South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac has traveled through many countries and navigated various cultures, jobs and challenges. Ben McCanna photo/Press Herald

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac, first Somali-American mayor in the U.S., made a late entry into the race for the Maine State House District 120 this week.  

“We value diversity in this state, yet we are missing these voices in our legislature,” said Dhalac in a previous statement.  

If elected, she has the chance to become the first Somali American elected to the state legislature. Dhalac is the second Somali- American woman seeking Maine House seats this year. The other candidate is Mana Abdi, who is running for the District 95 seat in Lewiston.  

Dhalac, who was born in Somalia, said previously she wants to be a voice in Augusta for immigrant communities. If elected, she said she would work to try to ensure women’s rights, including abortion rights, and help immigrants, asylum seekers, and the homeless.  

She sought the Democratic nomination for District 120 after hearing that incumbent Victoria Morales had decided to withdraw from the general election. Morales had won the nomination at the primary that was held on June 14. She was running unopposed. Morales endorsed Dhalac to take her place on the ballot.  

In a previous statement, Dhalac said part of Morales’ reason for stepping down was the difficulty of balancing legislative work, raising kids, and having a full-time job. Morales held the South Portland State House seat for two terms.  


“I know it is a lot to do. I think the difference for me is that my kids are grown. That gives me some flexibility,” said Dhalac in an earlier statement.  

Dhalac had already made history when she became the country’s first Somali- American mayor and the first woman of color to serve in that role in South Portland. She currently serves as a city councilor; she was elected to the position by the council members last December and will serve for a one-year term.  

Dhalac earned two master’s degrees in policy and practice as well as a master’s in social work from the University of New Hampshire and the University of New England.  She is an executive director at Gateway Community Services, Maine. During her time as mayor, she has received recognition all over the country, and the news even traveled back to her country. She has been a commencement speaker at Southern Maine Community College and at the University of Maine at Farmington. 

Dhalac will face Michael J. Dougherty in the general election. Dougherty ran unopposed at the June 14 primary election. 

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