PORTLAND, Maine — With just three weeks remaining until Election Day Nov. 8, candidates running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 1st Congressional District are letting their voices be heard.
On Wednesday, the two candidates set to appear on the ballot took part in a NEWS CENTER Maine Voice of the Voter forum.
Lobster fishing regulations
Candidates were asked what they and Congress could do to address proposed and enacted regulations on Maine's lobstering industry.
Pingree: "We certainly believe that we should not be targeted as the fishery that's caused the right whale deaths. No right whale has been tangled since 2004. No deaths have been attributed to that. We think that much of it is related to ship strikes or some of the Canadian fisheries because of the changing patterns of the right whale."
Thelander: "Nobody agrees with what's going on. There's no sense to it. But nothing has really been done to stop it. It keeps moving forward to the point where we're actually looking at shutting things down in the next few months. We really need to focus on the problem, and right now the problem is NOAA."
Inflation and oil & gas production
Thelander: "People don't like it in this district a lot, but we need to start pumping oil again. The oil industry cannot have a threat on it that it's going to be shut down, so they drill more and produce more. They can't build a refinery right now because the threat that it's going to be shut down. And every time there is that threat, oil prices go up."
Pingree was then asked whether the issue of inflation is related to oil and gas production.
Pingree: "During the pandemic, unrelated to this inflationary period that we're in, many of the oil and gas companies cut way back on their refinery capacity. Some of this is just playing catchup, and you don't turn it around overnight. Many of them are building back their refinery capacity. I don't think it has anything to do with long term threats. The fact is, there are record-breaking profits that they're making right now. We've tried to stop price gouging in congress and haven't gotten support from the Republicans."
Electricity and Natural Gas Prices
Pingree: "One of the reasons we passed the Inflation Reduction Act is so that we can make long term investments and support states like Maine that already looking at a broad range of renewables. Whether it's wind, solar, some of the new types of power, green hydrogen, hydro energy, we need to be supporting all of those things. We're not going to have a long-term dependency on natural gas, getting appropriate amounts of natural gas into our state is important, but in the long run, we don't want to have electricity in this state that's either produced by coal or natural gas in the long-term future."
Thelander: "We've got to get through the winter. All of the green energy, solar panels, that are generally not made in America, we're not ready for it, and we can't charge towards the cliff until the bridge is built. We don't even have a plan for the bridge yet. There are great ideas, we'll get there. It has to be done smart. Again, as you said, the higher the natural gas prices, the higher the electricity prices. We've got to get it down."
Asylum Seekers on Immigration
Over the past several years, thousands of asylum seekers have arrived in Maine. Candidates were asked how they would work to allow asylum seekers who are here legally to begin working sooner.
Pingree: "I have a piece of legislation, Sen. [Susan] Collins has a piece of legislation that would reduce the amount of time an asylum seeker has to wait until they can apply for a work permit."
Thelander: "We agree at least partially on this. They need to be able to get to work. Because otherwise, we're providing for them. And why not get them to work? We've got job openings."
Candidates then faced questions on the situation at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Thelander: "Follow the laws that are in place. We're taking people in that don't have the proper paperwork. We have to have an organized process. If we don't have an organized process, we're getting a whole bunch of people that don't belong here that are doing bad in this country to filter through, and that has to stop. And it has to be done in a logical manner following the laws that we have."
Pingree: "Overall, immigration reform is a critically important thing. As you said, we have not done this for a very long time. It's long overdue. It always becomes this political football, particularly during an election season, and we've got to sit down, be honest about the numbers and work together on this."
Pingree: "We're talking about a very difficult situation here with Putin, basically one person running that show without his country necessarily knowing what's going on or behind him and doing horrendous things. I think we have very strong bipartisan support in Congress saying that we need to be supportive."
Thelander: "We're in this situation because of the lack of respect for us oversees, with the pullout in Afghanistan. We need to get our respect back in this country. We really need to make a strong assessment of what's going on over there."