PORTLAND — Voters in House District 41 will have a new face representing them in the statehouse in November and three local Democrats are hoping to be just that individual.

“I have been working in and around the Legislature and politics for 20 years,” said Benjamin Grant, who is running against Laurie Davis and Sam Zager for the Democratic nomination to represent the district, which includes the Deering Center, Deering Highlands, Woodfords Corner and Oakdale neighborhoods. “I view this as an opportune time to go in and work on policy myself.”

No Republicans entered the District 41 race, so barring a write-in candidate win, the winner of the July 14 primary election will replace Erik Jorgensen, who is being termed out of office.

Davis sees now as the perfect time to have the district represented by a woman for the first time in a generation.

“When I reflect upon it, at the base of why I am running is the same reason I ran for the Charter Commission in 2009. I want there to be more women in places of decision making,” she said.

The current Portland delegation has one female member in the House: Rachel Talbot Ross, who is running unopposed for another term as the District 40 representative.

“Women’s voice at the table really makes a difference. Mine has. Sometimes we approach politics differently,” Davis said.

After years of advocating in Augusta and Washington on health care issues, Zager, a primary care physician, said he is running to answer a lifelong question he has asked himself, “how can I serve those around me?”

“Orchestrating systemic racial justice; ensuring environmental protection and climate response; creating universal and sustainable access to high-quality healthcare, public education and libraries; and protecting the dignity and interests of workers in a fair economy are all crucial,” Zager said.

“As a primary care physician, I’m used to addressing a host of issues with a patient,” he added. “The Legislature does the same for the general public.”

Education funding is an issue that both Davis and Grant would like to tackle in Augusta, particularly ensuring the state pays 55% the cost of public education in the state as mandated by voters in 2004.

“I’ve seen the difference state funding makes in making local decisions easier,” Grant said.

“That is the single biggest thing that will improve where Portland is heading, which is becoming a minimum receiver,” said Davis, a former member of the Portland Board of Education. “When you have the state’s largest and most diverse school district receive the legal minimum, that seems to be a disconnect.”

Davis said she is also interested in improving the state’s foster care system and increasing the number of foster children who go on to higher education.

Grant, an attorney who specializes in employment law, would like the Legislature to revive the paid sick leave bill that didn’t get traction last session and also look into programs for unpaid leave and parental leave.

“I’d like the government to get back on the side of workers more,” he said.

Zager said the biggest issue the Legislature will have to deal with for the foreseeable future is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Turning our attention toward reopening the economy and reestablishing life in this new reality, is certainly its own challenge. The safety and health of workers, customers, students, seniors and the public at large must continue to be at the forefront of our minds,” he said.

Davis said in general she is pleased with how the state and the city have dealt with the issue.

“This has been profoundly challenging. The governor has really tried to chart a course that is data- and science-focused and I am very thankful for that,” Davis said.

She said that focus on data needs to continue as parts of the economy start to reopen.

“Evidence-based measures and the confidence that those measures will work are both important for reinvigorating commerce and other aspects of life in a manner that is safe for all of us as workers, customers and members of the public across the ages,” Zager said.

Grant said it is hard for states to respond to something like the coronavirus when “you have no federal plan.” Such a plan, he said, would alleviate some of the pressure on states.

“I hope there is a real thorough after-action plan when this is not a factor in our lives anymore so we can have a public review of what happened, what worked and what didn’t,” Grant said.

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