On Monday night, the Franco-American Heritage Center was the center of political attention in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe.
On the center’s impressive stage sat independent candidate Angus King, Republican candidate Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Democratic candidate state Sen. Cynthia Dill. And, squarely at center stage were major discussion topics of jobs and the economy.
In the audience were more than 350 people who came to hear the candidates’ positions on a variety of issues, and each person was offered the opportunity to ask questions about topics of personal concern. About a third of the audience took that opportunity, asking more questions than could reasonably be answered during the 90-minute event, which was organized by the Sun Journal.
Candidates responded to nearly 20 questions with candor (and occasional humor), covering a fraction of the questions crafted in advance by our editorial staff and posed by audience members in person and online. Given the clear desire of our readers to hear from candidates as Election Day looms, and our own desire to learn more candidates’ positions, we offer some of the remaining questions here and hope to hear answers as the campaign progresses.
Here they are, in italics:
Do you support NDAA?
The National Defense Authority Act, otherwise known as the U.S. defense budget, is always hotly debated in Congress and whoever Mainers select to replace Snowe will be expected to participate in the debate with vigor given the importance of military spending to this state.
If elected, what initiatives will you sponsor and support to ensure the full implementation of the PARIS system with the states to reduce wasteful spending while ensuring care for the truly needy?
There is little that irks voters more than wasting tax dollars, and how Senate candidates view the nation’s Public Assistance and Reporting Information System is a fair question. The system, which is voluntary, scrolls through federal and state agency databases to verify eligibility of people who are receiving assistance to reduce double-dipping. In Maine, that cross-checking occurs in the Fraud, Investigation and Recovery Unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, a scrutiny that some opponents say scares needy families away from applying for welfare services.
What is your position on the Social Security offset issue?
Good question, especially in a state with an older-than-average population. And, particularly since Maine’s soon-to-be senior Sen. Susan Collins co-sponsored the Senate’s version of the Social Security Fairness Act last year. That bill would, if passed, repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. In simple terms, it would erase the spousal Social Security offset that is now imposed on some public retirees. At a time of increasing costs and shrinking retirement accounts, this is a particularly important topic in Congress.
There were also questions about voter ID, national security, the Affordable Care Act, education spending, energy, the national debt, student debt, climate change, commerce, foreign policy and immigration, on all of which the candidates maintain clear records.
And, finally, there was this question:
When faced with a crisis in Congress, such as the recent budget fiasco, what steps would you take to ensure that Congress takes action on the issue?
Sen. Snowe is retiring because of what she sees as insurmountable rancor and partisanship, which has stalled action in Congress for several years. So, this audience question may very well be the most important one to ask candidates.
So, what will you do to break the impasse that drove Snowe away?
Whoever best answers this question could very well be Maine’s next senator. Let’s hear some response.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.