WESTBROOK — Jim Violette and Suzanne Salisbury are vying for the Democratic nomination to run for the late Ann Peoples’ seat in the state House of Representatives.

The primary runoff in House District 35, which covers part of Westbrook, will be held July 14. Because no Republican candidates have entered the race, it is likely the winner of the primary will take the seat.

Both candidates have fiscal responsibility in their platforms and intend to reevaluate the formula for state revenue sharing, but they also have other individual focuses.

Salisbury, chairman of the school board’s finance committee, wants to tackle food insecurity within schools throughout Maine.

“The (Westbrook) School Committee added money to offer free breakfast and lunch for all schools, and I want to bring that to a statewide level, and how we can help other school districts do something similar. We know hungry kids don’t learn,” Salisbury said.

She also hopes to address sex trafficking in Maine by getting the state more involved with nonprofits that help trafficking survivors recover and also work to hold traffickers accountable.

“I don’t think people realize it’s a problem (here) and how pervasive it is. There can be anyone from 200 to 300 victims of sex trafficking a year,” Salisbury said.

In addition, “over the last month or so the issue of systemic racism also has reared its ugly head and the timing is now for us to make sure that momentum isn’t lost,” she said.

Salisbury, who does not favor defunding police departments, wants to promote community talks on racism. She also would fund trained crisis councilors who are now volunteers, such as those in the Trauma Intervention Program.

“My strengths are that I’m immersed in the community,” Salisbury said. “My finger is on the pulse and I can add some value to that from some different perspectives.”

Salisbury and Violette both want to address the state revenue sharing formula and find out if it can be improved.

“You are going up to Augusta to represent the citizens of Westbrook. Your primary duty is to go up there and try to bring additional dollars back to the city so you can help alleviate some of the property tax burden citizens have,” said Violette, a former School Committee chairman and city councilor.

He wants to look at how state funding is being shared with the city and its schools.

“The school funding formula has some drawbacks. The state always seems to be in a situation where they can’t find enough money to fund the schools at the percentage mandated by state law,” Violette said. “We need to figure out if (the funding forumla) is outdated and how to strengthen it.”

Violette also wants more funding to support schools with high percentages of English Language Learner students.

“With state laws you need to provide services to provide (ELL students) the tools they need for a proper education. Unlike a lot of school systems, (Westbrook) has to take more resources and apply it to the ELL population,” Violette said. “I would work with the Department of Education and work with similar communities to see what we can do to offset these additional costs.” 

Violette also hopes to expand efforts to reduce taxes for senior citizens.

“I’m really good at looking at finances, being aware of how things are spent and determining budgets to see if a municipality is spending efficiently. Being a financial advisor crunching numbers is something I enjoy,” he said.

Elections will be held at the Community Center, 426 Bridge St., from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 14.

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