Voters’ Guide 2008: State House District 119
By Chris Busby
Like sweat pants, prostitution and Deering Oaks, Rep. Herb Adams is a Parkside institution. The Democratic legislator and noted orator and historian has represented this neighborhood in one capacity or another for most of the past 18 years, including several terms as a state rep. over the course of two decades, and two three-year terms on the Portland School Committee.
Yet despite his stature and history of support, Adams has been looking increasingly vulnerable to challengers from the Green Independent Party in recent years. In 2004, Green Jeffery Spencer came out of nowhere to come within 302 votes of toppling the Dem. Two years later, unknown Green Matt Reading was just 159 ballot marks shy of victory.
This year, another Green who’s never run for office before is trying his luck: Dan Jenkins. Jenkins, 25, chaired the Greens’ Portland political committee for about a year before stepping down to make this run. He works with developmentally disabled young people as a residential advisor at Woodfords Family Services. Single, he holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Goucher College, and had completed half of the work toward a master’s in public policy at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service before taking this semester off.
Jenkins’ other past political experience includes work on former Green Rep. John Eder’s failed re-election campaign of ’06, and involvement with the successful effort to maintain the number of polling places in Portland.
Adams, 55, is an adjunct faculty member at USM who teaches policymaking, Maine government and history. He attended USM, but did not graduate, and is also single. Adams is a co-founder of the Parkside Neighborhood Association, and has served on the Portland Parks Commission.
District 119 also includes Portland’s Bayside neighborhood and the northern side of downtown Congress Street. A Republican candidate, Ryan Hendrickson, is also on the ballot in this race, but is not actively campaigning and did not return a call requesting his participation in this guide.
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?
Herb Adams: Would support a ban. Assault weapons “hunt only the two-legged animal.”
Dan Jenkins: Would support restrictions. “Assault weapons have very little practical use other than mass murder.”
Do you support the proposal to allow a casino to operate in Oxford County?
Adams: No. “I have never voted in favor of the various casino proposals, either at the Legislature or the ballot box. Gambling is not a state economic strategy.”
Jenkins: Will “probably vote yes,” but ultimately may not vote on the ballot question authorizing the casino at all; believes residents of that county, not the entire state, should decide.
Should Maine abolish its lottery and scratch ticket games?
Adams: “I would support that.” Repeated, “Gambling is not a state economic strategy.” Noted the lottery’s history as a “stop-gap” budget measure, passed during a session in the early 1970s, that “never went away; in fact, it grew.”
Jenkins: No, “though I get angry every time I see a television commercial” for state lottery and scratch tickets; would cut the ad budget for the games.
Do you favor any further restrictions on abortion?
What measures would you support to make the state’s medical marijuana law more effective?
Adams: Maintain a statewide patient registry standardized with similar lists in Rhode Island and Vermont; “perhaps a state I.D. issued for those who are legitimate medical users.”
Jenkins: Supports decriminalization of possession of small amounts for all adults. Would support creation of a distribution system for patients with prescriptions.
Would you support a statewide ban on smoking on bar and restaurant patios and decks?
Adams: Yes, pending a closer look at the details and enforcement issues.
Jenkins: No. “An arbitrary piece of rope does not stop secondhand smoke.”
Should Portland and other municipalities be allowed to levy a local-option sales tax?
Adams: Yes; favors allowing the tax to be levied countywide, with a revenue-sharing arrangement between towns and cities and a mandate that “the bulk of [the revenues] go to property tax relief.”
Jenkins: Yes, “as long as it’s capped at a certain percent.”
Should the state provide money to build a megaberth at Ocean Gateway?
Adams: “I think a case could be made that if a megaberth is to be built, the state should have some part in it.”
Jenkins: “Probably not,” but would not necessarily oppose funding if the state was willing to provide it.
What’s your position on Question 1, the referendum to repeal the beverage tax?
Adams: Opposes repeal. “If suddenly it’s the duty of government to bail out banks with billions, it’s certainly in the interest of Maine government to bring affordable healthcare to Mainers.” Added, “I didn’t like the sudden way it was presented to us… but it was either vote for this [tax increase] or let [Dirigo] die for lack of funding.”
Jenkins: Opposes repeal, but called the process by which the tax was passed in the Legislature “downright cowardly.”
Should intelligent design be taught in public school science classes?
Adams: No. “It should be taught in Sunday school classes.”
Jenkins: No — “in religion or philosophy classes, fine.”
Should state lawmakers consider making the legal drinking age in Maine 18 again?
Adams: “If I had to vote on that today, I would say no.”
Jenkins: Yes. “At least we should talk about it. Having it at 21 puts it in the back rooms, where people are binge drinking with no responsible oversight.”
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.