BIDDEFORD – Mayor Joanne Twomey and Alan Casavant, her challenger in November’s election, voiced their opinions and fielded questions about major issues in the city during a moderated forum Wednesday night.

About 50 people came to City Theater for the event hosted by the Biddeford Saco Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Voters will elect their mayor on Nov. 8 and fill all nine seats on the City Council.

Twomey, who has served two terms as mayor, said, “I’m running again because I want to finish my job in bringing jobs into the city.”

Casavant, a former Biddeford High School teacher who now represents part of Biddeford and Kennebunkport in the state House, said he is running for mayor to shake up the status quo.

“My goal is to change the dynamic of Biddeford and make us compatible with the 21st century,” he said.

Twomey said her priorities include seeing through the completion of a $32 million renovation of the high school and continuing to fight the Maine Energy incinerator with stronger regulations on air pollution.

Casavant agreed that the city needs jobs, and said he also hopes to renew professionalism in city government and improve Biddeford’s relations with Saco.

“I have no idea why Biddeford and Saco can’t be the Lewiston and Auburn of York County” and collaborate, he said.

One issue that has polarized the city, and the candidates, is the proposed Biddeford Downs racino.

Last November, 59 percent of Biddeford voters favored negotiating a deal with Scarborough Downs and Ocean Properties Ltd. to build a racino in the city. The fate of the proposed racino will be determined next month in a statewide referendum.

While Twomey acknowledged that the gambling proposal has been controversial, she said, “I’m trying to jump-start downtown by bringing in the racino.”

She said there have been no negotiations since last year’s vote but she has been advocating for the project in the city and in Augusta.

“I became a cheerleader for this because the jobs are needed and the companies are really rooted in Maine,” she said.

Casavant, who voted against the proposal when it was before the Legislature, said he did so because he still needed answers. He felt the proponents of the project were trying to move it through too fast.

“I don’t like making decisions without all the cards on the table,” Casavant said.

But, he said, if voters approve it on Nov. 8 and “we’re going to have a racino, let’s make it the best damn racino in Maine.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]