| PORTLAND – The departure of four-term Rep. Benjamin Dudley opened up the Maine House District 120 seat, which covers Portland’s Munjoy Hill.|
Three candidates filed papers, but Jeffrey Ferland, the Republican, formally announced his withdrawal from the race Tuesday, leaving Democrat Anne Rand and Green Independent Ben Meiklejohn in the race.
Rand is a former legislator, who has served in both the House and Senate. Meiklejohn is on the Portland School Committee, a position he has held since 2001.
“People are really thirsty for change for something different than the established political parties,” Meiklejohn said.
Meiklejohn, 35, campaigns on the Green Independent ticket; he chaired the state party from 2000-2004. Meiklejohn has also served as president of the University of Maine student government, he volunteered for AmeriCorps at Munjoy Hill’s Community Policing Center, and he currently is an at-large member of the Portland School Committee. His previous experience has some carry-over to this campaign, he said, and he intends to complete his term on the school board if elected to the Legislature.
“Education is one of my priorities,” Meiklejohn said adding that he believes strong economies are backed by good educational systems. “We need to invest in education,” he said.
Meiklejohn said better education doesn’t necessarily mean higher taxes; comprehensive tax reform is his second priority.
“People are just beside themselves with taxes,” he said.
Given the influx of seasonal visitors who use state services, Meiklejohn hopes to enact tax reform by authorizing municipalities to develop a tax structure – additional taxes levied on hotels and lodging – that might benefit permanent residents.
“We need to do more to export the tax burden,” he said.
A house painter and a musician, Meiklejohn is single and lives on Exchange Street.
“The main reason I’m running is because I believe, from my experience, that you really can make a difference,” Rand said.
Rand, 60, a Democrat, said she has seen the possibilities as a representative; she served four terms in the state House and two in the state Senate.
Rand introduced a bill to maintain affordable housing, as it related to Munjoy South, and soon found it had statewide appeal. She also co-sponsored bills on sexual harassment in the workplace and helped pass legislation recognizing the effect of video display terminals on carpal tunnel syndrome in the workplace.
This year, taxes are her top priority.
“I believe tax reform is absolutely the first thing that has to be addressed,” she said.
She hopes to send out a synopsis of taxes to each household and “get everyone on the same page” regarding how the state gets money into the treasury.
Three changes Rand would work toward include: an increase in the minimum taxable income for the state income tax, a broadened sales tax and local option taxation. She said an additional 1 percent meals and lodging tax in Portland might benefit the city and halt increases in property tax.
She also wants health care reform: “I’d like to improve and expand Dirigo,” Rand said, “and move toward universal access.”
The former nurse lives on Munjoy Hill with her husband, Dale, and their daughter, Alicia. The couple own a small business, Rand Printing,.
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