PORTLAND – Ben Meiklejohn, at-large member of the Portland School Committee, has announced he will run for the state House of Representatives.
Meiklejohn, a 34-year-old Green Independent Party member, will run in District 120, which includes Munjoy Hill, the Old Port and portions of the West End. He announced his candidacy at the Greens’ caucus last week.
If elected, Meiklejohn plans to serve simultaneously in the Legislature and on the School Committee for one year.
“Since the Legislature is only in session from January to May or June, there would really only be a five- or six-month overlap during which I would be conducting the business of both offices,” he said. He said he would not run for re-election to the School Committee in 2007.
Meiklejohn said he hopes to expand the work he has done as a School Committee member. “I hear every week that people are pleased with the effect I have had on the committee,” he said.
He also said he hopes to offer “a fresh approach to state politics.”
Meiklejohn was re-elected to the school committee in 2004 and is serving his fifth year.
The District 120 seat is held by Rep. Ben Dudley, a Democrat. Because of term limits, Dudley cannot seek re-election. Democrat Anne M. Rand, who previously served three terms in the Senate and three terms in the House, is Meiklejohn’s only opponent.
Meiklejohn said that he has a laundry list of issues that he believes are important to the area, including lead abatement, sewage treatment and containment, tax reform, salmon fishing regulation and, of course, education.
Meiklejohn has been a highly visible member of the Portland School Committee, particularly over the last year, when the committee has been in the throes of partisan disagreements on policy. Last fall, he was embroiled in a fierce debate over a proposed 3 percent salary increase for Superintendent of Schools Mary Jo O’Connor. Meiklejohn publicly pushed for a 1.5 percent raise for O’Connor, but eventually relented.
Along with fellow Greens Jason Toothaker and Stephen Spring, and, to a lesser extent, Susan Hopkins, who was elected this past fall, Meiklejohn has been instrumental in promoting several School Committee initiatives. Some, like the city’s current “opt-out” policy for military recruiters, have been very successful. Others, such as the “Green Initiative” to have every child entering kindergarten in 2006 graduate with a college degree by 2023, have been scuttled by the committee.
Meiklejohn was chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party from 2000 to 2004. He is a graduate student at University of Southern Maine, studying music performance for oboe. In 2004, the was elected student representative to the USM board of trustees. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat in House District 31 in 1998.