Cutler, LePage, Michaud debate

On October 15th, the Maine State Chamber held the 2014 Maine Gubernatorial debate. Incumbent Governor Paul LePage and his opponents, Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Culter, engaged in a critical and substantive debate regarding a range of issues. Throughout the event, Governor LePage emphasized his economic record, while his two opponents censured the Governor’s policies as they made their own cases for the job. The hour-long debate never grew contentious, though LePage’s caustic wit—for which he is infamous—did offset Cutler’s own brand of biting sarcasm and Michaud’s congeniality.

The candidates debated and responded to questions about economic policy, women’s reproductive rights, health care, and education. They also touched on issues such as food insecurity, renewable energy, gun control, and corporate and public welfare. Right from the start, LePage’s opponents attacked him for his partisanship and the public policy it produces. In response, LePage said, “When you have good public policy, I work with you. If you try to get me to do bad public policy—it goes in the garbage. I don’t have time.”

On the issue of economic policy, the candidates were especially critical of the Governor’s record. According to Michaud, “The number one issue…is to fire Governor LePage. He is the biggest detriment to job growth.” Cutler agreed, saying, “If we keep arguing with each other…we are not going to pull ourselves out of an eleven-year nose dive that Maine’s economy has been in.” Despite the criticism, LePage continually cited his administration’s achievements in job growth, stating “We’ve created 20,000 jobs.”

The candidates talked at length on the issue of health care. Cutler and Michaud both bemoaned LePage’s choice to refuse Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. “There are 70,000 Mainers who were denied [health care] access—of which 3,000 are veterans—because [of] this Governor,” Michaud said. Nevertheless, LePage emphasized the shortcomings of accepting additional Medicaid funds. “If [uninsured people] get insurance on the exchange, they get commercial insurance—subsidized by the federal government—which is a much higher reimbursement rate than [provided by] Medicaid,” LePage said.

Women’s reproductive rights were another central issue addressed in the debate. Cutler attacked Michaud for his voting record on the issue. “[Michaud] is also the only person on this stage to cast twenty-seven years of anti-choice votes,” Cutler said. Michaud, however, emphasized his increasing understanding of the issue. “Yes, I have evolved on that issue, but what is wrong with evolving?” Michaud said.

At the end of the evening, each candidate named the top priority of his prospective administration. Cutler was steadfast in his support of education as a means for long-term economic growth: “Top priority, without question, is education. I want every kid in the state of Maine to be trained and educated so that he or she can have a job,” Cutler said. LePage concurred on the issue, but said “The problem with Maine [is that] not enough money goes into the classroom. Too much goes to union bosses…and administration.” Michaud identified economics as an essential priority, as well as breaking partisanship.

The candidates ended with several closing statements. Cutler emphasized his political objectivity and focus on growing Maine’s economy in the 21st century. LePage asserted his commitment to the American Dream, imploring the audience to “Remember the major difference between my opponents and me. They believe everyday is April 15; I believe it’s July 4.”

A video of the entire debate can be found on C-Span’s website.

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