Wednesday, June 19, 2013
By John Richardson firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Senate candidates Charlie Summers, right, and Angus King during their debate at Texas Instruments in South Portland on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill chose not to attend.
Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer
U.S. Senate candidates Angus King, left, and Charlie Summers shake hands at the end of their debate at Texas Instruments in South Portland on Wednesday.
Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer
King, a former two-term governor, and Summers, Maine's secretary of state, traded opinions on taxes, health care, energy and regulation in front of an invitation-only audience of about 200 people at a Texas Instruments plant here.
The 90-minute event, focused on issues facing manufacturers, was sponsored by the Maine Manufacturers Association and other business groups. Summers, a Republican, said he stands for keeping taxes low and reducing regulation to free up businesses to expand and hire workers. "I think if we do those things, this economy will begin to move," he said.
King, an independent, said the country has to be smarter when writing regulations and negotiating trade agreements, but he's optimistic about manufacturing growth largely because of the availability of cheap natural gas. "I think we are going to see a resurgence," he said.
The Democratic nominee, state Sen. Cynthia Dill, was invited but missed the event because she was teaching her government class at Southern Maine Community College.
All three leading candidates plan to attend a forum Thursday in Portland focusing on energy and the environment, the second of more than a dozen events scheduled before the election Nov. 6.
The start of face-to-face policy debates marks a new phase of the race, which is being watched closely around the country because it could determine which party controls the Senate. The winner will replace Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who did not seek re-election.
King and Summers were respectful of each other Wednesday and answered a series of questions without engaging in any back-and-forth arguments. Neither mentioned the more heated campaigning going on in television ads and news releases, which have included steady criticism of King, the front-runner in the race.
King said he is running to help break down the hyper-partisanship that drove Snowe to leave the Senate and is preventing solutions to problems such as the federal deficit and health care costs. "Washington is just completely locked up," he said.
Summers disagreed that the race is about bipartisanship and trying to fix the Senate. "The process is not broken; it's rudderless," he said. "It's about direction. What is needed is someone who stands for something."
The two candidates generally agreed on many of the issues facing manufacturers, although they differed on details.
King and Summers agreed on the need for better training to prepare high-skilled workers, for example.
King said he wants to get younger students thinking about math and science careers, and would like to bring manufacturers and educators to a "skills summit" to find new ways to close the skills gap.
"My sense is there is not a lot of two-way communication," he said.
Summers said schools must focus more on practical knowledge. He criticized the Obama administration for ending the space shuttle program and sending a message that the country is giving up its leadership in science and technology.
"Now if we want to get into space, we have to hitch a ride with the Russians," he said.
Both agreed on the need for federal investment in research, although Summers was more reserved.
"We need to get back to making sure our country is first and not second," Summers said, while warning that the federal government cannot continue spending $1 trillion a year that it doesn't take in.
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