CAPE ELIZABETH — The candidates in the House District 121 special election displayed significant differences of opinion on several issues Wednesday night in a forum organized by Cape Elizabeth High School students.
Democratic candidate Kim Monaghan-Derrig and Republican candidate Nancy Thompson answered questions posed by the members of the Advanced Placement government class, the audience and residents watching on cable TV who wanted to call in from home.
The District 121 seat represents the northern portion of town. It became available when former Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, won a special election in May to fill a vacancy in Senate District 7, representing South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and a portion of Scarborough.
The special election to fill the House seat was set for August because of a special legislative session scheduled for September to discuss congressional redistricting.
High school senior Charlotte Rutty moderated and asked questions. The candidates had an opportunity for opening and closing statements and two minutes to answer each question. They also competed a lighting round with yes or no responses.
Both candidates agreed on a desire for more state aid for Cape Elizabeth, support for the work of the Conservation Commission and Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, state spending for tourism marketing and the need to revise education funding.
But while Thompson said the way to create more private-sector jobs is to spend less, tax less, regulate less, reduce heath-insurance premiums and energy costs, and reform education, Monaghan-Derrig said she would generate jobs by tapping into Maine’s natural resources through forestry and creation of wind power, tidal power and hydro-electric power.
Monaghan-Derrig said she would be interested in serving on an environmental committee in Augusta, or on education and cultural affairs, or any committee that has to do with human rights, women’s rights or equality rights.
Thompson said she could best serve on a health and human services committee and would advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.
She said there were many highlights in the last legislative session, while Monaghan-Derrig was less than enthusiastic.
She said Democrats worked hard to prevent “extreme measures from taking place” and was disappointed in the repeal of same-day voter registration and lack of discussion on bonds.
Thompson said she was pleased with the work done to provide the largest tax cut in Maine’s history, health-care reform, pension reform and welfare reform. She was also happy with the bipartisan support for the budget and the passage of LD 1, which she said will open the doors for better business.
When asked if the candidates support a local-option sales tax proposed by Dill, which would allow municipalities to assess up to a 3 percent sales tax and keep half of the proceeds, Monaghan-Derrig said she is “likely to support it,” but would have to do more research on the issue.
Thompson said she absolutely does not support any new taxes.
When asked if they would support increased public health care for Maine residents, Thompson declined to answer. Monaghan-Derrig said it is a basic right.
Monaghan-Derrig said the special election is about who is best qualified to represent the views of Cape residents and who is prepared to stand up to the administration of Gov. Paul LePage.
“(Republicans) signed on to voter oppression and legalized guns in state parks,” she said. “These extreme policies are not what is best for Maine and certainly not what is best for Cape Elizabeth.”
Thompson said people are concerned about jobs, taxes, education and environment and she will work to improve these issues in Augusta.
“I am an independent thinker, reasoned and moderate in my decision making, and will always hear from the residents of Cape Elizabeth,” she said. “I have a moderate and sensible approach to issue resolution and I will be a unifying presence in Augusta. I will look past party politics in order to achieve the most beneficial results.”
The special election is on Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the high school cafeteria. Absentee ballots are available from the town clerk’s office. Early absentee voting hours are Mondays, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesdays through Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Aug. 15 at Town Hall.
AP Government teacher Ted Jordan said 85 percent of his class participated in the summer candidates forum, for which they will receive extra credit.
In preparation for the event, the students communicated online, via Facebook and email, he said. And although it was their first summer forum, Jordan said he was pleased with the overflow turnout.
“We will do this again in October for the Town Council and School Board races,” he said.
Democrat Kim Monaghan-Derrig, left, moderator and high school senior Charlotte Rutty, and Republican Nancy Thompson at Wednesday’s Cape Elizabeth Town Hall forum for the House District 121 candidates. The special election is Tuesday, Aug. 16.
Do you favor making gay marriage legal in Maine?
Monaghan-Derrig: Gay marriage, yes.
Thompson: Civil unions, yes.
Do you favor allowing charter schools in Maine?
Do support allowing fishermen to sell the lobsters that they catch in their nets in Maine?
Do you support Maine’s goal of installing 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2015?
Do you support passage of the people’s veto to restore same-day voter registration?