The four candidates for Maine governor discussed Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission line, voting rights for non-citizens and other topics during a debate Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s event – sponsored by the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, AARP and Fox Bangor/WVII ABC 7 – was the second televised debate of the general election and came two weeks before Mainers head to the ballot boxes. While a recent online poll suggested Democrat Janet Mills leads Republican Shawn Moody, many observers believe the race is a toss-up as the two party nominees vie for votes with each other and independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron.

As with previous debates, the tone of Tuesday’s event in Bangor was cordial even if the political ads airing between debate segments were largely negative. The candidates agreed on several issues but often differed on the details.

For instance, all four candidates expressed concern with CMP’s proposal to run a 145-mile transmission line through the mountains of Western Maine so Hydro-Quebec can supply electricity to Massachusetts. That controversial plan is pending with the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Moody, a Gorham resident who owns a chain of auto body repair shops, said the state needs to weigh the positives with the potential negative impacts on the region’s tourism economy. But Moody said Maine needs to realize some financial benefits from the project because the transmission line is cutting through the state.

“It gets down to good negotiation,” Moody said. “That’s why you need a business person that has been negotiating for 40 years … but if we can’t generate a revenue stream (for Maine) out of this, to me it’s a no-go.”

Mills, a Farmington resident currently serving as Maine’s attorney general, said she tries to envision “what it means for that beautiful area” to have a 75- to 300-foot-wide corridor stretching 145 miles. Mills also questioned why Hydro-Quebec is offering $50 million to Massachusetts ratepayers but nothing to Maine consumers.

And Mills also took a shot at Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who visited Spain last week to meet with executives at Iberdrola, CMP’s parent company. LePage’s office did not initially disclose LePage stopped in Spain for the meeting before traveling to Iceland for a trade summit.

“I’d love to have been a fly on the wall there, find out what the deal is that may be being cut as we speak,” Mills said. “We need to be more transparent about the whole thing.”

Caron, a business owner and economic development consultant from Freeport, called the proposal “a terrible deal for Maine and Maine ratepayers.” Caron said the project would undercut the whitewater rafting industry – although the company this week proposed running the transmission lines underneath the Kennebec River rather than across the Kennebec Gorge – and contains few financial benefits compared to Hydro-Quebec proposals discussed in other states.

“They are just taking us for a ride and all of that money is going to go off to Spain,” Caron said. “Like a cheap date sometimes, we tend to fall for whatever comes through the door.”

Hayes, the Maine state treasurer, said there is a lot more she would like to know about the details, specifically: “What do we have to give up – to get what benefit?”

“If I had to make the decision today, it would be ‘no,’ but I am very much open to new information because I think the ‘how’ is really what’s important here,” said Hayes, who lives in Buckfield. “Is there a way to do this that … doesn’t wreck the place?”

All four candidates also said they would have opposed the recent proposal in Portland to allow non-citizens to vote in city elections. The proposal was put on hold amid growing controversy.

Caron said the fact that the proposal is not moving forward in Portland shows that “it is a bad idea” because voting is the most critical right of citizenship. But at the same time, Caron compared the anti-immigration rhetoric heard in some political circles today to the discrimination directed at French-Canadian, Irish, Italian and other immigrants to Maine in the past.

“We are killing ourselves by telling the country, ‘We don’t want people. We don’t welcome you,” Caron said. “That will change on Day 1 if I’m your next governor.”

Maine Political Report



Hayes agreed that only citizens should have the right to vote, but said one of the most powerful and moving experiences she’s had on the campaign trail was attending a citizenship naturalization ceremony. If governor, Hayes said, she would make a point to attend every naturalization ceremony “because it warrants that kind of attention from our chief executive.”

Mills called the right to vote “one of the hallmarks and one of the highest privileges of citizenship.” The attorney general added that she agreed with Moody’s comments during a previous debate that the federal government takes too long to process applications for asylum and grant work permits so people are not dependent on welfare programs.

“We have to bring pressure on the federal government to do it right, to make sure people are safe and that new (immigrants) can become citizens and vote legally,” Mills said.

Moody, meanwhile, said many people have to wait years to gain citizenship when they go through the legal process.

“I am very appreciative of the immigrant population that comes to continue to build our workforce and our economy,” Moody said. “But no, I don’t think having non-citizens vote in our local elections is a good idea. It provides a disservice to the people that got here legally.”

Additionally, the four candidates also reiterated their opposition to Question 1 on the November ballot, which would increase taxes on wealthy Mainers to help pay for home-based care for the elderly. All four said they support efforts to allow the elderly to remain in their homes, but the way the ballot initiative was drafted is not the right process.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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