Portland Rep. Dion all but unchallenged in Senate District 28

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PORTLAND — The election in state Senate District 28, which includes portions of Portland and Westbrook, is essentially uncontested.

On the Nov. 8 ballot, Democrat Mark Dion faces Republican Karen Usher.

But Usher, of 33 Stroudwater St., Westbrook, said she volunteered as a placeholder candidate during the spring primaries, and that no one else has stepped up to run. She said she has not been running an active campaign.

Dion, 61, of 45 Allison Ave., defeated Democrats Jill Duson, of Portland, and Ann Peoples, of Westbrook, in the June primary. He is in the final months of his third term in House District 43, which covers northern Portland and a portion of Falmouth.

Dion has his own legal practice, has been a Portland police officer, and has also served two terms as Cumberland County sheriff.

For the next Legislature, the state’s opioid crisis will be a recurring issue, and Dion said that as a representative he recently sponsored a bill that set aside $1.1 million to set up eight pilot projects to look at heroin in local communities.

He said the programs will hopefully allow local law enforcement initiatives, such as the Community Approach to Stopping Heroin in Westbrook, to collect data to “help us sort out what works best in what circumstances, and guide our legislation.”

Dion said the economy is the No. 1 problem facing the state. He said jobs “are evaporating,” and noted the recent news that Bath Iron Works lost a bid to build a new generation of U.S. Coast Guard ships.

“Whatever we can do to facilitate expansion of economies that work, makes sense,” he said, adding that he would vote for more investment in trade and technical education. “That’s the foundation of a successful middle class.”

Leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8, Dion said he will be voting yes on all six statewide referendum questions, and supports Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

If elected, Dion said he’d also like to take a look at the issue of home health care, which he believes is an important contituent concern.

He said in going door to door, people often discuss the value of education, but also concerns for the “quality of life for seniors.”

Dion said there is a “fierce commitment” from seniors to stay in their homes, and that over the last few decades, the health economy has begun to shift to a more community-based system.

“I want to see what we can do to support and inform that system as it grows, and determine if seniors are going to get affordable health care at home, and what it will look like,” he said.