SOUTH PORTLAND — A Republican who became the face of an embattled Cape Elizabeth gun club and a Democrat who has championed renters’ rights are seeking the open seat in House District 32.

Democrat Christopher Kessler and Republican Tammy Walter are vying to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, who did not seek re-election in the district, which includes parts of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

Hamann, who said he decided not to run again “to pursue new career options,” also received backlash after what he said was a satirical 2017 Facebook post that suggested he would harm President Trump.

Kessler, 35, lives in South Portland and works as an energy auditor. He said he would like to focus on increasing funding for residential energy efficiency and improving the state’s policy on solar power. He said he disagrees in particular with the Public Utilities Commission’s recent decision to reduce compensation for solar power generated by residences.

Kessler said he supports experience-based learning and free community college, as well as publicly funded health care for all Maine residents.

Kessler has also been a leading advocate for affordable housing and renters’ rights, and previously served on the city’s Affordable Housing Committee. He resigned in protest, however, after criticizing the panel’s composition as unrepresentative of the community and said its findings did not include any “meaningful protection for renters.”Kessler is a Maine Clean Elections candidate and had raised $8,600 as of the latest filing date.

Walter, 59, lives in Cape Elizabeth and is retired. She is making her first foray into politics after leading the Spurwink Rod and Gun club through a dispute between the club and its neighbors in the Cross Hill subdivision. The complaints about safety and noise resulted in a shooting range ordinance.

Walter said she wants to understand what the people of her district care about, and believes there is a lot of common ground in Augusta, which, she says, is not as divisive as the national political scene.

She said she would like to focus on criminal justice reform, and believes outside-the-box thinking is needed to address the state opioid crisis. She suggested a two-pronged approach – stiffer criminal penalties for drug dealers, and peer-based programs.

She said other concerns she has heard by going door-to-door include higher taxes and the lack of affordable housing.

Walter is a Clean Elections candidate and had raised $5,700 as of the latest filing date.

Juliette Laaka can be contact- ed at 781-3661, ext. 106, or at:

[email protected]