The names on the ballot in the Democratic primary in Portland’s House District 40 are familiar ones.

Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross faces a challenge from former state representative Herb Adams. The district encompasses the western half of the city’s peninsula and part of the Oakdale neighborhood.

Adams held the seat from 2002 until 2010, when he had to step down because of term limits. He ran again in 2012 and 2014, but lost both years to Democrat Ben Chipman, who is now in the state Senate. Talbot Ross defeated Adams and Anna Kellar in the party’s primary in 2016.

No Republican has filed to run in the general election this year, which means the primary winner is likely to secure the seat. Candidates running without party affiliation have until June 1 to submit petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office.

If re-elected, Talbot Ross hopes to build on the work she did in her first term.

“I have been really humbled and honored to serve as a woman of color in the state Legislature,” Talbot Ross, 57, said. “I hope that we can have more diverse representation in our body politic because our communities are more diverse.”

Talbot Ross has been involved in numerous civil rights campaigns in Maine. One of her current roles is as chairwoman of the Maine State Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Now the director of a fellowship program, she was Portland’s longtime director of equal opportunity and multicultural affairs. Her father, former state Rep. Gerald Talbot of Portland, was Maine’s first black legislator.

In her first term, Talbot Ross sponsored bills related to housing security, mental health training for corrections personnel and tax incentives for businesses that hire people from traditionally marginalized communities. Four of the bills she sponsored passed and are waiting for funding from the Legislature. One of her priorities was to involve people who are typically underrepresented directly in her work. For example, she worked with local homeless advocates to draft a homeless bill of rights, which she wants to submit in the next session.

“I think that work shows that I honor the lived experiences of the people,” she said. “I want to continue to address the issues of those who are suffering and struggling the most.” In a second term, Talbot Ross said she would also reintroduce a bill to ensure access to in-person visitation in county jails; her first version was vetoed by the governor. She said she would also work to expand prevention and treatment related to the opioid crisis, and she hopes the Legislature will pass gun control measures similar to the background check referendum that failed in 2016.

Adams said his “energy, experience and enthusiasm” are his assets as a candidate. He decided to run again so he could resume his work in the Legislature.

“The seat opens every two years, as my challengers always pointed out to me,” Adams, 63, said.

Adams works as an adjunct professor of history and social science at Southern Maine Community College. During his time in office, he led the creation of Opportunity Maine, a tax credit program that helps students pay off college debt. If elected, he’d like to expand that program to help students pay for two years of tuition at the community college level.

“The idea is to lift the burden of debt from Maine youth and keep the best and brightest minds here,” he said.

While in office, he also sponsored two Land for Maine’s Future bonds that helped preserve the state’s prized resources, like forests and lakes. He would like to see more.

If he returns to the Legislature, Adams wants to amend the school funding formula to include the financial measures like median incomes and the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch. That would be a more accurate measure of a district’s needs than property valuation, he said. He would also like to work on consumer protection issues related to utilities and other companies, an area of interest for him in the past.

As a policy maker, Adams said he views the state budget as “more than math.”

“State budgets are moral documents,” he said. “Where you put your money is where you put your principals, and people should always hold their politicians to that.”

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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