Two veteran state lawmakers and a political newcomer are vying to represent part of Portland that includes some of Maine’s most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods as well as the cash-strapped University of Southern Maine.

The race for House District 40 is one of several three-person State House races this November in Portland, a historically Democratic stronghold where Green Independent Party members and politically unaffiliated candidates are having more success at the ballot box.

Two of the candidates will likely be familiar to many voters in Portland’s Parkside and West Bayside neighborhoods: Rep. Ben Chipman, the incumbent, and Herb Adams, the man Chipman replaced in 2010. The third candidate in the race is Republican Mark Lockman, a substitute teacher and athletic coach in Portland-area schools.

Chipman, 39, is a community organizer and property manager seeking a third two-year term representing District 40, which also includes parts of the Oakdale and East Bayside neighborhoods. Chipman is one of five independent, or unenrolled, lawmakers serving in the 186-member Maine Legislature.

“I feel like I have been an effective legislator,” Chipman said, noting that 10 of his bills have become law. “It’s a part-time Legislature. But when we are in session, it is a full-time job for me. I haven’t missed a day in the four years I have been there.”

Herb Adams is a Democrat known for his knowledge of Portland history and for his old-fashioned oratory style.

“I have the energy, experience, enthusiasm and accomplishments,” said Adams, who served eight years in the State House.

Lockman did not respond to requests for an interview and did not participate in a recent candidate forum.

As in many of Portland’s legislative races, the contest appears to come down to the Democrat and progressive-minded independent. This is the second match-up between the two experienced lawmakers, who have similar politics but disparate political styles.

Chipman first won election after Adams was prevented from running because of term limits. Adams returned in 2012 to challenge Chipman, who got 50 percent of the vote to Adams’ 34 percent. The Republican candidate, Gwendolyne Tuttle, finished third with 8.4 percent of the 3,802 votes cast.

Adams, an adjunct professor of history and government at Southern Maine Community College, is a throwback to long-lost political times with his loquacious floor or committee speeches and seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Maine and Portland history. Adams was also easy to spot in the State House corridors, preferring a blue windbreaker and sneakers over the State House standard blazer and dress shoes.

Adams is campaigning on three key affordability issues: making K-12 and higher education more affordable, increasing the availability of affordable housing through bonds targeted at new development and weatherization of existing homes, and expanding access to – and the affordability of – health care.

Chipman is lower-key by nature but also by the fact that, as an independent, he does not have the backing of a political party. Chipman and other independent lawmakers are given legislative staff and office space in Augusta, however. Chipman votes more often with the Democrats but said his nonpartisan status allows him to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“I have never been a Democrat or a Republican and don’t see the need to register” with a party, Chipman said. “I try to work with everybody and be effective. It hasn’t really been a barrier in any way and, in some ways, I think it has been a strength.”

Chipman said his top campaign priorities are college affordability and protecting programs at USM, expanding access to health care, protecting the environment and encouraging development of renewable energy.

District 40 encompasses two Portland peninsula neighborhoods disproportionately affected by some of the hottest policy debates playing out in Augusta, including welfare, immigration policy and education funding.

Many of the city’s social services programs, including the homeless shelters, are located within the district, and the neighborhoods are home to a thriving immigrant community. Redistricting also folded USM into the redrawn district.

Both Chipman and Adams have pledged to work to defend against budget cuts to social services, such as General Assistance and substance abuse programs. The two have also said they support expanding Medicaid – or MaineCare – eligibility to additional low-income Mainers, something that has been prevented by multiple vetoes by Gov. Paul LePage.

Both Adams and Chipman served on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee and have said protecting the environment is a key priority.

Chipman has focused on reducing the flow of trash to the state’s landfills and sponsored a bill vetoed by LePage that would have imposed a moratorium on transportation of tar sands oil through Maine. As a legislator, Adams sponsored a bill to prohibit cruise ships from emptying their sewage tanks in Portland Harbor – a policy that has since been replicated by other port communities in Maine.

The University of Southern Maine’s financial struggles have also emerged as a campaign topic.

Earlier this month, USM officials announced plans to cut 50 faculty positions, eliminate two academic programs and merge other programs as they grapple with a $16 million budget shortfall next fiscal year. Those cuts come on the heels of cutbacks last year in response to a $14 million deficit.

Both Chipman and Adams said they would work in Augusta to increase state funding for USM and Maine’s other public institutions. And they agreed that USM needs to improve its agreements with the state’s community colleges to allow seamless transfer of credits.

Earlier this year, legislative leaders killed a Chipman bill that would have imposed a 12-month moratorium on faculty, staff and program cuts at USM pending a comprehensive review of University of Maine System finances.

Adams, meanwhile, is raising concerns about what he sees as a move away from liberal arts education at USM as it transitions to become more a “metropolitan university.”

“The bottom line is inadequate funding,” Adams said.

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Correction: This story was revised at 10:50 a.m., Oct. 27, 2014. To reflect that independent Rep. Ben Chipman is assigned legislative staff and office space in Augusta.


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