Baldacci, 6 others skip early debate

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SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – Seven of the 14 candidates for governor – including two Republicans, a Democrat, three independents and the lone Green Independent – turned out at a forum that was billed as the first debate of the 2006 campaign.

Monday’s 70-minute forum, which drew more than 100 people, was sponsored by the Portland Regional Chamber and the Muskie School of Public Service.

Among the seven absentees were Gov. John Baldacci, who is seeking a second term, Republican Chandler Woodcock and independent Barbara Merrill.

Republicans David Emery and Peter Mills were among the participants, along with Green Independent Patricia LaMarche, Democrat Christopher Miller and independents Alex Hammer, Shawn Loura and Jeffrey Sanborn.

Mills and Emery agreed on the need to overhaul state government to promote efficiency and accountability.

Mills singled out the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been plagued by accounting and computer problems, as being in need of “immediate attention” but said much of state government is “completely dysfunctional.”

Citing a need to pay down debt and embrace long-term planning, Emery proposed a comprehensive audit of state government, right down to “every box of paper clips in the governor’s desk drawer.”

LaMarche emphasized the desirability of “an educated work force” and said providing business with such a pool of prospective employees would be her top economic development priority.

Miller said state government should shrink by “about three quarters,” by transferring powers and responsibilities to the county and municipal levels. He proposed that energy systems and health care be run by “community co-ops.”

Hammer spoke of encouraging Maine businesses to take advantage of global markets, while Lowra called for “doing away with government regulations on businesses which restrict them and oppress them.”

Democrats, Republicans and Green Independents will choose their nominees in the June 13 primary. The number of independents that will join the party standard bearers on the Nov. 7 ballot will not be known until the June 1 deadline for non-party candidates to submit the signatures of 4,000 registered voters.

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