KENNEBUNK – With just over six weeks to go before their party’s primary election, Maine’s four Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate differed slightly Friday night on how — and even whether — they would seek bipartisanship in Washington.

“I don’t think the two parties are screwed up,” said state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, “I think the Republicans are screwed up.”

Speaking before about 50 people at a meeting of the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport Democratic Party, state Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, said his party must point out the benefits of having a Democrat in the White House and Democratic control of the Senate.

“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” he said, noting accomplishments during the Obama administration.

While former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to define the issues or define Democrats, Benjamin Pollard, a contractor, was the only one of the four to set a conciliatory tone.

He said he would attract independents and maybe some moderate Republicans, as a Democrat who counters the notion of his party as populated by “the elites and the very poor.”

The four are running for their party’s nomination for the Senate seat now held by Republican Olympia Snowe, who decided not to seek a fourth term, saying the system is broken because both parties are more intent on scoring political points than accomplishing something.

One reason for the logjam, the Democrats agreed Friday night, is a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to cut off debate on legislation. They did expresses differences on what to do about it.

Dill said she would advocate requiring only a simple majority to end debate because filibusters as they’re used today “produce a tyranny of the minority.”

Dunlap agreed, while Hinck said he would leave the rule as it is — but require those who want to stall a bill to speak and explain themselves, rather than simply declare that they will filibuster and allow that threat to derail legislation.

Of the four candidates, only Dill seemed to be looking past the June 12 primary.

Twice, she singled out former Gov. Angus King, who is running as an independent and leading in early polls.

“I can go toe-to-toe with Angus King,” she said in her opening remarks. “He has a record of not supporting working families, and I do.”

Later, during the discussion of filibusters, she derided King as portraying himself as “a white knight who is going to save us from the two-party system.”

But some in the audience said that after they vote in the Democratic primary, they will reassess their support.

Mary Cuming of Kennebunk, for instance, said the forum helped her narrow her choices for June 12, but after that she will have to think about whom to support in November.

King “has a lot of appeal,” she said. “He has a history of working with both sides of the aisle” as an independent governor.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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