Down East 2013 ©
Of the twenty-nine districts with contested primaries for state representative in Maine this year, District 119 is by far the most confusing.
Somewhere around six different candidates are seeking the seat being vacated by term-limited legislator Herb Adams. Megan Sanborn will definitely be on the ballot as a Republican, but how many opponents she’ll have and who they’ll be is up in the air.
The Democratic primary race has received a good deal of attention, with Mohammed Dini making headlines  for being one of the first candidates of Somali background to seek a state house seat. His opponent is Jill Barkley, the 2010 Portland Phoenix winner for best activist  and an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights. Their race has been a target for both of the only two groups to have made independent expenditures  so far in the 2010 election. The League of Young Voters PAC endorsed Barkley and has distributed a voting guide  urging her election (along with other endorsed candidates) and the Equality Maine PAC spent $1,245 on a mailer supporting her over Dini, who does not support marriage equality.
District 119 also has another contested primary, at least on paper. Both Christian McNeil and Kris Eckhardt will be on the ballot as Green Independent candidates. However, McNeil has quit the race (too late to get his name off the ballot) and Eckhardt’s candidacy seems uncertain. In a recent Press Herald article , a Green Party official described him as simply a “placeholder candidate” but in the same piece Eckhardt’s campaign manager says he plans to run a competitive campaign.
In addition to the three major-party candidates on the ballot, it also appears that Ben Chipman, a longtime Green leader and “candidate coordinator” for the state party, will be entering the race as an independent, as long as his plan to buy a house in the district and establish residency works out.
In the Press Herald, Chipman is quoted as saying that “Being independent allows the debate to be more open and not limited to a party platform,” but it seems obvious that he’s still angling to represent the Greens in the election. Should whichever candidate win the Green Party nomination resign, Chipman would be in a position to become the party’s candidate. He has already qualified for clean elections funding.
119 isn’t the only district where the Equality Maine PAC has chosen a candidate. Public records also show a series of expenditures supporting Jim Dill of Old Town in District 14, where he’s mounting a primary challenge to Rep. Richard Blanchard, a Democrat who voted against marriage equality.
In District 120, we find a slightly more lively Green primary, with recent Green Party Chair and current Portland Charter Committee member Anne Trevorrow (she of the misspelled signs ) and taxi company owner Charles Bragdon, (who recently ran for city council as a proud Democrat) both seeking the chance to unseat Democratic incumbent Diane Russell. This will be an interesting race to watch and represents the first contested primary in the party’s history.
The District 116 Republican primary, also in Portland, has seen an interesting clash of views. Somali-born Badr Sharif, a USM student and a Muslim, is facing off against currency trader Kenneth Capron, who won the nomination in 2008 and, according to the Press Herald , runs a Web site where he describes Muslims as “enemies of Christianity” who have “penetrated our schools, church organizations, financial institutions, politics and beyond.” I’m not sure they’ll find much common ground on that issue.
Capron isn’t the most extreme candidate in a Republican primary however. That honor would have to go to Jarody, the Republican who legally dropped his last name and who was convinced by party leaders to end his House bid in 2008 due to his tendency to write about rape, pedophilia, and other terrible things on the Internet. He faces Bill Logan in District 57, part of Augusta.
There are too many interesting primaries to get to all of them, but I do want to mention two last races in central Maine.
In Bangor’s District 16, former Representative Pat Blanchette is facing off against current Representative Steve Butterfield for the Democratic nomination. Butterfield won the seat after term limits forced Blanchette from office in 2008, but now she apparently wants it back. Blanchette made the news this week when, in her role as a city councilor, she advocated for the council to consider a request by the owner of Diva’s strip club to relax Bangor’s nudity ordinance.
A similar race is playing out in Orrington and Bucksport, where former Representative Dick Campbell (R-Mallinckrodt ) is trying to make his way back into the House at the expense of current District 40 Representative Kim Rosen (wife of Senator Richard Rosen). Campbell is more widely known in his hometown of Orrington, while Rosen has more support in her hometown of Bucksport. When I was at the polls in Orrington a few weeks ago (working against Campbell on the Holtrachem referendum , which we lost by twenty-four votes) I was surprised to see only Rosen show up. She spent the whole day shaking hands and building support. Campbell voted absentee.