FARMINGTON — Two candidates for Maine House District 113 squared off Monday in a debate at the University of Maine at Farmington.
About 70 residents and students packed North Dining Hall to listen to Republican Andy Buckland and Democrat Ed David, both of Farmington, respond to questions from political science students and some written by members of the audience.
House District 113 covers Farmington and New Sharon.
Student queries included the topics of education, energy, attracting small business, health care, welfare and charter schools.
Buckland said he intends to respond to issues as he does in his role as selectman. He listens to all, does his homework, considers the funding available and makes tough decisions, he said.
“I’ll vote in the best interest of the people of Farmington and New Sharon,” he said. “I’m running to serve the people … I want to look back and see I helped make it a better place.”
As an attorney involved with family law for 39 years, David said he represents the people and helps them through difficult times in their lives. He intends to transition that to serving the people of District 113.
“Representation means taking on responsibility,” David said. “I’m semiretired and have the time and interest to do it.”
Concerns about higher education prompted student questions on how the candidates would address cuts in personnel and the budget at UMF.
Buckland endorsed creating centers of excellence, where each campus in the UMaine System would concentrate on one program rather than duplicating and offering all programs. For UMF, the concentration would be on education, he said.
Programs would be consolidated and should be marketed properly, he said.
David said the university cannot do without money. He wants to serve on the Education Committee if elected, he said.
Asked about energy, particularly the fact that the average Mainer spends about $3,000 a year on fuel, Buckland agreed the cost of energy is astronomical. He mentioned the increasing use of pellets to save on oil costs and the proposed natural gas pipeline for the area.
David was in favor of funding alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and hydropower.
“The thing most necessary is conservation,” he said. He commended the university for leading the way with its green education building.
Students also wanted to know if the candidates would champion natural gas for the area, if elected.
“It’s not a be-all to end-all,” Buckland said. “It’s a good first step.”
He admitted he was not prepared to speak in detail on the subject.
He would do his “homework and make the best decision on the information available,” he said. “It’s a moot point, as we can’t get it across the Massachusetts border right now.”
That raises the question of whether to invest in a fight with other states for the pipeline, David said.
“I fear it’s a pipe dream,” David said. “We need an energy summit, a major conference.”
Asked about affordable housing with residents facing rising property taxes and other costs, David noted that the loss of revenue sharing and school funding is driving the property tax up. He suggested making the government pay the 55 percent of essential programs and services promised to school systems.
Buckland wanted to see revenue sharing restored. If the state can’t afford to do so, then put more local control over decisions made, he said.
Asked if they would support a charter school in the district, Buckland said he was inclined to wait and see how the state’s first schools fared. He liked the idea and knew it had been successful in Texas, he said.
It would have a disastrous effect on the district, David said. Funds would be taken from RSU 9 to give to the charter school, he said.
The debate was hosted by the UMF chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honors society. Christopher O’Brien, UMF associate professor of history, served as moderator.