CAPE ELIZABETH — Democrat Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig defeated Republican Nancy Thompson in a special election Tuesday to win the District 121 seat in the Maine House of Representatives.
Monaghan-Derrig beat out Thompson in a tight race between political newcomers.
The unofficial results, posted by the town shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, showed 1,340 for Monaghan-Derrig and 1,164 for Thompson.
Both women are 52 and neither had ever run for state office.
“I’m thrilled to have been elected by the town of Cape Elizabeth. Having grown up here, I’m especially gratified that the voters chose me as their next representative,” Monaghan-Derrig said Tuesday night. “I’m going to go there and work hard and represent the views and values of Cape Elizabeth.”
Voting was steady throughout the day at the Cape Elizabeth High School cafeteria.
Town Clerk Debra Lane reported that 1,801 residents voted at the school, while 708 submitted absentee ballots. The overall turnout of 2,509 represented 33 percent of the town’s registered voters.
House District 121 covers most of Cape Elizabeth, except for some northern portions that are part of District 123.
The special election became necessary when Democrat Cynthia Dill vacated the District 121 seat this spring. Dill was elected to the state Senate in a special election held May 10.
Gov. Paul LePage set the election date for Aug. 16 in Cape Elizabeth because he wanted the District 121 opening filled before a special legislative session that’s set for Sept. 27. Lawmakers are expected to vote on proposed changes to Maine’s congressional districts.
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.
Monaghan-Derrig said she will likely step down from the Cape Elizabeth School Board before the November elections.
With just over a month to campaign, Monaghan-Derrig positioned herself as someone who will stand up to LePage, his administration and his Republican allies in the Legislature. She has said the governor’s policies, particularly rollbacks on environmental safeguards, are out of step with the values of Cape Elizabeth.
Monaghan-Derrig 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.
Richard Sullivan, a neurologist who has lived in Cape Elizabeth since 1976, said his vote Tuesday was a party-line vote.
“She is going to help balance out the Republican majority that we have now,” he said after casting his vote.
Sullivan said he is not comfortable with Republicans controlling the state House, the Senate and the governor’s office. “Nothing about the governor fits my world view,” he said.
With the election of Monaghan-Derrig, the House has 78 Republicans, 72 Democrats and one unenrolled member.
Zuzka Sladek said she appreciates Monaghan-Derrig’s background in education.
“She’s got a good track record,” said Sladek, who was born in Canada to Czechoslovakian parents. She became a citizen last year, and this was the second election in which she was able to vote.
During her door-to-door visits, Thompson told voters that she would think and vote independently in Augusta. She described herself as a consensus builder who would work toward ending political gridlock. Cutting spending, lowering taxes and bringing more jobs to Maine were her key talking points.
She has volunteered with Cape Elizabeth schools, St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church, the Junior League of Portland and several other organizations over the past 25 years.
Thompson is also vice president of the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, where she has served on the board since 2006.
Tom McAteer, an engineer who has lived in town since 1998, supported Thompson.
“The Democratic Party in Maine has lost track of the middle-class family,” McAteer said. “We need change, that’s what it comes down to.”
Perri Lawler said she has known Thompson for 20 years, and described the candidate as kind, intelligent, level-headed and cooperative.
“She is fair. She can look at things objectively,” Lawler said.
Monaghan-Derrig said she was glad for the opportunity to get to know Thompson.
“I want to thank Nancy for running a really hard-fought campaign,” Monaghan-Derrig said. “It was not easy. This was a challenging campaign in a short time period, and every moment counted. She is a wonderful woman who does great things for Cape Elizabeth.”
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]