The town of Kennebunk has trusted me with the great responsibility to serve six terms in the Maine State Legislature. As I complete final month in my fourth consecutive term, triggering term limits, I want to thank voters for the honor and privilege of serving Kennebunk.

Chris Babbidge Courtesy photo

My first election was in 2004 when President George W. Bush topped the ticket and won re-election. The districts were new, based on the census, and Democratic registrations for Kennebunk was 23 percent. Voters in Kennebunk had not elected a Democrat to Augusta in 94 years; the one term a Democrat won, in 1910, was the first and only since the Civil War. But, during the first of my many 14-hour marathons standing in front of the town hall steps on Election Day, voters expressed that they were willing to take a chance on me.

Having taught government, having taken a busload of Kennebunk students to the state house for each of the previous 23 years, and having advised students in Model Legislature since 1982, I was not new to Augusta. But the new educational funding formula passed just before my election was going to hit Kennebunk hard, and we were already in a local taxpayer revolution. School administration told me up to 60 positions were at risk, dismantling our excellent school system. My advocacy with the speaker and governor those early weeks and months caused my resulting bills to be passed. These saved Kennebunk taxpayers a total of $3.1 million, and were a model for use by other impacted communities.

My first speech on the floor of the House, however, was about human rights. One day I was astonished to learn that, in Maine in 2005, it was still legal to fire someone from a job, refuse them acceptance to school, and deny them lodging merely because they were thought to be gay. The bill to end those practices met opposition in the chamber, and was moved to be sent back to committee, presumably to die, because, “Mainers are not ready for this issue.”

Several legislators rose in support to kill the bill, generating momentum. Then I was recognized to speak, and my words generated controversy, but the tide was turned and the vote of the House defeated the motion to commit by 72-75. That meant that if just two legislators had voted differently, that landmark legislation ending discrimination in employment, education, and accommodations in Maine would have been stopped by 74-73. Later that year, a bill to increase the minimum wage by 25 cents, from $6.50 to $6.75, and to $7.50 over four years, passed 74-73. I was privileged to be there for these votes. Thank you, Kennebunk.

Although unopposed for a third term, I decided in July, 2008, not to run again, and returned to the classroom at Kennebunk High School full-time. After six years away, I sought to return in 2014.


In that year of Gov. LePage’s re-election, I won election to serve the first of four consecutive terms. My priority has always been to maximize the opportunities provided by ensuring a strong economy, but my key interests were in environmental protection and renewal energy, education, women’s equality, and justice for all within the law. The new laws of which I am proud are many, but I am thankful to legislators on both sides of the aisle that worked with me, and/or with the speaker, to find common ground on numerous bills that improved Mainers’ lives.

My last substantive speech on the floor of the House this year was again about human rights. Representative Lois Reckitt of South Portland, a lifetime advocate for disadvantaged women, had once again proposed an Equal Rights Amendment to the Maine Constitution. The Republican leader gave an impassioned speech against the bill, saying it was unnecessary. The speaker then recognized me. I pointed out that the 14th amendment guarantees equality before the law, but for women to actually get the right to vote, it took another 50 years and required an additional amendment expressly giving the right to women. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also included equality regarding gender, but it required the passage of Title IX in the next decade to expressly provide girls equal opportunity to school activities and sports.

Putting ERA in our state constitution would also direct judges to use the higher strict scrutiny standard to justify any challenge to gender equality. Equal rights regardless of sex, I argued, therefore must be expressed, not inferred, in the Maine Constitution. But the vote fell short of the required two/thirds vote, and the amendment failed. But the fight and my part in it remain for me a mission for justice.

During my tenure, the legislature evaluated about 13,000 bills, many of the small minority that passed having significant impact on our lives. Thank you, voters of Kennebunk, for repeatedly giving me a place at the table to make Maine a better place for our people. I am forever grateful.

Chris Babbidge represented Kennebunk in the 122nd, 123rd, 127th, 128th, 129th, and 130th legislatures during 2004-2008 and 2014-2022. He taught at Kennebunk High School for 31 years through 2012.

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