NEWS CENTER Maine’s Political Brew: Sunday, October 9, 2022

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This week’s analysts are Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio and attorney Ken Altshuler, a longtime WGAN Morning News co-host.

MAINE, USA — The first televised debate between Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, Republican nominee Paul LePage, and independent Sam Hunkler was seen Tuesday night on Maine Public.

And the candidates covered a lot of ground.

When the topic of abortion came up, LePage and Mills agreed that Maine’s current law should not be changed. When pressed, LePage said he would veto a bill that would ban most abortions 15 weeks.

Ray Richardson thinks the question was “a scam setup” because LePage never took steps to change Maine’s abortion law during eight years as governor.

But Ken Altshuler pointed out that the question needs to be pursued because LePage “never had Roe v. Wade being overturned, and I think that’s the difference.”

Gov. Mills sidestepped a question about what Republicans argue were inappropriate lessons designed for kindergarten students on the subject of gender identity. The lesson in question was taken off the Department of Education website when this issue was first raised earlier this year.

RELATED: Maine gubernatorial candidates face off in first debate

Our analysts agree that Mills should address this subject directly. Altshuler said, “She has to be forceful about confronting it and saying it’s wrong, it was on my watch, it won’t happen again.” He added, “I don’t blame her for the video.”

But Richardson counters, “She’s the head of state government, which oversees the Department of Education; this was on the DOE website; Governor Mills owns this issue.”

Long-shot independent candidate Sam Hunkler got his first significant exposure in this debate. But Richardson and Altshuler were unimpressed and didn’t believe his presence would affect the race’s outcome.

“It’s like he decided to run for governor and then didn’t study the issues,” Richardson said. Altshuler said, “I appreciate him saying, ‘I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m open to finding out.’ I know that’s really honest. But most people want someone to know the answers.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held a hearing in Portland on regulations designed to protect endangered rights whales, rules which pose a threat to Maine’s lobster industry. 

All of Maine’s top elected officials have condemned the rule-making process. Still, Republicans are trying to pin the problem on Gov. Mills and Rep. Jared Golden for supporting so-called radical environmentalists.

RELATED: Fact-checking claims made during Maine’s first gubernatorial debate

Altshuler said the governor and the Congressional delegation are all saying the right things about protecting the lobster industry, adding, “I don’t think anybody an elected office in Maine gets stuck with this” by voters.

“If that’s the case,” Richardson said, “it means people aren’t paying attention.” He believes Attorney General Aaron Frey should be suing NOAA over this.

Our analysts also discussed whether there’s any message to be taken by the fact that so far, Democrats are outpacing Republicans 5 to 1 in absentee ballot requests and the potential political impact of OPEC’s announcement that it will slash oil production by two million barrels per day.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine’s Weekend Morning Report.

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