2018-05-25 / Front Page

Primary 2018

SoPo activists vie for the Democrat’s District 32 spot

Kevin Battle, who won the right to represent District 32 in the statehouse as a Republican in 2014, then won re-election in 2016, before leaving the GOP in January 2017, has chosen not to make a third run as an Independent candidate. With the seat open, Republicans have put up Tammy Walter of Cape Elizabeth as their candidate. She is running unopposed in the June 12 primary.

However, there is a battle for Battle’s seat on the Democratic Party side of the ledger. That race is between Chris Kessler against Richard Rottkov. Both men are well known for their local activism – Rottkov for shepherding environmental concerns at a variety of organization, and Kessler for founding the South Portland Tenants Association and leading the drive that prompted the city council to form an affordable housing study committee.

House District 32 serves the central part of South Portland south of Route 1 and Broadway, from the Scarborough town line as far east as Boothby Avenue, the southern half of North Richland Street, and Marsh Road. It also serves a small section of Cape Elizabeth from South Portland to the northerly sides of Spurwink Avenue and Eastman Road.

Candidate surveys for the two primary hopefuls are listed below, in alphabetical order.

Name: Christopher Kessler

Age: 35

Address: Stanley Street (two years), a native of Syracuse, New York, Kessler has lived in South Portland 10 years, total.

Contact: email@christopherkessler.com facebook.com/kesslerforrep/.

Occupation: Residential energy auditor at Nova Consulting Group (one year, with eight years total in the trade).

Family: Wife Jessie Kessler (10 years) with two school-aged children.

Education completed: Bachelors degree in music from State University of New York in Oswego, New York (2005); Certifications as a Building Analyst and Multifamily Building Analyst from Building Performance Institute (starting in 2010 and renewed every three years).

Political experience: Candidate for South Portland City Council (2009); Candidate for Maine State Representative, District 122 (2012); Americans Elect organizer (2011-2012); Protect South Portland volunteer (2013); Committee for Ranked Choice Voting volunteer (2016).

Organizations and activities: Spokesman, South Portland Dog Owners Group (2008-2009); founder, Student Loan Justice, Maine Chapter (2008-2011); South Portland Land Trust volunteer (2009-present); member, South Portland Energy & Recycling Committee (2010- 2011); member, Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals Board of Directors (2015); founder, South Portland Tenants Association (2015-2017); member, South Portland Affordable Housing Committee (2016-2017).

Why are you seeking elected office?

I believe that we as individuals need to be the change we want to see. In these troubled times, I also believe that the most effective thing we can do is to be engaged in our community and shape it into the vision we see for our world. It doesn’t matter how big or small the effort is – what matters is that we make any effort at all.

The many conversations I have had with friends and neighbors have affirmed that we all want to see an end to income inequality. We want universal health care. We want debt-free and tuition-free higher education. We want to expand access to affordable housing. We want everyone to earn a living wage. We want to preserve and protect our environment. We want to transition to a clean energy economy and create good jobs that slow the effects of climate change. We want to expose and eliminate corruption in our political system. We want to make a better nation for our children. This is why I am running to be our state representative.

At the very least, I know through my actions I can be a catalyst for positive change. I am motivated and excited by the possibilities if I am given the opportunity to be our state representative. I will work hard on the issues that are important to all of us, and I will work with anyone who is willing to work together.

Top three issues:

Energy. Maine is one of the most oil-dependent states in the nation. Maine also has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation. We must increase our energy security, lower energy costs and slow climate change through major investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. I will make every effort to substantially increase funding for Efficiency Maine to get this done.

Health care. Health care is a human right. The rest of the civilized world has shown us that we can have much lower health care costs and better health outcomes with a publicly funded system. Over 100,000 Mainers still lack health insurance because they can’t afford it, and most people with health insurance are paying 10 to 25 percent of their income toward health care expenses. Meanwhile, health insurance company executives bring home millions of dollars in compensation every year. This is morally wrong and unsustainable. I support the establishment of publicly funded health care for all Maine residents.

Housing. Housing is a human right. We must invest in and enhance existing programs to promote home ownership and catalyze the development of more affordable housing. Housing prices and rents have skyrocketed in greater Portland over the past 10 years. The need has never been greater.

Why would you be a better choice than your opponent to represent your party?

I am an activist, advocate and organizer, motivated by a strong desire to solve the problems of our society. I have not been working behind the scenes, I have always been out on the front lines. I will not be a rank-andfile legislator. I am dedicated, energized and vow to make the greatest impact I possibly can as your state representative. I do not represent the status-quo. I represent the next generation. I represent the people who are tired of waiting for change to come. I am going to move us toward progress with everything I’ve got. It is up to registered Democrats in South Portland/Cape Elizabeth to decide if that is who they want to represent them.

Name: Richard Rottkov

Age: 64

Address: Adelbert Street (five years), a native of New York, Rottkov has lived in South Portland for 16 years, total.

Contact: RottkovforStateHouse@gmail.com; 799-5686; Facebook: Search “Richard Rottkov for State House.”

Occupation: Adjunct professor in oral communications and college reading/writing skills at Southern Maine Community College (since 2003); Special education technician at South Portland High School (since 2007).

Family: Married to Ellen Clancy (22 years) with two adult children.

Education completed: Bachelors degree in communications and history from the University of Vermont (1975); Masters degree in communications from New York University (1992).

Political experience: Chairman, South Portland Democratic City Committee (2004-2008); delegate, Cumberland County Democratic Committee and delegate, Maine State Democratic Party convention (multiple times, 2004-2016); Renew SPHS Get Out the Voter Coordinator (2009-2010); president, United for a Fair Economy lobbying group.

Organizations and activities: South Portland High School Building Committee; president, SPHS Football Boosters; member, South Portland Strikers (soccer) Board of Directors; member, South Portland National Little League Board of Directors; member, City of South Portland Hot Tub Fundraising Committee; member, South Portland Land Trust Board of Directors; chairman, Trails Advisory Group; member, South Portland Community Development Advisory Committee; member, South Portland Open Space Planning Committee.

Why are you seeking elected office at this time?

I believe that government should work for all the people, that everyone should have the opportunity to realize their goals. This isn’t a new idea, but both our governor and our president seem to want government to work only for the select few. Alongside this, we face what may be the most divisive political environment in U.S. history.

It’s never been more important to have representatives in Augusta who understand our district, our people and their concerns. For more than 15 years I’ve volunteered for environmental, youth sports, economic development and local government committees in South Portland. I’ve helped to protect our natural resources, provide opportunities for our young people to learn and grow, improve our economic environment, and strengthen the local Democratic Party.

Now I want to take this understanding to Augusta, along with my consensus-building approach, to ensure that the concerns of every District 32 constituent are considered.

Top three issues:

Health care. We can ensure that no one lacks health care by supporting a single-payer insurance program. Until there’s universal health care for every Mainer, we should continue to support the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid. Although voters passed the statewide referendum in November, requiring state government to provide Medicaid (Mainecare) for 70,000 additional Mainers, the Legislature has not enacted the referendum into law. My position is that these 70,000 people should not be punished because they earn too much to qualify for Mainecare.

Environment. We can increase environmental preservation, stewardship and greater sustainability, with more aggressive action to mitigate climate change and to protect our natural environment. I support expansion of solar, tidal and wind energy development. Expanding these energy sources is vital for us to end our reliance on fossil fuel. The “green” economy will not only help protect the environment, but will also grow better paying jobs.

Public schools. We can enhance equitable quality public education from early childhood through college and workforce training. I support the “stand up for students” initiative, which proposed raising taxes on the top 2 percent of Mainers, to fund the 55 percent funding referendum. Voters overwhelmingly (72 percent) passed a statewide referendum in 2003, requiring the state to pay 55 percent of the cost of K-12 public education, but the state has yet to provide full and fair funding, resulting in inequitable public education across the state. This failure by the state has resulted in higher property taxes.

As an educator, and to ensure safety in our schools, I support rational gun control legislation.

Why would you be a better choice than your opponent to represent your party?

As a consensus-builder, I will work to counter the partisan divisions that prevent people from being heard and problems from being solved. The values I embrace and espouse are demonstrated in the volunteer work I have taken on in our community over the years. I’ve served in local environmental groups, youth sports organizations and economic development committees. I’ve been an active fundraiser for civic causes. And I’ve supported the Democratic Party, working behind the scenes to help other candidates win seats at the local and state level, while also working to help pass our values-based citizen referendums. Through this service, I’ve learned what matters to our community members. I hope to take this understanding to Augusta, to ensure our interests are considered in every area.

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