Jill Duson, who served more that two decades as an elected official in Portland, and Ken Capron, an accountant, government watchdog and out-of-the-box thinker, are vying for the Democratic nomination for state Senate District 27 seat, which includes parts of Portland and Westbrook.

The seat, which is heavily Democratic and was District 28 prior to redistricting, is held by Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, who is not seeking re-election.

Duson said her longtime service to the city on the school board, council and as an appointed mayor, and her focus on housing issues, makes her the best choice for the Senate seat.

“Sometimes people question whether experience is valuable,” Duson said. “If folks are undecided, just look at our records.”

Capron said he has a “stronger personality than most” and is unafraid to tackle tough issues and come up with creative – even unconventional – solutions.

“I’m a bear,” he said. “When I get an issue, I research it. I rethink it and go outside the box and come up with ideas.”


The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 14, but absentee voting is already underway, with the final day of in-person absentee voting being June 9.

The winner will face Portland resident Jeffrey Tounge in the fall election. Tounge is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.


Capron, 71, said he is running for state Senate so he can try to make progress on several unconventional proposals he’s made in recent years to shelter people experiencing homelessness and to combat climate change.

Ken Capron

“I’ve got some specific goals in mind and the best way to accomplish that is through the Legislature,” the Portland resident said. 

Capron has run unsuccessfully as a Republican, independent and Democrat for a variety of local and state offices.


He filed paperwork this year to seek the Democratic nomination for governor, but he did not return his petitions, he said, because he contracted COVID-19. He ran for governor as an independent in 2018, but withdrew from the race. He sought a nonpartisan City Council seat in 2020 and prior to that was a Republican candidate for the state House in 2008 and 2010.

Four years ago, Capron advocated for permanently docking a cruise ship in Portland to provide supportive housing and services to people experiencing homelessness. The idea garnered international attention, but never gained much traction among policymakers, as Capron was unable to secure a grant to conduct a feasibility study.

Capron said he will continue to advocate for that project, as well as a so-called microrail project he’s been discussing since at least 2020. He envisions small transportation pods running two-foot rails at least 14 feet above the ground that would be powered by magnetic levitation energy.

It’s a novel idea – he said only four similar systems in Germany, built in the 1970s, are operational – but he said it’s necessary to meet the state’s ambitious climate goals, which he thinks rely too heavily on electric vehicles.

Capron said he’s recently turned his attention of recycling solar panels, some of which contain hazardous chemicals that can pollute the environment. If elected, he said he would look to adopt solar panel recycling rules similar to those in Washington state. His bill would require the registration and tracking of solar panel use and require that the chemicals be removed and repurposed, so they don’t end up in landfills.

Such a program, he said, would require up-front fees, much like a bottle deposit, of roughly $100 per panel.


Capron compared the threat of solar waste to “forever chemicals,” or PFAS, which for years were contained in industrial sludge and spread on farm fields, but have since been linked to cancer, liver damage and other negative health effects.

“My concerns and my desire to do that has been confirmed by what’s happening with PFAS, which were spread much farther and wider than people anticipated,” Capron said. “It’s one of those things that the (Department of Environmental Protection) blew off.”


Duson, 68, retired from elected office in 2020, after serving more the 20 years, including six terms on the Portland City Council.

Jill Duson

After taking a few months off, Duson was appointed to the Human Rights Commission and became active in a variety of nonprofits, including serving on the board for United Way and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, as well as advising the Indigo Arts Alliance, a Black-led arts nonprofit.

“It’s been a good retirement,” said Duson, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2016 and 2018. “Now I am going to somewhat unretire.”


Duson said she would be a strong advocate for Portland on issues like education funding, environmental sustainability and housing, noting her longtime leadership of the city’s housing committee. In 2020, the council honored Duson by renaming its housing trust fund, used to help pay for affordable units, in her honor.

Duson said she would look for ways to understand and compromise with people who hold different viewpoints, rather than contribute to political polarization.

“I have a genuine interest in trying to figure out what is driving someone’s concerns and doing my best to figure out solutions,” she said. “If someone disagrees with me, what I most want to know are the details about how they got to their position, because in that exchange we can figure out policy changes and improvements we can both live with.”

Duson said she was encouraged that House Speaker Ryan Fecteau’s bill, which loosened zoning restrictions on new housing units, was signed into law, even though it was watered down in the legislative process. She would continue to work on aspects of the bill that were left out, though she didn’t specify which proposals.

Duson said she would advocate for adequate educational funding and revenue funding from the state, which will free up pressure on local property taxpayers. She said she would work to ensure that the state continues to meet its obligation to fund 55 percent of public education costs.

“We send a lot of money up the highway and we need to be in the room negotiating to maximize the amount of dollars we get back,” she said.

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