Economy dominates candidate forum


FARMINGTON – Four candidates for governor came to the University of Maine at Farmington on Friday morning for a panel discussion and breakfast with community members.

More than 60 people turned out to meet the candidates – Republicans Dave Emery and Peter Mills, Democrat Chris Miller, and Independent Green Party candidate Pat LaMarche.

After opening remarks introducing their campaigns, the four answered a number of questions from the audience read by UMF President Theo Kalikow.

All four touched on the same issues in their opening speeches and in the question-and-answer session afterward. Each cited a need for economic growth and a more business-friendly environment in Maine, tax reduction, health care reform, education, and a drive toward using the state’s natural resources in some way as sources of renewable energy.

They just disagreed on how to do it. Candidates mainly grappled with what will bring more economic growth and financial stability to Maine people -cutting taxes and deregulating industry to lure new businesses to Maine, or taxing smarter to give Mainers better services and education.

Rangeley residents told the four candidates their town feels forgotten and asked what they would do to help protect the area from impinging industry like Poland Spring Bottling Co. and proposed wind-power farms. Miller said the rules upon which the United States was built – supporting industry at the expense of other things – “do not work anymore.”

“This is our state, these are our communities. They’re not for sale,” he said.

Peter Mills took the opposite stance, saying he feels Poland Spring will be a welcome addition to Franklin County. Water and wind power are both clean industries using renewable resources, he said. “It’s interesting to see Nestle investing in jobs,” in Franklin County, he said. Besides, “for the past 150 years, Rangeley has been largely owned by people from out of state,” he said. Nestle Waters North America is the parent company of Poland Spring Bottling Co.

According to LaMarche, the sale of renewable resources could be a good thing for Mainers, as long as it’s treated as “ours.” Maybe Maine should tax its water, like Alaska taxes its oil, she said. The proceeds could go to bolstering education for Maine kids.

For Emery, like Mills, the introduction of clean industry into a county where people are desperate for jobs after mills began closing down is an unequivocal positive. But control and regulation of those industries should be in the hands of the municipalities directly affected by the new business.

“It’s encouraging to see opportunities for more jobs coming to families who have needs and obligations” to fulfill, he said. But “it’s important to encourage” business while managing the impact industry has on rural communities, to find a balance between tradition and the need for economic growth.