October 24, 2012

Six US Senate candidates cover the gamut in Waterville forum

Health care, energy policy, privatizing Social Security among subjects covered

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Candidates for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe's seat addressed everything from health care to energy to privatizing Social Security at a forum Tuesday at Waterville Opera House.

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The six U.S. Senate candidates participate in a forum at the Waterville Opera House on Tuesday evening. From left are Danny Dalton, Cynthia Dill, Andrew Dodge, Angus King, Charlie Summers and Stephen Woods.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Thomas College president Laurie Lachance asked the six candidates if they support the Affordable Care Act, what they would do to reduce the cost of health insurance for businesses and individuals if elected and what role they think the federal government should pay in ensuring health care for Americans.

Republican candidate Charlie Summers said he gives Obama credit for taking on health care, but believes his response to it is wrong.

Two things should be done, according to Summers: Individuals should be allowed to go across state lines to buy health insurance and individuals should be allowed to deduct the cost of health insurance from their federal taxes.

Independent candidate Angus King said he supports the Affordable Care Act, but said it should be renamed the Accessible Health Care Act.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," the former governor said.

He said the conversation must be about cost and different ways to pay for health care, such as paying providers to keep people healthy instead of paying per treatment.

State Sen. Cynthia Dill, a Democrat, said she supports the health care act because it allows children to stay on their parents' policies until they are 26, takes away caps on benefits, does not categorize women for pre-existing conditions and helps elderly people by drugs affordably.

"All good," Dill said. "I support it. I think we should go a step further to a single-payer system."

Three lesser known independent candidates also weighed in on health care. Businessmen Danny Dalton of Brunswick and Steve Woods of Yarmouth said they support it, and freelance writer Andrew Dodge of Harpswell said he opposes it.

About 250 people turned out for the forum, which Lachance emphasized was not a debate. It was sponsored by Thomas College in partnership with the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, Time Warner Cable and the Opera House, Lachance said.

Woods said he does not favor privatizing Social Security and does not see it as an entitlement. Dalton disagreed, saying he thinks Social Security is an entitlement and adjustments need to be made to it right away. Dodge said there's no way it should be privatized short-term, but people should get a choice in how they prepare for the future.

King said Social Security is "in relatively good shape in comparison to Medicare" and he does not favor privatizing it.

Social Security should not be touched for people already in the system, but in the future younger people may have to retire at a different age, Summers said. He said Social Security his children received when his first wife died helped his family sustain a level of living.

"I understand just how important this system is," he said.

Dill said she would not support privatization, as Social Security is a critical part of the social safety net and everybody pays in.

"Social Security is something I pledge to protect," she said.

On the issue of energy, Dill said she supports the government's providing seed money for innovative and entrepreneurial ideas that solve problems, but subsidies for oil and gas are unfair.

"I would not continue subsidies in that area," she said. "I support renewable, sustainable energy. I do not support drilling off the coast of Maine or in Alaska."

King said the country has to get off oil dependency as soon as possible, and natural gas is a rational energy for purposes such as heating and running vehicles.

"The sooner we can get off oil, the better," he said.

Summers said that every day we import oil from the Middle East and we need to do things to look for energy sources here in the U.S. We must do everything we can to become energy independent.

"It's a moral responsibility as well as an economic development responsibility," he said.

On a lighter note, Lachance started a lightning round, asking the candidates about everything from their favorite Maine food to their favorite place in Maine.

Just for the record, favorite Maine foods were: Dodge and Summers lobster; King, fresh corn; Woods, bean suppers; Dalton, scallops; and Dill, fresh vegetables from a farm near her home.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

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