As a commercial fisherman for decades and a lifelong resident of Waldoboro, Abden Simmons said he has valuable experience to bring to Augusta.
Simmons is the Republican nominee for the House District 45 special election on Tuesday, June 13. He faces Wendy Pieh, D-Bremen, to take over the remainder of the two-year term formerly held by Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, who resigned in February.
Simmons said he wants to keep Maine the way it is, conserve natural resources, and create or protect opportunities for vocational education and commercial fishermen.
Simmons previously held a two-year House term in 2016, where he sat on the Marine Resources Committee. He ran for Senate in November against Cameron Reny, D-Bristol, who won the seat.
He said he had originally planned to be finished with politics if he did not win last year’s race.
However, “I just can’t let Maine go,” he said. “I just couldn’t help myself.”
Simmons was a member of the Waldoboro Planning Board for six years and will have held his seat on the Waldoboro Select Board for nine years this month. He has also sat on the Waldoboro Shellfish Committee for over 25 years and been its chair for all but two years.
In 2020 he was appointed to the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ advisory council and he previously served as executive director of the Maine Elver Fishermen Association.
He and his wife, April, have owned and operated A & A Shellfish Inc., a clam-buying operation in Waldoboro, since 1996.
Among his past accomplishments, Simmons said he was especially proud of the commercial fishing bills he put in, including the creation of lotteries for elver and scallop to open opportunities in those fisheries to Maine residents.
“Being an active commercial fisherman … I think was a big influence on what bills would actually work for the commercial fishing industry and not work for the commercial fishing industry. That’s why I wanted to be on the committee,” he said.
He has previously voted against proposed rules for right whale line entanglement, which would impact the lobster industry and will continue to do so, he said.
If elected this year, Simmons intends to focus on protecting commercial fishermen with a “no-foolishness” approach.
Expanding trade school education also remains at the top of his list. He said the Mid-Coast School of Technology should be running year-round to help students become certified more quickly and be able to start their own business upon graduation if they wanted to.
Simmons also supports expanded computer science education to prepare Maine students for the workforce.
“Everyone talks about education, but they really don’t put it (education) where it needs to be,” he said.
Natural resource conservation is another focus for Simmons. He oversaw the Medomak Project, which improved the health of the river and reduced clam flat closures.
Simmons most recently was involved asking the town to apply for a grant it received to open alewife passage up the river again, which he said will also improve water quality.
He said pollution is a big issue for the state, and the Medomak Project is a model for other towns.
“As far as the shellfish committee, we’ve always thought outside of the box,” he said. “What everyone else is doing, just do the opposite.”
Simmons also has ideas for increasing housing affordability; he said he would support opening state land for timber harvest to lower the cost of lumber and create jobs.
“We need to be getting the most out of that and utilize state land,” he said.
He is also concerned with opioid addiction, and said he would want treatment facilities built in the state and dealers charged to the fullest extent. Simmons suggested eliminating unfilled positions in the state government to fund opioid crisis centers.
“The Democrats talk a good game, but they do nothing,” he said. “We should have facilities, and the district attorney is not doing enough.”
When it comes to educational policy, Simmons said he supports a “back to the basics” approach of reading, writing, math, and cursive, with “age appropriate” curriculum beyond that.
“What they really need to learn is how to live,” he said. “They teach all their feelings in school. Well, when you get out in the real world, a lot of people don’t care about your feelings … it sets the kids up to fail.”
While he holds positions on these issues, Simmons said that for many subjects in the Legislature, which can have over 2,000 bills in a term, one relies on the expertise of others.
He said he would worry about a legislator who did not grow up in Maine and face the struggles of growing up in the state winning the seat.
“It’s a completely different perspective,” he said about his background.
If elected this year, Simmons plans to run for the seat again in 2024 and seek reelection to the select board. He said holding both positions previously never presented a conflict and helped inform both the town and the Legislature.
House District 45 consists of Bremen, Louds Island, and Waldoboro in Lincoln County and Friendship and Washington in Knox County.
For more information, find Abden Simmons for House on Facebook.