Friday, March 7, 2014
PORTLAND - Three of the five gubernatorial candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot appeared before MaineToday Media's endorsement board Wednesday with hopes of getting the company's backing before the election.
Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Independent Eliot Cutler, Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Shawn Moody each spent an hour with the media company's nine-member endorsement board, which includes employees from the editorial, features and human resources departments. Republican Paul LePage and independent Kevin Scott declined invitations.
Polls show LePage leading the race, with Mitchell close behind and Cutler third. Recent polls also show a large number of undecided voters less than two weeks before the election.
MaineToday Media owns the Maine Sunday Telegram, The Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, the Morning Sentinel of Waterville and related websites.
Last weekend, the Bangor Daily News endorsed Cutler.
The candidates were asked Wednesday about the economy, education, energy and other topics. Reporters who are not members of the endorsement board sat in on the interviews. Here is a synopsis of what each candidate said:
Cutler said the state is in bad shape and needs major changes. "We are the oldest, fattest, whitest and now one of the poorest states in America," he said. "We need to change the conditions that led us to that set of circumstances."
n He said he is committed to protecting the environment, but the state's regulatory process is too cumbersome and its land-use planning process is too passive. He said the Board of Environmental Protection, a citizen oversight board, should be eliminated because it creates a review process that is so long and uncertain that it scares away investors.
He said that regulation of the state's unorganized territories, now done by the Land Use Regulation Commission, should be transferred to the Department of Environmental Protection to give LURC time to do long-range planning.
• The Department of Economic and Community Development should be renamed the Department of Commerce and Tourism, Cutler said, and include the Finance Authority of Maine, the State Planning Office and the Maine International Trade Center.
• He said the state should hold a constitutional convention to consider sweeping changes to the structure of its government, such as creating a smaller Legislature with a single chamber.
• Lowering the cost of electricity, Cutler said, is the "single key for opening the door for being more competitive and pulling in more investment." He said the state should issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to fund electricity production projects that would give Maine industries cheaper power.
• Cutler said the state's K-12 education system is among the most expensive in the nation per capita but delivers only mediocre results. Among his proposed changes: He would lengthen the state's 175-day school year, which is 50 days shorter than China's school year; he would push to create charter schools and pay teachers based on their performance; and he would increase the size of classes.
Cutler said he would merge the state's university and community college systems into one system that would report to the governor through the Department of Education.
• He said he would control health care costs by developing systems that focus on making people healthier and preventing chronic diseases.
Mitchell, Maine's Senate president, said she wants to continue to invest in infrastructure projects to help the state prosper. She said the state's purchase of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail line in northern Maine is an example of the important role state government can play in preserving jobs.
Mitchell also highlighted:
• Her plan to merge three state departments -- Economic and Community Development, Energy Independence and the State Planning Office -- into one executive-level agency.
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