Senate District 25 candidates politely disagree in 1st forum

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GRAY — A question-and-answer session Tuesday night at Town Hall gave the two state Senate District 25 candidates named Cathy their first opportunity to meet each other.

Falmouth Democrat Cathy Breen and Gray Republican Cathy Manchester answered questions submitted ahead of time by about a dozen audience members, in a forum moderated by Brad Fogg of Gray Community Television. 

Topics included health care, minimum wage, education, the governor’s race, what should be done to grow small businesses, and more, often with multiple themes running through each question and answer.

The discussion was cordial and conversational, although there was disagreement.

The two disagreed when asked whether Maine should raise the minimum wage. Breen argued there is a definite need for an increased minimum, saying it hasn’t kept pace with inflation. She said it is “shameful” for someone to have to work full time and need general assistance “because the minimum wage is far behind the cost of living.”

Manchester, on the other hand, called for a need to teach students how to get good jobs, rather than raise the minimum wage, which would hurt businesses in Maine. She said she would rather “raise the ability of the workforce.” 

Both candidates said there is a need for improved education, but in different areas. Manchester said education should prepare students for the workforce, with lessons like how to balance a checkbook and how credit cards work. She said “quality of education shouldn’t be determined by a Zip Code.”

“We need to take off the partisan hats and figure out how we provide quality education for everyone,” she said, with legislators and educators working together.

Breen said there is a “growing disparity” between richer and poorer towns, especially when it came to education. She said the Legislature has not reached its goal of funding 55 percent of the cost of state education; richer towns can “absorb this and make up the difference,” Breen said, but smaller and less well-off towns don’t have the same capacity.

Breen emphasized her history as town councilor in Falmouth, while Manchester promoted her businesses and law enforcement backgrounds. 

Senate District 25 includes Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook. 

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

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

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Republican Cathy Manchester, left, and Democrat Cathy Breen, right, the candidates in state Senate District 25, meet in Gray on Tuesday night, Sept. 9, to answer questions from audience members, while moderator Brad Fogg looks on.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.