PORTLAND — The legislative seat of long-time representative Richard Farnsworth, who is retiring after a decade in the statehouse, is likely to be filled this November by Grayson Lookner, a Democrat, who is making his first run at public office.

With Republican Jane Frey withdrawing from the race, all that stands in the way for Lookner is a write-in campaign by Green/Independent John Safarik. In July, Lookner beat Jim Cloutier to be the Democratic nominee to represent House District 37, which includes the Libbytown, Nasons Corner, Rosemont and Stroudwater neighborhoods. Frey was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Earlier this year Lookner told The Forecaster he decided to pursue the seat to “fight for young people” and work on making housing in the state more affordable.

“My priorities have not changed. Housing is the biggest reason I got into this race,” he said. “Affordable housing, especially in a pandemic, is a public health, bedrock issue.”

Safarik said he is putting his hat in the ring to bring more awareness to the Green Party.

“My write-in campaign is an attempt to put as many Green people on the ballot as possible and keep us a little more visible and electable,” he said. “I am not doing any active campaigning and I don’t expect to win.”

Frey withdrew from the race Tuesday, Sept. 8, but since it was too late to name a replacement, Frey’s name will still be on the ballot. Frey had run in 2018 for the seat, but also dropped out before the election, telling The Forecaster personal and professional commitments kept her from actively pursuing her candidacy.

The same hold true for the 2020 election.

“The slight chance that I could beat the Democratic candidate, there are things going on now that would make it difficult to fulfill the job,” Frey said.

In terms of improving systemic racism in the city, Lookner said the approach Mayor Kate Snyder took to set up an ad-hoc racial equity committee to look into the role of law enforcement and the impact it has on people of color “is a step in the right direction.”

“I trust they will be able to do what’s best for the city of Portland,” he said.

Lookner said he would prefer police not be sent to social service calls when individuals are not in danger of hurting themselves or others or are committing a crime.

“Sending someone in there with a gun and a Taser is not the right tools we need to approach that situation with. We need to approach that situation with social workers,” he said.

Safarik said although he has had limited experience dealing with police officers, the interactions he has had in his 25 years living in Portland have been positive.

One area where police have had to be called, especially as of late, is homeless encampments first in front of City Hall and now in Deering Oaks, causing some in the city to urge officers to stop criminalizing being homeless.

To that end, Lookner said more money needs to be allocated to the Maine Housing Authority for the creation of more affordable housing and public housing. If elected, Lookner said he would be looking to create a bond for just that purpose.

“One really easy thing to do is better fund Maine Housing Authority so they have the resource they need to get people into homes, which would take a lot of pressure off of the city. It has been a long time coming,” he said.

Safarik agrees more needs to be done to help homeless individuals.

“The state should be able to do more than it does,” he said.

Another topic that Lookner would like the Legislature to make a priority is climate change measures, particularly reducing carbon emissions and investing in off-shore wind power and climate mitigation infrastructure to combat sea level rise and coastal erosion.

“We don’t have time to wait,” he said.

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