Democrat Lynne Williams is seeking a second term in the Maine House of Representatives. Unopposed in the Democratic primary in June, she will be up against Republican Stephen Coston, also of Bar Harbor, in November.
Williams, an attorney, has a resume replete with a variety of campaign experiences. She has been a fundraiser and advisor for progressive candidates and a staffer for a California legislative campaign and a presidential campaign. She was a Green Party candidate for the Maine Senate in 2010 and a candidate for probate judge in 2018, an election in which she came within 1 percent of unseating the incumbent. A recount of that race shrank her opponent’s winning margin to just 25 votes.
Her experience in her first term was hardly typical in a Legislature turned upside down by the pandemic. With restrictions on chamber work and committee meetings, opportunities to get to know legislative colleagues were mostly limited to her own caucus. She is looking forward to serving in a Legislature where the State House is once again buzzing with activity, and it is easier to get to know more people in other parties and in the Senate.
She cites opportunities for legislators to get together in a “social and educational” way, such as the state tours offered early in a legislative session, as helpful in building cross-party relationships that advance the ability of the Legislature to work in a bipartisan way. “We need to get to know each other before the battles start.”
Even under challenging circumstances, Williams lights up about her service to date. “I really like learning!” she declares. She relishes the intellectual activity of the legislative role, keeping up to date on major bills and studying background material on the issues in play.
Williams served on the Transportation Committee in her first term and hopes to go back to it. Through the last decade, she calls the transportation policy agenda “a big yawn,” but that has changed. There are new types of policy that could better serve rural states by creating more flexible transportation systems. Millinocket is a participant in one of these and could serve as a useful model for other rural communities. Williams is up to speed on these efforts.
The other committee Williams has her eye on is Judiciary, and for one specific reason. Maine is the only state that does not have a state public defender’s office, and she aims to change that. A lifetime of social justice work informs her passion for this cause. Maine appoints private attorneys to defend indigent clients (she was once one of those attorneys), but it is increasingly difficult to find attorneys willing to take the job.
House District 14 consists of the towns of Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Lamoine and Mount Desert. For Williams, “water is the commonality.” She is an active opponent of the American Aquafarms proposal for Frenchman Bay and says she has heard nothing but opposition from the four district towns, even from Mount Desert, which is not directly located on Frenchman Bay. She was part of an effort in the last session to regionalize aquaculture management, and though it was not successful she is working with legislators and municipal officials to try again.
The concept is for a multi-town framework with a governing board consisting of representatives of affected municipalities. The aim of these bodies would be to make recommendations to the Department of Marine Resources for bay-wide management of finfish aquaculture. Incorporating input from lobstermen is essential for these efforts to succeed. Some towns in Maine are already looking at this type of approach, and a similar philosophy underlies regional clam management programs.
Williams says the energy “corridor” from Canada through Maine united legislators of both parties in common opposition last term and suggests housing as an issue that may bring legislators together in the upcoming session. She believes it is a topic that deserves better than town-by-town regulation through zoning, the only tool municipalities have. “The lack of affordable housing affects everyone: workers, families, single people. There is not a district in Maine that is not struggling with this.”
As one would expect, Williams is hoping her party retains control of the House. The majority party elects the House speaker, majority members chair every committee and majority leadership runs day-to-day operations. There is consultation with the minority party, but the majority prevails.
Williams wants to be sure that her party’s House leadership team represents more than just southern Maine. That means representation from both congressional districts among the five House leaders, a top priority for her, as prospective members of leadership are already jockeying for position and most of them are from the 1st Congressional District.
Candidate Williams welcomes contact from residents in her district.
Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.