Climate change, health insurance and marketing were among the topics the four candidates for governor were questioned about during a Thursday evening, Oct. 4, forum focused on the seafood industry.

The gathering was organized by the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association and held at the Strand Theatre in Rockland.

Independent Alan Caron said he was committed to building a new economy.

Independent Terry Hayes said she was working to learn more about the issues facing the fisheries.

Democrat Janet Mills said the challenges facing fishermen are the same ones faced by other small businesses — including the high cost of health insurance and the lack of workers.

Mills attended the first hour of the forum, but left to attend a scheduled event in Portland.

Republican Shawn Moody said government had turned its back on blue-collar workers and he would turn that around.

Most of the candidates were in agreement that existing and possible new regulations from the federal government concerning protecting right whales and reducing the herring catch were excessive.

Mills said not one death of a right whale has been tied to lobster gear. She said the government should not impose limits on the herring catch, because it would be devastating.

Moody said he would "go to the mat" for the fisheries against additional federal regulations.

Caron said there should be a pause button on additional regulations in these areas.

Mills, the state's attorney general, said when she served in the Legislature, she fought tooth and nail to allow commercial waterfront land to be taxed at current value, rather than at the highest and best potential value.

The Democrat also cited the creation and use of the Land for Maine's Future program to preserve waterfront properties for the fisheries. She said the next governor should not sit on voter-approved bonds for preserving land. The state must also fully fund the program, she said.

Moody said fishermen are being squeezed out in some places in southern Maine and that he would fight to preserve commercial waterfront property.

Hayes said she wants to figure out a strategy for investments for preserving fishermen's access to the waterfront.

Moody said he has been very outspoken about wind power. He said onshore wind projects should not be considered for areas such as Moosehead, Rangeley and Sebago lakes.

"New businesses seem to get the red carpet rolled our for them, but incumbent businesses seem to have the red tape rolled out," Moody said.

He said fishing is a major industry that employs a large number of people and should not be put at risk to send electricity to Massachusetts.

Caron said Maine must develop a 30-year plan to become energy self-sufficient. He said this would save Mainers $5 billion annually that is paid to energy companies.

He said solar is the key, adding that Maine can take advantage of solar power through solar shingles, solar windows and batteries that will replace furnaces.

Hayes said the issue of wind power generated from turbines offshore is a conundrum.

Mills voiced support for wind power, but said fishermen need to have a seat at the table when the issue is discussed and decisions made.

The candidates also addressed the concern of the seafood industry over the lack of enough workers.

Caron proposed offering two years of free higher education, which would retain and attract people to the state. He said the cost of the education would be erased at 10 percent each year if the person stayed and worked in Maine.

He also said Maine should welcome immigrants to the state, arguing that the language used by Gov. Paul LePage about immigrants has been "appalling." He said this was the same discrimination faced by Franco-Americans, Italians and Irish immigrants when they arrived in Maine in previous centuries.

Moody said Maine must change from Vacationland to Staycationland. The Republican candidate said if Maine could attract even 1 percent of the people who visit the state to move here, that would generate a large increase in the workforce. He said Maine should reform its vocational education programs.

Hayes said Maine should build a skilled workforce.

In regard to trade, Caron said the state cannot depend on the federal government to protect it. He said the current administration does not know what it is doing.

Moody said there will be short-term pain, but he expects long term gains and Maine must look for other markets in the meantime.

Hayes said industries should add value to their products, which would broaden their markets.

Caron said focusing on promoting the Maine brand will help in marketing products, and to be successful, must sell their products outside Maine.

Independent Caron said in regard to climate change, there is no scientific debate, but only a political debate. He said understanding climate change is essential if a governor wants to grow Maine's economy.

Moody said it was important not to overreact. He said there is time to work on the issue and help industries navigate this challenge, but that government can't get in the way.

Hayes cited aquaculture as one way to control the industry's environment, rather than letting the environment control it.

The candidates were asked whether they would support a single-payer government health care system or Medicare for all.

Caron said history will look back and say our priorities were wrong by not providing health care coverage for all. He said what a small state such as Maine can do is limited, but that accepting federal dollars to expand health care coverage for 70,000 people and shoring up rural hospitals was a start.

Hayes said she believes the country will get there, but it will take a while. She suggested looking at a regional approach with other states. She pointed out that when she ran her own business, the scariest part was the cost and coverage of health policies.

Moody said cutting wasteful health care spending and allowing businesses to form associations to buy coverage, and to allow competition across states for insurance, are steps that can be taken.