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Topsham House candidates spar over debates

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Topsham House candidates spar over debates

TOPSHAM — The Green Independent Party candidate in House District 54 is challenging his Republican and Democratic opponents to two town hall-style debates.

But there's no guarantee they will happen.

Daniel Stromgren, 41, who was defeated in a special election last August in state Senate District 19, is challenging Democrat Denise Tepler and Republican Kim Talbot.

Stromgren said he sent out invitations to debate to both his opponents, and neither has responded to him. 

"I've got two opponents who are willing to go out and talk about crossing the aisle together, and to me these are values that start well before you win an election," Stromgren said. "So I had sent out the offer to work together in organizing the debates and hadn't gotten anything back and that was the second or third time I'd tried to contact my oppenents' campaigns and just never heard back from them, to me which is politics as usual."

Tepler said she isn't necessarily declining a debate.

"As soon as a reliable third party, like the League of Women Voters or even Topsham's Public Library, create a debate, I would be delighted to participate," Tepler said. 

Talbot echoed some of Tepler's concerns.

"I will do the sponsored debates, and when a sponsor comes and approaches me, that's when I'll do a debate," Talbot said. "I want to have a clear vision of how it's going to be approached, and to have a fair  and balanced approach. I think when it's sponsored you're sort of guaranteed that."

Stromgren said the goal of the debates is to reach voters in ways that mailing campaigns and rehearsed speeches can't. He said the communication between elected officials and the voters can be improved by demonstrating that candidates mean it when they say they will work together, and by involving voters directly and letting them guide the discussion.

Tepler, 58, was selected by Democrats to replace first-term Rep. Andrew Mason, who ultimately chose not to seek re-election. Mason was unopposed in the Democratic primary, but later withdrew. 

This is Tepler's third campaign to represent Topsham in the state House of Representatives. She ran unsuccessfully in 2008 and 2010, and both times she was defeated by former Republican state Rep. Kerri Prescott.

"I have a number of concerns that are driving me to run for the Legislature," Tepler said. "I want to figure more and better ways to keep young people in Maine, provide them with job opportunities and help them to deal with their student debt. I also want to deal with the issue of our town and our towns in general getting their fair share from the state government."

Talbot, 53, defeated Susan Dolan in the June Republican primary. This is her first campaign for public office.

"I don't really worry about that," Talbot said. "I'm a hard worker, I've been involved through the school system and I'm just going to go out there and work. I don't even consider what they have to bring to the plate, it's what I have and I'm positive about it and I'm just going forward."

Talbot said she isn't ruling out the possibility of debates, but warned time is running out.

"As we get closer and closer it's going to get more difficult because my schedule is filling up pretty quickly," Talbot said. "So there may be (debates). I'm not opposed to it at all."

Election Day is Nov. 4.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.