PORTLAND — The four Democrats running for U.S. Senate sparred about Social Security cuts, national security and other issues during a live televised debate today, one week before voters go to the polls in the statewide primary.

Portland businessman Benjamin Pollard set himself apart during the 45-minute debate, saying he opposes deep cuts in military spending and supports cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Pollard said he supports means testing for Social Security benefits. And, he said, “We need to have limits on Medicare spending, especially on the end-of-life care.”

Maine Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Maine Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, defended the social programs, and said they would instead look to reform taxation and cut military spending as ways to balance the federal budget.

“We have to get on top of spending across the board,” Hinck said. But, he said, “I would not sit by and see the safety net for our seniors eroded to a great degree.”

Dunlap said Congress needs to look at balancing taxes and ending subsidies for oil companies and agribusiness before penalizing seniors.

Said Dill: “When it comes to Medicaid and Medicare, those are programs that need to be strengthened.”

All four candidates said they oppose unlimited detention of terror suspects, including by the Obama administration.

“Either you are going to charge people with crimes on the basis of law or you are not,” Dunlap said.

Democratic voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to nominate one of the four for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

WGME-13 will host a similar debate for the six Republican candidates on Saturday. The debates are sponsored by WGME-13, WGAN radio and MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be reached at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]