SOUTH PORTLAND – Five Democratic candidates for governor discussed their ideas for improving Maine’s economy and creating more jobs Thursday night.

The candidates’ forum at South Portland City Hall attracted Donna J. Dion, a former mayor of Biddeford; state Senate President Libby Mitchell; former Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe; businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli; and John Richardson, a former state legislator and commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

Pat McGowan, a former state conservation commissioner, was unable to attend.

The forum, sponsored by South Portland’s Democratic City Committee, focused on the economy.

“We have a fantastic brand (Maine), but we are in jeopardy of losing it because we don’t invest in it,” said Richardson, who vowed to become the state’s chief marketing officer if he is elected.

Richardson said he would triple the state’s tourism budget in an effort to attract more visitors and businesses.

Rowe said his focus as governor would be on people, and making sure they are healthy. Rowe said he would invest heavily in wellness programs aimed at keeping people out of hospitals and nursing homes – steps he believes would go a long way toward improving the economy and reducing health care costs.

“Health care costs are holding us back,” Rowe said. “It is the number one burden for businesses in this state.”

Scarcelli, who promised to make Cabinet appointments based on expertise and not party affiliation, said voters should consider her business experience –  her business, Stanford Management, provides affordable housing –  when choosing their next governor.

“The thinking that got us here is not going to get us out (of the recession),” said Scarcelli.

Mitchell is the first woman to serve as Maine’s speaker of the House and president of the Senate. Mitchell said the state must build on its successes and expand its tourism efforts “beyond lobsters and lighthouses.”

“Right now, I am trying to balance the budget by making sure we take care of our most vulnerable,” Mitchell said.

Dion said she has been married to a contractor for more than 30 years. If elected, she said, she would be willing to take a closer look at the value of giving corporate tax breaks.

“We need to look at every program we invest in to make sure it’s working,” Dion said. “We need to tie those businesses to results.”

Dan Mooers, who moderated the forum, said the next forum for the Democratic candidates will be held on April 1. Its primary focus will be on education. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 8.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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