Politics

October 9, 2012

Candidate sparring gets lively in debate

A crowd of 400 watches as the top three Senate rivals tangle over taxes, negative ads and federal spending.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - The three top candidates in Maine's closely watched U.S. Senate race clashed over taxes, government spending and negative advertising Tuesday morning during a fast-paced debate hosted by the Portland Regional Chamber.

click image to enlarge

Left to right, Chris Hall, moderator, and U.S. Senate candidates Cynthia Dill, Angus King and Charlie Summers appeared at the Eggs and Issues Debate hosted by the Portland Regional Chamber. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Cynthia Dill, candidate for U. S. Senate. Note, this is the photo Dill prefers as of 7/25/12.

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Borrowing a line from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, Republican Charlie Summers accused independent Angus King of supporting "trickle-down government" and criticized the former two-term Maine governor for his willingness to consider potential tax increases.

"You should not be raising taxes on anyone in this economy. That is the quickest way to send this economy further down the line," said Summers, who also said that regulatory reform and lower government spending would help businesses create jobs.

But King suggested that the Summers anti-tax pledge was unrealistic given the federal fiscal deficit and the gap between revenues flowing into the treasury and funding obligations for everything from Medicaid to highway projects and NASA. King, the current front-runner in the race, has called for reducing spending and closing tax loopholes and has opposed Summers' call to reduce the tax rate on capital gains.

"I contend that anybody who signed the Grover Norquist pledge can't even enter the discussion in Washington because everybody knows there has to be additional revenues," King said, referring to a no-tax pledge by Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform.

Democrat Cynthia Dill, meanwhile, called Summers' anti-tax pledge "irresponsible" and presented herself as the only progressive candidate willing to fight to end the so-called Bush-era tax cuts for Americans earning in excess of $250,000.

"In terms of the regulation of Wall Street, I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask the people who led our country off of the cliff to contribute," Dill said.

Tuesday's debate, which was attended by an estimated 400 people, was the first time that the three candidates seeking to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe have shared a debate stage since Sept. 17. Summers has backed out of several debates in recent weeks, opening him up to criticism from Dill and King. Three other candidates -- Andrew Ian Dodge, Steve Woods and Danny Dalton -- were not invited to Tuesday's event.

The tone of the debate was largely cordial, with all three candidates pledging to work across party lines and offering examples of their own bipartisanship in elected office.

But the candidates also sought to differentiate themselves in a race that is attracting national attention and money. Several out-of-state political groups have funneled more than $3 million into the race in recent weeks -- with millions more likely on the way -- in a sign of the race's importance in the fierce political battle to control the Senate.

The candidates were asked about the role those outside groups are playing in Maine's race.

King noted that Summers had rejected his call earlier in the campaign to take a stand against the type of "corrosive" outside spending flooding Maine's television airwaves with advertising. King had been the target of much of that advertising initially, but has since benefited from ad buys by outside groups.

"It corrupts our politics, but it also makes it hard to work together when you to go to Washington and have to work with someone who has been spending millions of dollars telling lies about you," King said.

But Summers said spending by independent outside groups was beyond the campaigns' control. Instead, he attempted to turn the focus back onto King by accusing him of breaking his own pledge not to run negative ads during the campaign.

(Continued on page 2)

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