Questions regarding health care and the war in Iraq were high on the priority list at a debate Monday between Maine's 2nd Congressional District candidates at Thomas College.
While incumbent Rep. Michael Michaud and challenger Laurence "Scott" D'Amboise agreed on a few issues raised during the debate, such as how to bring more jobs to Maine and that the state needs an east-west highway, their opinions regarding health care weren't so similar.
Michaud, a Democrat from East Millinocket, believes the country needs a national health care program.
"Health care's on everyone's mind," he said. "Congress hasn't done its job dealing with health care."
In addition to a federal plan, Michaud said Maine needs to take advantage of its large military veteran population and provide them with rural health care options, review Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement policies, and most importantly negotiate for low-cost prescriptions. He noted that the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't negotiate for prescription drugs.
"Universal health care will be astronomically devastating," D'Amboise, a Republican from Lisbon Falls, said.
Looking to neighboring Canada as an example, D'Amboise explained what would happen if the United States adopted a similar plan.
"We cross the border for medicine, but why do they cross the border for surgery?" he asked.
With Canada's national health care plan, residents are put on a waiting list for surgeries and don't have the skilled doctors that we do here, D'Amboise said.
The war in Iraq also was a hotly debated topic.
The Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, in addition to Thomas College, hosted the event. Readers of both newspapers, in addition to the nearly 100 in attendance, submitted questions for the candidates.
Many questions had to do with the war in Iraq and homeland security.
When asked if it was a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq, D'Amboise said he didn't believe it was.
"I believe we could have done a better job," he said, adding that the U.S. underestimated the enemy. "We took a knife to a gunfight. The reasons are just, but they may have been misrepresented."
Throughout the evening, he said that the U.S. can't withdraw prematurely, but needs to stay the course and help the Iraqi people repair the infrastructure that's been destroyed.
In addition, D'Amboise noted a need to support our troops and give them proper training, equipment and pay.
Michaud said the U.S. made a mistake entering Iraq. "By the U.S. going into Iraq, all the good will that was built up after Sept. 11 is gone," he said, adding that it's time for a strategic plan to draw down United States troops in Iraq.
Both candidates are running on a blue-collar platform.
A self-described family man, D'Amboise, 43, said he's hoping to make it to Washington not for himself, but for Maine people.
"I want a better place to raise my family," he said. "I want to be someone that people in the State of Maine can relate to."
Incumbent Michaud, 51, is seeking his third term in the U.S. Congress after serving in both Maine's House of Representatives and the state Senate.
He worked for nearly 30 years at Great Northern Paper Co. and pledged to continue efforts to create fair trade agreements, affordable health care, and improve economic development in Maine.
"No one will work as hard as I will to represent the hard working people here in the State of Maine and nationwide," Michaud said.