For most students, breaking out of the Bowdoin bubble may mean hiking with the Bowdoin Outing Club or taking a weekend trip to Portland with friends. For Andrew Kaleigh ’24, however, it means something different: a foray into state politics.
Kaleigh, the vice president of the Bowdoin Student Government, announced on Thursday that he is running for the Democratic nomination for the 100th district of the Maine State House of Representatives in the upcoming primary election in June, hoping to bring a new perspective to an aging Maine State Legislature.
“I think it’s important for young progressives to get involved in politics and to fight for the future that they want,” Kaleigh, a Texas native, said. “It’s really important for us as a generation—as millennials and Gen Z—to fight for the issues that we believe in and push for an America that we will end up living in.”
Kaleigh’s intended district, the 100th, was recently redistricted and comprises parts of Maine Street and the College. The current incumbent, Representative Ralph Tucker (D – Brunswick), is term-limited and cannot seek reelection, which has left an opening for Kaleigh and other candidates.
Kaleigh’s proposed campaign platform centers around a number of issues that he believes are not only important in Brunswick, but also reach beyond it.
“I think that homelessness and the opioid crisis are some of the biggest issues facing Maine right now,” Kaleigh said. “Maine makes up 0.4 percent of the general US population but 5 percent of the homeless population. So, it’s really a disproportionate issue here in our state.”
Kaleigh’s approach to housing reform centers around the idea of Housing First. The initiative, which has been the dominant form of government policy for the better part of two decades, advocates for government programs that first house homeless individuals before implementing other support systems.
“Housing First is based on the idea that if you give people a house, they’re able to use that as a platform to build a life for themselves,” Kaleigh said. “[President] Biden, in his American Rescue Plan Act, cleared tens of billions of dollars for housing reform initiatives in different states … Maine hasn’t really spent a lot of the money pool to enact housing reform. There’s still a lot of money for us to work on these kinds of initiatives up until 2025.”
Another key aspect of Kaleigh’s campaign centers around combating the opioid epidemic in Maine. His campaign promises include increased funding for addiction treatment and a focus on opioid dependence prevention.
“The opioid crisis is something that was a big part of my life because people close to me have struggled with addiction,” Kaleigh said. “I’ve always wanted to make a change, and I think that the best way that I can do that is by getting into legislation.”
Kaleigh’s opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination is Daniel Ankeles, the vice-chair of the Brunswick Town Council and a veteran of the Maine political circuit. Although they both have similar campaign promises, key challenges Kaleigh will face in his campaign are his lack of experience in state or local politics, his youth and his lack of name recognition when compared to Ankeles.
“He will have an uphill fight. Dan Ankeles is well known and he’s held elected office,” Trish Riley, the chair of the Brunswick Democratic Party, said.
On top of this, Ankeles has secured the endorsements of incumbent State Representative Ralph Tucker (D – Brunswick), Assistant Maine State Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry and State Representative Jay McCreight (D – Harpswell), among others.
“I’ve put in a lot of time building relationships in this district and in this town, and I know very well how the government works,” Ankeles said. “I know what you can do to build coalitions, what works and what doesn’t at the legislative level and at the local level.”
While the campaign trail ahead remains difficult, Kaleigh remains optimistic. Through grassroots campaigning, he hopes to connect with Brunswick voters to get his message out in order to secure the nomination.
“[The campaign] is pretty much all going to be door-to-door campaigning. I don’t have a car, but I just bought a bike,” Kaleigh said. “I really want to get involved in the community because this is a place that I want to live.”
Although a Bowdoin student running for a state political office while attending the College is uncommon, it is not unprecedented. According to Secretary for Development and College Relations John Cross, Neal Corson ’69 was elected to the Maine State Legislature in the fall of 1968, while he was a student.
“He was the youngest legislator in the country at the time, and was not eligible to vote for himself in the primary because the voting age at the time was 21,” Cross wrote in an email to the Orient.
If elected, Kaleigh plans to place his duties to the state legislature over his academic responsibilities. He sees this as a jumping-off point for a career in politics and public service, and doesn’t necessarily see his young age as a disadvantage.
“I would want to prioritize the legislature. I mean, this is what I want to do with my life. This is my dream job,” Kaleigh said. “So obviously, if elected, I would prioritize this above everything else.”
Both Kaleigh and Ankeles’ campaigns have seen support from the Brunswick Democratic Party. Riley hopes that Kaleigh’s campaign will inspire other Bowdoin students to become more active in their community.
“We’re always happy to have younger candidates and Bowdoin get involved,” Riley said.
Editor’s note 02/2/2022 at 10:18 a.m. EDT: A previous version of this article neglected to report that Representative Ralph Tucker (D – Brunswick) is not able to seek reelection because he is term-limited. The context of his decision has been updated.