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Political Brew: Mills-LePage debate, debt ceiling fights and Clinton on Portland wage question

Our analysts this week are Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio and attorney Ken Altshuler, former co-host of the WGAN Morning News.

MAINE, USA — On Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage met for a NEWS CENTER Maine "Voice of the Voter" forum. It was their second televised debate of the week and fourth joint appearance of the campaign.

"The animosity between the two is pretty obvious," Ken Altshuler said. But he said it's unlikely any minds were changed during the hour-long discussion. 

Altshuler added, "If we don't know these two people by now, we're never going to know them."

Altshuler also pointed out that LePage was more aggressive than in previous debates. Ray Richardson said he needed to be because "It's frustrating to Gov. LePage that [Mills] won't answer direct questions about most of the issues."

The Biden administration is reportedly in quiet talks with crucial  Senate offices about raising the debt ceiling during the post-election lame-duck session of Congress. There is a desire to keep the debt ceiling from becoming a political weapon if Republicans take over one or both chambers.

Axios reported that Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is supportive of the idea, though she has not weighed in publicly.

"I think the debt ceiling is one of the dumbest things we fight over," Richardson said. "The reality is we're not borrowing more money to pay new bills. We're borrowing more money to pay the bills we've already agreed to pay." 

Richardson believes the debt ceiling should be eliminated. 

"If we start defaulting on stuff, you haven't seen a mess until that happens," he said.

Altshuler agreed that the debt ceiling is an artificial issue, but "It's become a political weapon to get concessions on other things."

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-state money have flooded the campaigns for some of Portland's many referendum questions. Now, former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is throwing her support behind Question D to raise the city's minimum wage.

Altshuler thinks governing by referendum is bad and says the rules governing financial contributions are inadequate. 

"I don't know why Hillary Clinton would be involved. Anytime someone can take a position they think enhances their image, they do it. That makes Hillary look like she's for the poor downtrodden wait staff that doesn't get enough money in basic wages."

Richardson said, "If Hillary Clinton was sitting here right now and told me the sky was blue and the grass was green, and I knew that to be true, I'd still go outside and check."

Our analysts also discussed the decision by House progressives, including Rep. Chellie Pingree, to withdraw a letter urging the president to negotiate with Russia to end the fighting in Ukraine, the propriety of Justice Clarence Thomas intervening in the investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and staffing issues at the Long Creek Youth Development Center that led to staffers sleeping at facilities meant for residents between their 16-hour shifts.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine's Weekend Morning Report.

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