PORTLAND – A prominent gay activist won Tuesday’s Democratic primary in House District 119, defeating a Somali immigrant who supports traditional marriage.

Jill Barkley received 63 percent of the vote — 380 to 221 — against Mohammed Dini, winning the Democratic nomination to represent Bayside, East Bayside and Parkside, the most densely populated and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Maine.

House 119 has traditionally been a Democratic seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Herb Adams because of term limits.

“We’re going to continue to work hard and not taking anything for granted,” Barkley said Tuesday night.

Barkley, 29, who was endorsed by the League of Young Voters for her activism on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, made gay marriage the defining issue between the two Democrats.

Dini, 25, said his stance on gay marriage shouldn’t define him as a candidate. While he supports traditional marriage because he is a Muslim, he said, his personal views wouldn’t affect his votes in the Legislature. He said same-sex marriage is an issue for voters to decide, not legislators.

Barkley has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver. She is policy coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. She said her job has opened her eyes to the struggles that many Mainers face.

She said she would support early childhood education, higher education and tax reform instead of damaging budget cuts.

Dini, a refugee of Somalia’s civil war, moved to Portland with his family when he was about 12 and grew up Parkside and Kennedy Park.

He dropped out of Portland High School and later earned a General Educational Development diploma. Dini attends the University of Southern Maine, where he leads the College Transition Assistance Program for at-risk high school students.

In the Green Independent primary race for the District 119 seat, Christian McNeil received 57 percent of the vote — 21 to 16 — to beat Kris Eckhardt.

McNeil announced just before the election that he had dropped out of the race.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]