Voters’ Guide 2008: State House District 113
By Chris Busby
The 113th district of the Maine House of Representatives includes Portland’s North Deering neighborhood and a slice of southern Falmouth. For the past four years, it’s been represented by Democrat John Brautigam of Falmouth, who narrowly bested a Republican challenger in 2004 and won again in ’06 over the same guy (Portland Republican David Elowitch) by a slightly more comfortable margin.
This year, rather than seek a third term, Brautigam is gunning to be Maine’s next attorney general, a post chosen by vote of the Legislature. On Dec. 3, state lawmakers will choose between Brautigam, Democratic State Rep. Janet Mills of Farmington, and fellow Dem Rep. Sean Faircloth of Bangor.
Back in 113, two Portlanders are facing off to replace Brautigam: Democrat Joan Cohen, a resident of Deepwood Drive, and Republican Jeff Martin, who resides on Hope Avenue. Neither has run for public office before.
Cohen, 45, is married to Portland City Councilor Jim Cohen, a former mayor who decided not to seek a third Council term this year in part due to his wife’s decision to run. These days, Joan Cohen is at home with the couple’s two kids. A former attorney, she has a bachelor’s degree in history for the University of Illinois and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.
Cohen’s copious community volunteer work includes two years as president of the Lyseth Elementary School PTA, and service on the boards of Family Crisis Services, Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, and the Jewish Community Alliance. She currently serves on the board of Portland Stage Company.
Martin is the 37-year-old owner of a property management company. He is also married with two kids, and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Southern Maine.
Martin’s no slouch on the volunteer front, either. He has coached and refereed high school hockey and currently blows the whistle at college-level games. He’s been active raising funds for Ronald McDonald House and involved in Maine Handicapped Skiing, a recreational program for children and adults with physical disabilities.
Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. For additional notes on some questions, see the bottom of this guide.
Do you support a ban or any further restrictions on assault weapons?
Joan Cohen: Would “make sure guns appropriate to warfare” are limited to military use, “and those appropriate for hunting be permitted.”
Jeffrey Martin: No. “I support what the current law is.”
Do you support the proposal to allow a casino to operate in Oxford County?
Cohen: No. Said, “I don’t believe that gambling is economic development,” but added, “I would reluctantly consider limited, regulated gambling in Maine in lieu of [the prevalence of] Internet gambling. It exists, so I think we need to acknowledge that.”
Martin: Undecided; is “not confident” in the Legislature’s ability to amend the proposal to his liking.
Should Maine abolish its lottery and scratch ticket games?
Cohen: No. Is concerned Maine would lose revenue to other states.
Do you favor any further restrictions on abortion?
Martin: Would oppose government funding for abortion through the Maine Care public health system.
What measures would you support to make the state’s medical marijuana law more effective?
Cohen: “I guess I would want to make sure that it is available for the people who need it identified in the law, but make sure it goes no further.”
Martin: No specific ideas, but supports medical marijuana and believes the decision should be entirely between a patient and their doctor.
Would you support a statewide ban on smoking on bar and restaurant patios and decks?
Cohen: Yes. “I think citizens throughout the state and their children should be able to enjoy outdoor cafes.”
Should Portland and other municipalities be allowed to levy a local-option sales tax?
Cohen: Yes, but only for specific purposes that would benefit the “public good … something benefiting Portland’s economy or cultural economy.” Does not have a specific project or proposal in mind.
Martin: “I think that option should be available, though if you ask me, ‘Should Portland do one?’ I’d say, ‘No.’ But local communities should have more power to decide how their taxes are used.”
Should the state provide money to build a megaberth at Ocean Gateway?
Cohen: Yes. “I think this facility would benefit the entire state.”
Martin: Yes, “if we can’t do it through a private company, through private funds.”
What’s your position on Question 1, the referendum to repeal the beverage tax?
Cohen: Favors repeal. “I oppose the beer and wine tax for the purpose of funding Dirigo.”
Martin: “I will support repeal, absolutely.” Also objects to funding Dirigo by this means.
Should intelligent design be taught in public school science classes?
Cohen: “No. We should teach real science in the public schools.”
Martin: Not in science classes, but said, “I think there’s room for intelligent design in any other humanities or social science class, along with the teaching of other religions.”
Should state lawmakers consider making the legal drinking age in Maine 18 again?
Cohen: Undecided; “I haven’t really thought about that.”
A few notes on the questions…
• As compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: At present, there are no state restrictions on the sale or possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons in Maine. Gun owners are not required to register with law enforcement authorities. Gun dealers do not need a state license, but must keep a record of on-premises sales. Individuals and collectors are not required to keep a record or perform a background check on those who purchase assault weapons at gun shows or through private transactions. There are no restrictions on ammunition magazines that allow the shooter to fire scores of rounds without reloading. Cities and towns are prohibited from imposing any restrictions stricter than state law. There is no waiting period required for gun sales.
• According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Maine currently restricts access to abortion by prohibiting public funding for the procedure for low-income women eligible for state-funded health care. Women under 18 must have the written consent of one parent or other adult family member to get an abortion; that mandate cannot be waived in cases of rape, incest or child abuse, but can be waived if a doctor determines the young woman’s health is threatened and she is of sound mind to give consent. Individual health care providers, hospitals and clinics can refuse to perform abortions with no legal ramifications. No woman may have the procedure without being advised by the attending physician of the estimated length of her pregnancy and the risks associated with pregnancy and abortion.
• Ten years ago, Maine voters passed an initiative allowing doctors to recommend marijuana to patients suffering from a handful of specific illnesses and symptoms (including nausea and wasting syndrome resulting from AIDS and cancer treatments, glaucoma, epileptic seizures, and muscle spasms associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis). Patients can grow a few plants and possess 2.5 ounces or less of the drug, but there is no formal or state-sanctioned system to provide the medicine (or the seeds or plants needed to start growing), leading most patients to turn to the black market or forgo the medicine’s benefits.
• A “local option” sales tax is a tax levied by towns and cities — typically an increase on the state sales tax on meals and lodging — that allows the municipality to keep the additional revenue (rather than send it to Augusta) for local purposes and projects. State lawmakers from cities like Portland have tried unsuccessfully for many years to convince their more rural and suburban colleagues to allow such a tax.
• The “megaberth” is a large dock capable of handling modern cruise ships that was originally planned to be built as part of the Ocean Gateway marine passenger terminal next to the Maine State Pier. When Ocean Gateway ran over budget, the megaberth was cut, and city officials are now trying to figure out how to get the money to build it. Ocean Gateway was built using a mix of local, state and federal funds, and some argue that because ships using the berth would bring an economic benefit to communities beyond Portland, the state should pony up more dough to finish the job.