SOUTH PORTLAND — Three candidates are competing for the open seat to represent House District 33 in the state Legislature.
Democrat Rosemarie De Angelis, Republican Kevin Battle and Green Independent Andrew Reddy are on the ballot in November.
District 33 includes neighborhoods west of Main Street and north of Broadway, up to Tanner Street. Prior to redistricting, it was House District 124.
The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Bryan Kaenrath, who is unable to run again due to the state’s limit of four consecutive terms in office.
Battle, 56, of Sandy Hill Road, was a city police officer for 27 years prior to his first campaign for office in 2012 against Kaenrath, when he lost by just under 200 votes.
Battle acknowledged that in the past he considered running as a Democrat, but believes voters should “vote for the person, not the party.”
He currently works as deputy harbor master for the Port of Portland and drives a city school bus. Battle has been married to his wife, Kathy, for more than 30 years, and has two grown boys.
He served three times as president of the South Portland Lions Club, has volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club, and founded the annual Maine Trucking 4 Kids Convoy event, which raises money for charities like Camp Sunshine.
Although Battle said he believes Gov. Paul LePage has “done a good job” running the state from a business perspective, he thinks small businesses still “need a boost.” He also said he believes the state should reform the tax code, and give more support to municipalities to reduce the local tax burden.
As an Irish immigrant himself, Battle said he supports South Portland’s recent decision to continue providing general assistance aid to undocumented immigrants. However, he believes in a cap on social services.
“This country is made up of immigrants, we can’t throw a blanket phrase ‘illegal’ over all immigrants,” he said. “But we only have so much money we can use.”
Battle said he supports a gradual increase in the state minimum wage.
He said his opinion of recreational marijuana legalization at the state level is “absolutely, maybe.” More importantly, he said, the state should be preparing for legalization, and begin looking into regulations and taxing the drug.
Battle said he tried to remain neutral in the local debate over banning tar sands oil from the city’s waterfront. He said he understood the ordinance’s possible impact on jobs, as well as the need for clean air.
“There are consequences for just about everything, so I stayed in the middle of the road,” he said.
Battle said he believes he has an open-minded approach to solving problems, and that his decades of service to the city make him a good candidate for the House.
“I’m known in the city, and I believe I’d do the best job,” he said. “I do the job from the heart.”
De Angelis, 62, of Buttonwood Street, is a former city councilor and mayor who is making her first run for higher office.
She is an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College, where she teaches advanced writing and speaking for ESL students, and a course on personal growth and development. De Angelis is also a part-time guardian ad litem in divorce cases.
De Angelis is single, and has no children, although she said she considers herself a maternal figure for her former students in Color of Community, a group of young adult immigrants and refugees who share their “sacred stories” of hardship in their home countries with schools and religious organizations. De Angelis is the group’s founder and facilitator.
The experiences of her immigrant students, many of whom are asylum seekers, have made her a staunch advocate for immigration reform at the federal and state level. She described LePage’s decision to cut off general assistance aid to undocumented individuals as “nothing short of cruel.”
“If their home countries were safe and at peace, they’d go home,” she said. “Immigrants are here by choice. Refugees and asylum seekers are not.”
While she believes strict standards should be in place for those seeking welfare in the state, De Angelis said she believes most people using the state’s social services are not abusing them.
“No one should get it if they don’t need it, but it should be there for those who do,” she said.
While De Angelis agrees the state should provide municipalities with more revenue, she said she also wants to advocate for seniors living in the district on a fixed income who fear they may be priced out of their homes.
“We can’t continue to burden seniors,” she said. “I want to find a way to defray or delay tax payments by seniors who can’t afford their homes.”
De Angelis also said she supports a $10.50 minimum wage, and thinks the state should gradually increase the current minimum wage by 50 cents a year to reach that level.
De Angelis supports the city referendum to legalize recreational marijuana, and said she would support similar state and federal legalization, because she believes the drug is less dangerous than alcohol, and wants to take it off the streets.
“I’m worried about the children, too,” she said. “I see drug dealers as the gateway.”
An active member of local anti-tar sands group Protect South Portland, De Angelis fully supports the city’s Clear Skies Ordinance and is an advocate for protecting the environment. In her time as mayor, she also helped jump-start the city’s farmers’ market.
De Angelis said she believes her experience in local politics and her history of advocacy make her an ideal candidate to better connect District 33 to the state.
“I don’t see myself as someone who sits in the background,” she said.
Reddy, who prefers to go by Drew, is a 50-year-old social studies teacher at Biddeford High School. He lives on Church Street with his wife, Lynda, and has four children: two adults in their twenties, an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old.
Reddy became an active member of the local Green Party in 2012, and said he has historically voted Green in elections. He replaced the original Green candidate Bob Klotz this summer.
This race is Reddy’s first campaign for political office, and if elected, he said he only plans to serve one term in the Legislature. Instead of sending a revolving door of career politicians to Augusta, he said he believes more everyday citizens like himself should step up to the plate.
“There are too many people who have been there too long,” he said.
In line with the Green Party platform, much of Reddy’s opposition to the current state Legislature comes from an environmental perspective. He said he believes LePage’s “’Maine is open for business’ agenda” has encroached on environmental protection in the state.
If elected, Reddy said he would work to improve the state’s air quality, and is most passionate about supporting renewable energy sources like wind farms.
Although not an active member of the local proponents, Reddy supported banning tar sands oil in the city and said he believes strongly in “getting big oil out of town.”
Reddy said he also supports increasing local tax revenues from the state to support municipalities and schools, and as an educator, he hopes his campaign will serve as a teaching tool for his students.
He said he rejects LePage’s decision to discontinue general assistance aid to undocumented non-U.S. citizens. At the City Council meeting where councilors decided to continue providing aid, Reddy said he was “bursting with civic pride.”
Reddy supports an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, a rate he considers “sustainable and livable.” He also said he is “entirely” in favor of statewide legalization of recreational marijuana use.
Reddy said he hopes third-party candidates can gain traction in this election. He cites his own dissatisfaction with party politics as a reason he is running District 33 and believes many residents agree.
“If you’re truly tired of how things have been functioning in Augusta, if you think the current political climate is troublesome,” he said, “you should be voting for third-party candidates.”
Election day is Nov. 4.