CAPE ELIZABETH — At a town hall forum broadcast live on public access television Wednesday night, the two candidates in a special election in House District 121 asked residents for their votes on Aug. 16.
Republican Nancy Thompson and Democrat Kim Monaghan-Derrig took questions from the audience and from callers watching at home. Both women are 52 and neither one has ever run for state office.
From the outset, Thompson positioned herself as a moderate and a consensus builder who would work across the aisle in Augusta. Cutting spending and lowering taxes are among her priorities.
Monaghan-Derrig, meanwhile, said she would aggressively stand up to Gov. Paul LePage and his administration, whose rollbacks on environmental protection and other policies are “extreme” and “based on ideology.”
Thompson and Monaghan-Derrig are running for the seat that was vacated in May by Cynthia Dill. The Democrat left her House seat to run for an open state Senate seat, to which she was elected on May 10.
Thompson is an insurance agent and a 25-year resident of Cape Elizabeth with a record of community service. She is a well-known advocate for suicide prevention and education about mental illness. Her 18-year-old son, Timmy, the middle child of five, took his own life in July 2004.
Monaghan-Derrig, who grew up in Cape Elizabeth with six siblings, works in tourism marketing. She serves on the town’s school board, has a background in economic development and is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at the Muskie School of Public Service in Portland.
Wednesday night’s forum was set up by students in Ted Jordan’s Advanced Placement government class at Cape Elizabeth High School.
Students handed out notecards to audience members, who then submitted questions throughout the 45-minute forum. Senior Charlotte Rutty read the questions to the candidates.
Several questions focused on job creation, and both Thompson and Monaghan-Derrig identified that as their No. 1 goal.
“We need to spend less, we need to tax less, we need to regulate less,” Thompson said. Young people leave the state for college, and those who want to come back to Maine, she said, are left with “huge loans and unfinished dreams.”
The state must improve the business climate for entrepreneurs to give future generations opportunities, Thompson said.
Monaghan-Derrig said jobs can be created not by weakening the state’s environmental regulations, but by embracing and protecting the natural resources. Sustainable forestry, wind power and tidal power are all potential growth areas, she said.
Thompson used her opening and closing statements to emphasize her background as a small business owner and a volunteer with many civic organizations. She said she has volunteered in Cape Elizabeth schools for 21 years and at St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church for 12 years, has been active in the Junior League of Portland for 21 years and is vice president of the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, where she has served on the board for five years.
“It’s the right time for me to give back to this community that has provided me and my family with so much,” Thompson said.
Monaghan-Derrig noted her volunteer record over the past 15 years, including her service on the school board.
She summed up her platform with “the four E’s”: economic development through job creation, education, the environment, and equal rights for all. She supports marriage equality, a public health care option and same-day voter registration.
“This special election is about who is best qualified to represent the real views of Cape residents, and who is prepared to stand up to the misguided agenda of the administration,” she said.
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: