MACHIAS, Maine — Thursday night’s gathering of three of the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates on the June 8 primary ballot was billed as a debate, but even the candidates admitted that they pretty much agree on issues across the board.
Pat McGowan, Libby Mitchell, and Steve Rowe attended the event, held at the University of Maine at Machias. Rosa Scarcelli was absent.
A write-in candidate, former Biddeford Mayor Donna J. Dion, attended the forum but did not participate.
About 60 people attended, nearly the same amount that came to a Republican gubernatorial candidates debate one night earlier.
At both events, the three top issues were the same: education, health care and energy.
Thursday’s audience, however, quizzed the Democrats about their feelings on a Washington County tribal casino.
“There are better ways to stimulate the economy than gaming,” Rowe said. He added, however, that he favored a statewide referendum on the issue.
McGowan said he did not support a casino, opting to create sustainable jobs instead.
Mitchell said she had traditionally supported the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s casino efforts but that she will not be supporting the Oxford casino referendum this fall. “I am concerned that this is not a good economic development method,” she said.
When asked about siting a liquefied natural gas facility in Washington County, Libby said it was a short-term transitional solution. “In the future, we need to move to renewable, fossil-free fuels,” she said.
Rowe agreed, saying LNG was “part of an interim solution” but added that natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than oil, which is the primary fuel in Maine.
McGowan said he favored an LNG facility but also said Washington County residents should determine the issue for themselves. “It’s important that you direct your destiny,” he said.
The candidates each said they supported same-sex marriage and were opposed to a northern national forest that would limit Washington County’s natural-based woods industry.
All three candidates were optimistic about the economy, Maine’s future budgets and growth in Washington County.
“I don’t [subscribe] to all the doom and gloom,” Rowe said. “We just need to change the way we do things.”
Libby said there were definite signs of hope, such as an upturn in state revenues, and McGowan said there were some “real bright spots” on the horizon, such as alternative energy, wind and tidal power.