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  • Yaw Akuffo-Anoff

RECAP: Maine’s First Gubernatorial Debate.

On Tuesday October 4, Maine Governor Janet Mills, former governor Paul LePage, and independent candidate Sam Hunkler faced off in the first of four televised debates scheduled to take place before the November 8 election.

The three candidates discussed their viewpoints on Maine’s economy, abortion rights, COVID inflation checks, affordable housing, and more.

On Reproductive Freedom and Women’s Right to Choose

Candidates were asked about what they would do if the State Legislature brought a law to their desk that had additional restrictions on abortion in Maine.

“I would not let such a law become effective. My veto pen will stand in the way of any restrictions on the right to abortion,” said Governor Mills.

“I would go to the medical professionals to tell me…I don’t know, I’m not sure I understand the question,” said former governor LePage. He later clarified with a “yes” when asked if he would veto new restrictions on abortion access.

“I would support and defend the current constitutional statute as it is,” said Sam Hunkler.

On COVID Inflation Checks And Taxes

Governor Mills was asked to respond to the minority of economists who are concerned that COVID relief checks might contribute to inflation.

“This was a wildly bipartisan move. It was actually proposed by Republicans. We enhanced it to $850…People are thankful for those checks. People know what they need to do individually with that money. It belongs to the people, it was right to give it back to them,” said Governor Mills.

Former governor LePage was asked about how he would pay for an income tax cut, which some have said may also worsen inflation.

“Putting more money in a heated economy is inflationary…I will tell you yes, a tax cut can be done by savings: one of the savings,” said LePage.

On Affordable Housing

All three candidates were asked what role the state should play in addressing the housing shortage.

“For residential homes I would like to see us greatly increase the mill rate on residential property taxes and at the same time greatly increase homestead exemptions,” said Sam Hunkler.

“This Legislature and I enacted measures to extend the Homestead Exemption to $25,000 and increase the property tax fairness credit...This year we enacted one of the most generous packages of housing reform ever in the history of Maine. With the help of the Legislature we re-enacted the Historic tax credit, affordable tax credit, ” said Governor Mills.

“What we need to do is take a look at our older buildings and schools and convert them to affordable housing and then consolidate our schools to lower the property tax section. Amongst the property taxes, the school portion, we lower that, we have affordable housing and we get these older buildings more productive,” said former governor LePage.

As we recently pointed out, it’s never been easier to vote in Maine. November 8 no-excuse absentee ballots are now available to all eligible voters willing to make their voices heard.

The next gubernatorial debate is scheduled for Tuesday October 27, 2022.

Watch the first debate in full here.

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