PORTLAND — Susan Abercrombie is hoping the third try is the charm in unseating incumbent House District 42 Rep. Benjamin Collings.

“This is my third time and it will be my last time win, lose or draw,” said Abercrombie, a Republican. “At 75, I am getting old for this, but I am primarily running because I think its important that there be choice. Portland is a notoriously liberal piece of Maine. I think it is important to a least have a conservative choice available. In my opinion we use government to do way too much and take way too much from the people.”

Collings, a Democrat, is also being challenged by Carolyn Silvius, a Green/Independent, who is entering the race, her first, to fight for change in Augusta.

“I believe with the experience I’ve had, I have the needed energy and needed passion to get things done,” Silvius said.

Collings is vying for his third term representing East Deering. While his focus previously has been on investment in education and a livable wage for the workforce, his priority if reelected will be on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am running to continue what I have been doing and advocating for, but now, we really need to try to help our community and neighbors with the pandemic,” Collings said.

He is disappointed the Legislature has not been in session to do that.

“I am worried we have let things build up and with so many things facing us, we are going to work in haste,” he said.

The candidates have varying viewpoints as to how to best provide for the homeless, something that has become a hot-button issue in Portland as of late.

Collings said more money and resources need to come from the state to deal with the issue, but also a more holistic approach needs to be taken where once housing is found: Individuals should also get help with mental health, substance abuse or medical care and job assistance.

“I have focused on other things up in Augusta, but living in Portland and representing Portland, I should be doing more on (homelessness),” he said. “I recognize that is an area where I can do more.”

Silvius, a member of Homeless Voices for Justice, agrees more funding is needed, but also feels the city needs to develop some concrete plans “to get the unhoused housed quickly.”

Abercrombie said whatever aid is given to homeless and those in need should be temporary. She said despite the county having “the lowest level of unemployment ever” before the pandemic, the country is still running permanent welfare programs for able-bodied individuals.

Doing so, she said, takes resources away from those who “are not able bodied and who have the greatest needs.”

Abercrombie said she would like to see Maine enact legislation to become a right-to-work state and not force individuals to join or pay fees to a union as part of their employment.

“I would do anything and everything I could to remove public employee unions because there is no one to defend the taxpayer when the employer and union are negotiating. There is nobody to protect the people who pay for what is (decided),” she said.

Of particular concern, she said, is teachers unions, which she said don’t do anything to improve the quality of education offered.

Abercrombie said as a “firm supporter of the Second Amendment,” she would “resist any effort to limit access by law-abiding people to fire arms and ammunition.” Maine, she said, is a rural state with low levels of violent crimes and there “is no reason to infringe on that right. It is unconstitutional and inappropriate.”

Silvius said she would like to see the state reduce the number of families who are food insecure.

“People shouldn’t have to watch their kids go to bed hungry. That shouldn’t happen. The money is there to take care of it,” Silvius said.

Silvius would also like to explore the possibility of offering free college tuition for classes for Maine college students. That, she said, would reduce the amount of student debt young adults have to take on, giving them more income with which to buy a house or infuse the economy.

Collings said he hopes tackling ways to end systemic racism is part of the focus for the 130th Legislature when seated in January.

“It goes beyond looking at law enforcement or (racial) profiling. It is about looking at the many years of us running the government the way we do in the state and looking at ways we can improve that,” he said.

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