following his comments in August about the racial composition of alleged drug traffickers and a profane voicemail the governor left for Rep. Drew Gattine, a Westbrook Democrat. 

“I thought the voicemail was entirely inappropriate,” Abercrombie said. “The way he put what he was saying was ill-considered.”

Collings said he would support disciplinary efforts if they are made by his colleagues.

“I think they should have done something about it now,” he said. “I would have called for some action immediately. I will step forward if he needs to be held accountable.”

The candidates are following party lines in their support of the presidential candidates.

Still a Sanders fan, Collings said he will vote for the Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I’m a lifelong Democrat. If Bernie was the nominee he would have won with a landslide,” he said.

Abercrombie remains firm in her support of GOP nominee Donald Trump.

“He said some ugly things,” Abercrombie said of Trump’s recorded comments revealed last week by the Washington Post. “Many people have said ugly things. I think Hillary would be an unmitigated disaster, Obama on steroids.”

To fight opioid addictions and overdoses, Abercrombie and Collings support providing more treatment.

“We need to have Narcan available wherever we can, but it is not enough,” Abercrombie said. “The availabilty of Narcan is probably causing users to be more careless. We need an aggressive program to reach out and get users into rehab, and we need more rehab.”

Collings said he would rely on guidance from “experts in the field,” as he learns more about opioid use.

“My personal take is, it is a disease and a health crisis and our emphasis should be on prevention,” he said. “I don’t want to discount the needs of our law enforcement, but I don’t think prison and a heavy hand has been a deterrent.”

With the exception of Question 6, Abercrombie and Collings are divided in their support of the state referendum questions.  Both candidates support Question 6, which proposes borrowing $100 million to fund highway, bridge and infrastructure projects in the state.

Collings supports Question 1, to legalize use, sale and taxation of marijuana for adults 21 years and older. 

“With that said, I’d like to look at the regulatory part of it, he said.

Abercrombie opposes legalization because there is no clear way to determine if drivers are impaired by marijuana. She is also concerned landlords will face damage to rental units because of marijuana smoke.

Question 2 would add a 3 percent tax on incomes above $200,000 to fund education.

“I disapprove,” Abercrombie said. “The bulk of the businesses in Maine are small businesses and a lot are S-corporations. This would not be a simple matter of gouging the rich. It would be taking money out of businesses which are running on a narrow margin.”

Collings supports the question.

“If I get elected, I would aggressively look for more proposals to get money to education.”

The candidates also stand on opposite sides of Question 3, which would require background checks for private firearms sales and transfers.

“It is a very reasonable measure. I support right to bear arms, but I don’t think it is a big inconvenience at all,” Collings said.

Abercrombie said the real intent of the bill is to block firearms transfers between hunters and recreational shooters, so she opposes the question.

Abercrombie and Collings do not agree on the minimum wage increases proposed in Question 4.

“What happens when the price of the worker is raised above the value of the work from that worker, is the job disappears,” Abercrombie said. “This will hurt the people who need to come into the workforce, learn skills, learn work habits and move up.”

Collings said the increase from $7.50 per hour now to $12 in 2020 may not do enough.

“I actually don’t think it is high enough. A single parent cannot raise a family on that on the (Portland) peninsula. It takes a while to get there, but wages have been held back artificially for so long,” he said. “More discretionary spending leads to more jobs and spending. I think it is pretty basic.”

Collings said ranked choice voting for all elections other than the race for president could “make things a little more democratic.”

Abercrombie said she opposes Question 5 on ranked choice voting because it would not create as true a majority as a runoff election.

“I personally don’t have a problem with plurality, but if we want a majority, we should get a true majority,” she said.

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


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.