Maine’s candidates for U.S. Senate provided a testy finish to the long campaign during their final debate Saturday night, and one independent dropped out at the end of the hour-long appearance, just 60 hours before Election Day voting begins.

Steve Woods, who had indicated earlier in the race that he would step aside if he was trailing former Gov. Angus King, also running as an independent, late in the campaign, made good on that promise during the forum in Lewiston. Woods, who by luck of the draw had the final closing remarks of the debate, said he was getting out of the race and urged his supporters to back King for the Senate seat, which is being vacated by the incumbent, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

Meanwhile, King and Secretary of State Charlie Summers, the Republican candidate, continued to spar, with Summers at one point saying King was “morally bankrupt” for supporting the deficit-cutting framework of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which called for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to cut the nation’s debt.

Summers has signed a pledge not to raise taxes if he’s elected. He said Saturday that government revenues could grow through increased economic output and that, combined with sharp spending cuts, would bring the country’s budget under control.

King, for his part, said anyone who wouldn’t consider tax increases as part of a solution to the debt wasn’t being serious about deficit-cutting, He also criticized Summers’ math on alternative power subsidies, saying Summers was overstating the subsidies “by a factor of 10,” leading Summers to sarcastically call the former governor “Professor King.”

State Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, the Democratic candidate, continued to say that the major reason for the partisan gridlock is Republicans and suggested that King was running for the Senate as a way of “finishing out his resume.”

She also said Washington’s problems won’t be solved by electing “wealthy older white men” to the Senate, drawing a sharp response from Woods, who called Dill “disingenuous” for suggesting that a 47-year-old white female lawyer from Cape Elizabeth has markedly different background than well-off older white men.

Dill said Woods’ comments proved her point and said she “has nothing against” older white men, but they are already well-represented in the Senate.

The debate had other lively moments, including independent candidate Danny Dalton’s charge that the United States had spent $4 trillion on losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and he could have lost both wars at a cost of only $1 trillion. Dalton also used his closing statement to say the Lord’s Prayer.

The final independent candidate, Andrew Ian Dodge, pushed a libertarian agenda and criticized Dill, Summers and King for their campaigns, although he said Dalton will be his first hire for his Senate staff if he’s elected. Dodge also said the Democrats and Republicans in Washington are “two gangs, like the Crips and the Bloods” and later said he would refuse to be part of “West Side Story” in the Senate.

Several candidates criticized questions on Iran and the Patriot Act in a “lightning round,” designed to elicit short or even yes-or-no answers and, consequently, most didn’t provide a clear answer. However, everyone but Summers said they planned to vote to allow same-sex marriages in Maine, a referendum question on the state ballot this year.

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

[email protected]

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