PORTLAND — The Republican primary race for the state House seat in District 116 pits a traditional constitutionalist who has concerns about the Islamic faith against a Somali immigrant who is Muslim and wants to promote opportunities for small businesses.

Kenneth Capron, 59, faces Badr Sharif, 21, in the June 8 primary race for the seat held by Charles Harlow, who isn’t seeking re-election. The district covers the Riverton and Barron Center neighborhoods.

Capron is a self-employed currency trader who recently founded the Maine Center for Constitutional Studies. According to its website, maineccs.org, the center was established to promote stronger adherence to the U.S. Constitution to “negate the forces of corruption that have come to dominate politics and our daily lives.”

The website includes a newsletter, Franklin’s Journal, which opposes progressive legislation such as health care reform and includes a link to a National Rifle Association site. It also describes Muslims as enemies of Christianity who have “penetrated our schools, church organizations, financial institutions, politics and beyond.”

When interviewed for this story, Capron said he was unaware that Sharif is Muslim and would have to withhold judgment on whether it should be an issue in the primary.

“If he is (Muslim), I would have concerns about that because of the fundamentals of their beliefs,” Capron said, noting that he has attended several seminars that described Islam and the challenges it poses to U.S. security and freedoms.

Sharif was born in Somalia, graduated from Portland High School and is studying political science at Southern Maine Community College. He also works as a customer service representative for Unum.

Sharif said Capron doesn’t understand Islam and voters shouldn’t be concerned that he is Muslim or an immigrant.

“The people blowing up stuff and killing people do not represent Islam,” Sharif said. “I am a peaceful person. “I believe Jesus was one of the first prophets, before Mohammed.”

Sharif said his experience as an immigrant gives him a different perspective on problems facing Portland, but he would represent the interests of all residents. “I’m not going to only represent immigrants,” he said.

Sharif said he wants to promote education, fight crime and make Maine more welcoming to small businesses so they can create jobs for people who are on welfare.

“A lot of small businesses are going out of business, crime is going up and nobody seems to be doing anything about it,” Sharif said. “The city is becoming like a Third World country. I feel like a lot of white people don’t want to confront the issue because they don’t want to be labeled a racist, but I’m not afraid of criticism.”

Capron said he believes his community ties and name recognition from running for the District 116 seat two years ago will help him win the primary. And while he shares many goals with conservative tea party members, he said he favors education over their efforts to incite revolution.

Capron said many people are making uninformed judgments about various hot-button issues, such as alternative energy sources and global warming, which he believes is the result of a natural cycle and not manmade.

“I want to protect the environment and improve air quality for my grandkids, but I don’t need to buy into global warming to justify it,” Capron said.

Capron wants to create jobs to reduce welfare and increase taxable income because “we’ve cut (the state budget) pretty deep this year and we can’t cut much more.”

He also wants to promote aquaculture, make the most of Maine’s natural resources and develop clean energy programs that are self-sustaining.

“I grew up in the America that the Founding Fathers fought to create,” Capron said. “I want to make sure the world (my grandchildren) inherit isn’t too dissimilar from the one I grew up in.”

Both candidates said they would oppose future same-sex marriage legislation.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: kbouchard@pressherald.com