BRUNSWICK – The six Republican candidates for Olympia Snowe’s U.S. Senate seat made one thing clear at a candidates forum on Wednesday night: Independent Angus King is the person they must beat in November to keep Snowe’s seat Republican.

The GOP contenders didn’t mention the four Democrats who are seeking their party’s Senate nomination in the primary June 12, but King’s name came up repeatedly.

Several Republican candidates referred to the popular ex-governor as “the other Democrat.”

“Make no mistake about it. Angus King will be our opponent in November,” said Rick Bennett, chief executive officer of GMI Ratings, a Portland-based research firm.

Bennett, who served in the Maine Senate during King’s tenure as governor, said, “I am fully prepared to take the fight to Angus King.”

Wednesday’s event was the fifth Republican candidates forum since the series started April 5 in Presque Isle. The forums are intended to let voters become familiar with each of the candidates and their positions.

Phil Harriman, a former Republican legislator, served as the moderator Wednesday. About 100 people attended the forum at Brunswick’s new elementary school, the Harriett Beecher Stowe School.

Harriman randomly picked voters’ questions, written on pieces of folded paper before the event, from a bowl. The format gave the candidates no idea what type of questions they would be asked.

Bennett was asked how he would rate the performance of Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Bennett served on LePage’s transition team.

“I am a big fan of Governor LePage. Everyone has a different style and I really like his honesty,” Bennett said. “I think he is doing a terrific job addressing issues that have long festered in state government.”

Secretary of State Charlie Summers took a poke at King. Summers, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, “It’s very easy to be a governor during seven years of economic growth.”

Summers was asked how he could reconcile running for Congress while serving as secretary of state. He said other politicians have done the same.

“It’s a question of time management and delegation of responsibility,” he said.

Debra Plowman of Hampden, the Maine Senate’s assistant majority leader, said, “I know Angus King, and he is no independent. There is no question who he will caucus with,” and that’s the Democratic Party.

Plowman, who is a business owner and a mother, said she is best suited to defeat King in November. “He has already failed you. Don’t give him another chance to fail. He only won (the governorship) because he was a spoiler,” she said.

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin told the audience that he is a true fiscal conservative. He was asked about the partisanship that Snowe cited as one of her reasons for retiring from the Senate. He vowed to tell the truth no matter how much criticism it might generate, even from his own political party.

“There is a difference between partisanship and leadership,” Poliquin said. “Leadership is when you can provide common-sense solutions that both sides will listen to.”

Attorney General William Schneider was asked if Maine should aggressively enforce laws governing illegal immigrants.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It happens here, people sneaking across our borders. We have the ability and the responsibility to prosecute them.”

Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls pointed out that he is the only Republican candidate who dared to challenge Snowe. He announced his candidacy two years ago, long before Snowe announced that she would not seek re-election.

“When you elect career politicians, they are not going to change their ways. Heck, I’m not even a politician. I’m one of you,” D’Amboise said.

The former Lisbon Falls selectman said politicians let partisanship rule their decision-making, but he won’t. His principles will always govern his decisions, D’Amboise said.

“We elect people who serve themselves, not their constituents,” he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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