Twelve candidates for governor – six Republicans, four Democrats, one Green Independent and one candidate who is not enrolled in a party – fielded questions about fisheries and marine spatial planning March 4 at a candidates forum that was part of the 2010 Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockport.

The format of the event allowed all candidates to respond to some questions put to them by moderator Avery Day of Pierce Atwood LLP. Each question from the audience was answered by two candidates, selected by Day. Additional candidates were allowed to respond in some cases.

Abbott focuses on business

Republican Steve Abbott lives in Orono and has served as chief of staff for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for 12 years. Abbott, who arrived late to the forum and left in the midst of another candidate’s closing remarks, said it was important to focus on turning Maine’s business climate around.

Calling small, local schools “the heart of our communities,” fisherman Kristan Porter asked candidates to speak about the effect of school consolidation and the educational funding formula. Abbott said it was important to find administrative efficiencies. He said reorganization similar to what created the school administrative districts in 1957, with added economic incentives such as merit pay, were part of the answer. He said he supported charter schools.

“We need students and we need leaders,” Abbott said. “The way you get that is with jobs.”

Cutler wants to resurrect fishing industry

Eliot Cutler was the only candidate at the forum who is not affiliated with a political party. He said he had 40 years of experience in public policy. He said he would help “create and strengthen the Maine brand,” and had valuable knowledge of Asian and Chinese markets.

Cutler said money should be found to monitor the near-shore herring stock.

“I will have been a failure if I don’t help you resurrect your industry and community,” Cutler said in closing.

Jacobson calls for jobs

Republican Matt Jacobson lives in Cumberland. He introduced himself by telling the audience that he ran a railroad in Maine and now runs Maine & Company, which provides a variety of services to businesses.

Jacobson said the state needs to increase job recruitment through lowered costs, a predictable and reasonable regulatory environment, and an educational system that produces a world-class work force.

He said the state’s lobster fishery is “one of the best self-regulating industries in Maine, yet you’re on your knees because of things beyond your control.” Jacobson said all the candidates had good ideas and voters would have to decide among them.

Jacobson said offshore energy development is a fashion that will not solve the problem because of its high costs.

“It looks like the 1840s gold rush,” he said. “The people that got rich weren’t the miners. They were the people that sold the miners stuff.”

LePage wants less regulation

Republican Paul LePage is the mayor of Waterville. In his introduction, LePage said he had been homeless at the age of 11 and worked all his life to provide for a family. LePage said he had kept Waterville’s taxes at the same or lower levels during his tenure there. He said that if elected, he would “put a leash” on regulatory and environmental protection agencies.

LePage said state government should reduce expenditures.

“Good regulatory oversight, not control” is needed, he said.

Port Clyde fisherman Gary Libby asked how candidates would have responded to the loss of close to 130 jobs after the closure of Prospect Harbor’s Stinson Sardine Cannery, had they been in office at the time. His question was referred to LePage and Poliquin.

LePage said the closure was due to lowered quotas that will reduce the amount of herring caught in the Gulf of Maine. He said Gov. John Baldacci should have fought a quota that regulated matters in Maine’s sovereign waters.

Mills suggests changes in funding for fisheries marketing

Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, has served in the Legislature for 15 years. In his opening remarks he said his grandfather was superintendent of schools in Stonington.

He said consolidation has not saved money for Maine. He said the Department of Marine Resources should remain at the cabinet level and should serve as an advocate for Maine fishermen in regard to federal issues. He said the state needs to create opportunities for fishermen to offer their perspectives.

Mills said the cost of advocating for fishing communities should not be paid solely by fees and the traditional revenue stream, and suggested that a percentage of Maine’s food and lodging taxes be allocated for that purpose. Currently 5 percent of that tax goes to promote tourism, he said.

“The fishing industry is just as important and just as connected to tourism and lodging,” he said.

In regard to Maine’s loss of seafood processing facilities, Mills pointed to companies such as New Balance and said the state needs to be innovative. He described a bill he introduced in the Legislature that would allow Maine State Retirement System funds to be invested in new technology.

Mills said offshore energy production will become economically viable over time and its benefit lies in the stabilizing of energy costs. He said it wasn’t possible to predict the impacts of ocean power development on fisheries, and more resources need to be given to the Department of Marine Resources so it can monitor development activities and get the answers.

Mitchell says Maine can’t go it alone in Washington

Sen. Elizabeth (Libby) Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, serves as president of the Maine Senate. She said in her introductory remarks that she has little contact with maritime issues in her work in the Legislature, but Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, keeps her informed.

Mitchell was one of two candidates who answered a question from lobsterman and bait dealer Wayne Perry, asking if they would fight against recommendations from the New England Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for drastically lowered herring quotas.

“People hate government unless they want something from it,” she said. “We have a very powerful congressional delegation, but one state can’t go it alone.”

Mitchell said Maine Lobstermen’s Association President David Cousens is “the best lobbyist I’ve met.”

She said the decision to designate the Gulf of Maine as right whale habitat was too severe and needed to be revisited, but she didn’t have all the facts.

“Maine is a lot of entrepreneurs making things work,” she said in closing. She said the government has to be able to work with the Legislature.

Otten calls for faster permitting for business development

Republican Les Otten of Greenwood said the current gubernatorial campaign is about jobs. He described the Portland Fish Exchange as doing 20 percent of the business now that it did 20 years ago.

“The federal government dumps laws on us,” Otten said. He also said the Department of Marine Resources should be a cabinet-level department in Maine government, which is already the case.

He said the state does not market its products well, and Maine needs to reduce electrical costs and streamline regulation to allow for faster permitting of projects.

In response to Porter’s question about the effect of school consolidation and the educational funding formula, Otten said the system is not providing results. He said charter schools, home schooling and vouchers should be promoted.

Otten said Maine needs to develop the technology of the future including deepwater wind and nuclear power, and the state should explore an energy corridor from Canada. He said Mainers spent $9.6 billion on No. 2 heating oil over the past decade.

Poliquin wants professional managers in Maine government

Republican Bruce Poliquin of Georgetown described himself as a private sector business owner and manager. Throughout the forum, Poliquin said problems in Augusta come from a need for better management and more streamlined regulatory processes. He said Maine needs to “reduce the complexity of doing business in the state.”

In answer to Libby’s question about how he would have reacted to the closing of Prospect Harbor’s Stinson Sardine Cannery, Poliquin said state government has been taxing the private sector to death.

“The Bumblebee closure is symptomatic,” he said. He said state government needs to hire professional managers to run its departments and agencies.

Richardson says he will advocate for Maine

John Richardson is a Brunswick Democrat who has served in the Legislature and is currently commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development. He said he doesn’t believe in handouts and he would be a forceful advocate for fishermen in Washington, D.C., helping to “get rid of dumb rules. I will be laser-like on the economy.”

“The brand of Maine is in trouble,” he said. “We need a chief marketing officer as the next governor.”

Richardson said he was instrumental in bringing last year’s international EnergyOcean conference to the Samoset Resort in Rockport. He said offshore energy development could make Maine self-sufficient and fishermen could be partners in that outcome.

He said Maine is made of small towns and the next governor should hold town meetings and reach out to hear what the people have to say. He said television and the Internet could help connect people.

Rowe calls fisheries and agriculture essential to Maine

Democrat Steve Rowe of Portland has served as Maine’s attorney general and speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. He described himself as a West Point graduate.

Rowe said fishermen need access to capital and health care, and the ground fisheries need to be restored in order to revitalize an industry that adds more than $1 billion to the state economy. “We’re losing our islands’ year-round populations,” he said.

Rowe said the health care system could be improved by paying more for preventive care and less for tests and hospital procedures, and incentives should be provided for community based care.

He said processing facilities left Maine to take advantage of Canadian government subsidies.

“If we’re serious about having fisheries and lobstering as part of our future, we need to focus on value added [products],” Rowe said. He said that meant bringing down the cost of health care, providing access to capital and lowering energy costs.

Rowe said he would focus on fishing and agriculture and Maine needs to do its own research on herring stocks.

“We need a long-term strategic plan for the state,” he said in closing.

Scarcelli looks for long-term vision

Democrat Rosa Scarcelli lives in Portland and owns a housing company. She said her experience in a highly regulated, low margin business gave her insights that would be valuable in the Blaine House. “We have to look at a 30-year vision for our state,” she said. Scarcelli left the forum immediately after giving her closing remarks.

She said Maine is fifth in New England for research and development and the state needs to identify markets for its products and provide a “stable and friendly regulatory and tax structure.”

In answer to Perry’s questions about fighting against the new herring quotas, Scarcelli said her book “Maine Rising” talks about the lobster industry and the state needs good ideas and a solid plan.

In response to a question about the designation of the Gulf of Maine as right whale habitat, she said fishermen must participate more and tell regulators what they see on the water.

Williams calls for accessible government

Lynne Williams lives in Bar Harbor and is the only candidate for governor from the Green Independent Party. She said she has lived in Maine’s fishing communities for more than a decade.

She said Maine government should identify those economic entities that are needed in the state and work to attract them “instead of falling all over whoever comes here.” Williams said the state needs seafood processing facilities and should tailor tax policy and streamline regulations for that purpose.

She said it is important to listen to communities that are resisting industrial wind development and cautioned those at the forum to pay attention to new research about the impacts of vibration and low-frequency sounds.

“Be very careful before installing [turbines] in the water,” she said.

Williams said that while her advocacy work with about 20 community groups has led her to call on legislators and other elected representatives, she has never been able to obtain a meeting with the governor. She said she would create an office of community support to help citizens gain access to the executive branch.

“My number one priority is local, small businesses,” she said. “I don’t think corporate lobbyists have done much for small businesses.”

“The true wisdom in the state, and the true solutions, come from the communities,” Williams said in closing.

To learn more about the candidates and their positions, visit their Web sites.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

 

 

 

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