When Sen. Olympia Snowe announced in February that she wouldn’t seek another term in the U.S. Senate, she lamented an “atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies” that have “become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”
The Bangor Daily News this week asked the six Republicans and the four Democrats seeking to replace Snowe about overcoming partisan gridlock and working with the other party.
The Republicans were asked during a televised forum Monday the BDN co-sponsored with WCSH 6. The Democrats were asked by phone.
Cynthia Dill, state senator
I’m always open to compromise and working with the other party. I don’t think anything I’ve ever said or done indicates I’m not.
There is gridlock in Washington, but the responsibility is not shared equally among Republicans and Democrats. I think there’s a band of very obstructionist, extremist Republicans in Washington who have made it their life’s work to make sure President Obama isn’t re-elected.
We need more Democrats who are going to vote for laws that move the country forward.
Matt Dunlap, former secretary of state
I think all of us have a pretty strong record of not just working with the Republicans, but also factions within our own parties. That is work that has to take place not just on the floor of the Senate but also on committees and within caucuses.
The thing that you have to keep in mind through the entire process is, are you getting what you need in that compromise? I almost never got everything I wanted in the Legislature, but I was able to extract something for my constituents that I believed in.
Jon Hinck, state representative
I would point to my track record. When I co-chaired the Energy and Utilities Committee in the Maine Legislature, we had more than 95 percent unanimous reports over two years. All of those required give and take.
There are a core set of principles that I can’t compromise on. It seems to me it’s totally inappropriate for somebody to go into the United States Senate and compromise away someone’s rights. [But] I recognize if you’re going to move forward, you’ve got to work together and it means not always getting exactly what you would like.
Benjamin Pollard, construction company owner
In general, I’m open to compromise in all areas of public policy. I’d say the most critical issue of disagreement today is the issue of strategies for reducing the federal budget deficit, and I would be open to significant spending cuts.
I would never compromise on any area of public policy where I would be voting against what my conscience tells me is right. I’m less open to compromise personally on issues affecting our natural resources and providing for those most in need in our society.
Rick Bennett, former state Senate president
In the election of 2000 in Maine, we ended up with a tied Senate: 17 Republicans, 17 Democrats, one independent.
What we did in Maine on my leadership [as Senate president] was going to the Democrats, going to the independents, and saying, “Let’s try to make function out of chaos. Let’s try to work together and figure a new way of doing business that empowers everybody and enables everybody’s voice to be heard.”
We shared the committee chairmanships, we shared the various accoutrements of power in the state Senate. We let everybody’s voice be heard, even though we still maintained a lot of great differences.
Scott D’Amboise, small-business owner
This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democratic problem, it’s a United States problem. It goes both ways, but the problem can be solved very simple. That’s by following the Constitution. We have a road map on how to govern, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. If you just follow what is put forth in the constitution, we’ll be able to solve the problems.
Debra Plowman, state Senate assistant majority leader
You can’t take the jabs personally. You walk out of the room, and you have a relationship with the people that you’re working with. It’s essential that you have a relationship, but you don’t have to compromise your principles.
You have to realize when you’ve gotten all that you’re going to get, then it’s time to take it to the floor. But you do it and you do it every single day without quitting and without walking away, because that’s not an option.
If it means you have to leave your corner and come out to the middle and take on the controversy, you absolutely have to do it.
Bruce Poliquin, state treasurer
When it comes to compromise, I look at it more as being passionate and convincing people to join your side. During the pension fund debate last year with Gov. [Paul] LePage, I was the point person for six months, and I spent that amount of time talking one-on-one with legislators, testifying before the Appropriations Committee, talking to editorial boards, talking to civic groups around the state.
The goal was to convince as many people on the other side that this was a commonsense solution to eliminate $1.7 billion of our pension debt, and it was based on fact and logic and it helped create a more secure pension system. So when we’re looking at the next United States senator, I think we need someone who doesn’t look at that as partisan, but looks at it as leadership, passionate leadership to make sure we get enough people on both sides to solve the problem.
Bill Schneider, attorney general
My brand of leadership is not a brand of leadership that involves yelling and screaming and butting heads. My kind of leadership brings people together for a common purpose.
I would convince people what’s good for the country and bring them together to craft a solution to that. I don’t think that drawing partisan lines and pushing the two sides off to their respective corners is productive. I think working with everybody and trying to craft a solution that’s best for the United States and best for the state of Maine is definitely the way to go.
Charlie Summers, secretary of state
We have to be able to lean forward, do what is right and I believe I have that experience, certainly in my experience in the state Senate, when we had workers’ compensation costs driving jobs and businesses out of the state of Maine.
There were 13 of us that took a very hard stand and then brought the Democrats, who were in the majority at the time, to get workers’ compensation reform. We shut the state government down for 17 days. It was a tough time, but we did the right thing and we moved the state forward.