On Tuesday April 5, the Bowdoin Democrats hosted a debate between Andrew Kaleigh ’24 and Brunswick at-large Town Councilor Dan Ankeles, two candidates running for the 100th district of the Maine State House of Representatives Democratic nomination. The event was moderated by Diego Lasarte ’22 and Emma Sorkin ’22, the Editors-in-Chief of the Bowdoin Orient, with time at the end for audience questions.
The candidates discussed both local and national topics, including affordable and accessible housing, environmental advocacy and the significance of the opioid epidemic within healthcare reform.
Co-leader of the Bowdoin Democrats Colter Adams ’24 noted the audience’s excitement.
“To have [Ankeles] come to campus and to talk about his life as a public servant and what he does for the community was pretty powerful,” Adams said. “There were a lot of people in the audience who were potentially envisioning a future like that so to also have a peer that’s taking the time to campaign for a legislative seat was pretty inspiring.”
Some students were skeptical as to what Kaleigh believes makes him more qualified for this position than Ankeles, including Daniel Chi ’24.
“To me, it seems like [Ankeles] has this lifelong experience in civil service and it doesn’t really add up for [Kaleigh] to run on the same exact platform, especially if one person understands and has been working really hard in Maine already to get these things done,” Chi said.
Libby Boutin ’24, born and raised in Maine, recognized these doubts after the debate, but also discussed her admiration for the impact of Kaleigh’s campaign on student political engagement.
“When I talked to my parents and some of my high school friends they thought that there was this huge disconnect of Andrew not being from Maine or really knowing the Brunswick community outside of Bowdoin,” Boutin said. “Andrew does bring a different perspective and his campaign definitely brings more Bowdoin students into the conversation, which is nice. You always need more perspectives.”
In response to the doubts of his qualifications or ability to balance his responsibilities as a full time student, Kaleigh expressed his deep commitment to public service.
“My lived experience with both [Covid-19] in schools and the opioid crisis gives me a lot of understanding of how [Covid-19] has impacted the school system in a way that many members of our legislation may not currently understand,” Kaleigh said. “This is absolutely my top priority, so I would no doubt put this above my current education. I would be happy to put that on pause for a semester.”
Ankeles echoed this value in lived experience, suggesting that his connections with the community are just as important qualifications as his nine years working as a legislative aide and former career in journalism.
“As a parent who watched one of my kids be absolutely miserable during remote learning and [Covid-19], [Kaleigh] hit it right on the head,” Ankeles said. “I think what is equally important is having met people and having built relationships through my work, getting to know different stakeholders and policy areas, learning what makes them tick.”
Understanding the community is fundamental to his mission of transparency and accessibility, Ankeles has furthered this mission through sending out a monthly newsletter.
“I am the local person that people always call up and email, I always try to use what I know to connect people with the right services and do research if I don’t know something off the top of my head,” Ankeles said. “This is a model that works, and I’m not going to try to fix something that’s not broken.”
The audience came ready with numerous questions. While the majority were posed by students, one Brunswick community member, who did not share his name, stood up and passionately asked the candidates if they were committed to promoting healthcare reform.
After a night of advocating for opioid addiction therapy and recovery to be included in health care reform, Kaleigh immediately affirmed his belief that healthcare is a human right. In response, Ankeles expressed his commitment to furthering state efforts for affordable healthcare and took a moment to appreciate Kaleigh’s opioid reform.
“I agree with [Kaleigh] completely; this is about harm reduction—that is absolutely a part of healthcare. Some states have to go first, we have to disrupt things so that congress listens and the federal government listens … I appreciate what you’re bringing to this in terms of Maine’s opioid crisis, [Kaleigh],” Ankeles said. “It’s great that we have [Kaleigh] running, so whichever one of us wins we’re really going to need an engaged community.”
Diego Lasarte ’22 and Emma Sorkin ’22 are the Editors-in-Chief of the Bowdoin Orient.