BY RAY ROUTHIERSTAFF WRITER
Sunday July 17, 2022
South Portland mayor Deqa Dhalac is running for the Maine House of Representatives. Staff photo by Ben McCanna
Deqa Dhalac, the first Somali-American mayor in the United States, is running for the Maine House of Representatives.“We value diversity in this state yet we are missing these voices in our Legislature,” said Dhalac, 53, of South Portland.
Dhalac said Friday that she was driven to run by the lack of racial diversity in the Legislature and hopes to be a voice for immigrants and people of color while serving all the people of Maine.
Dhalac is one of two Somali-American women seeking Maine House seats this year. The other is Mana Abdi, who is running for the District 95 seat in Lewiston. If either wins, they would be the first Somali-American elected to the state’s Legislature.
If elected, Dhalac said she’d work to try to ensure woman’s rights, including abortion rights, and help immigrants, asylum seekers and the homeless.
She decided to seek the Democratic nomination in Maine House District 120 after hearing two-term incumbent Victoria Morales had decided not to run in the general election. Morales had won the nomination in the June 14 primary, running unopposed, then decided later to withdraw from the race.
Dhalac talked to Morales about the seat and the pressures of the job. Dhalac said she’d like to put her name up for consideration and would like Morales’ endorsement, which she got. Dhalac said part of Morales’ reason for stepping down was the difficulty of balancing legislative work with a full-time job and raising children.
“I know it’s a lot to do. I think the difference for me is that my kids are grown. That gives me some flexibility,” said Dhalac.
Morales did not return an email and text Friday evening asking why she chose not to run.
The caucus was held Thursday night and 54 voters cast ballots, said Andrea Thompson McCall, secretary of the South Portland Democratic City Committee. Forty-three people voted for Dhalac and 11 voted for April Caricchio, a former South Portland City Councilor. District 120 covers the west end of South Portland.
In the general election, Dhalac will face Michael J. Dougherty, who ran unopposed for the nomination in the June 14 primary. No phone number or email address for Dougherty could be located Friday evening.
Dhalac is currently a South Portland city councilor and the city’s mayor. She was elected to the position of mayor by her fellow councilors last December, for a one-year term. At the time she was the first Somali-American mayor in the U.S.
She fled Somalia more than 30 years ago when that country was on the verge of civil war. She works as assistant executive director at Gateway Community Services Maine, helping run a variety of programs to help immigrants and new residents of the state.