Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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GOP Contenders Spar on Abortion, Taxes by AJ Higgins
Bangor Daily News June 7, 2006

AUGUSTA - Despite repeated efforts Tuesday night, WCSH-TV newscasters Rob Caldwell and Kathleen Shannon eventually found out that attempting to get Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Emery to clearly state his position on abortion was a lot like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

During a live, hourlong debate aired at 8 p.m. on Channel 6 and WLBZ-TV Channel 2, Emery, a former congressman from Tenants Harbor, state Sen. Chandler Woodcock of Farmington and state Sen. Peter Mills of Cornville, squared off on a variety of state issues in their bids to become their party's nominee.

Noting that the U.S. Supreme Court could very well overturn the historic Roe vs. Wade decision that guaranteed a woman's right to choose an abortion, Shannon wanted to know what each candidate would do if he were forced to make a recommendation for Maine.

Mills said he had always supported a woman's right to choose.

"Abortions have gone down dramatically over the years through education, through family planning and through counseling," Mills said. "In Maine, we're doing it right and I don't favor changing Maine law."

Woodcock emphasized his position on abortion had remained unchanged throughout the campaign and that he opposed the procedure except in instances of rape, incest or if the life of the woman is at stake.

"My position remains the same, it hasn't changed from the start," he said, adding that if it were up to him as governor, he would craft a strategy that reflected his position.

Emery said there were some circumstances when abortion is appropriate "although regrettable." Saving the life of the pregnant woman, rape, incest and "probably a number of instances that are best left up to the woman and the doctor," were all instances when Emery thought abortion was appropriate.

When asked by Shannon whether he would seek to overturn a woman's right to an abortion in Maine if that option were given to the state by the U.S. Supreme Court, Emery said he would "support exactly those items that I said a minute ago" adding he would continue to oppose late-term abortion.

Mills then jumped in and claimed Emery had said he was "pro-choice" in 1990.

"Now you're back again as an anti-choice candidate," Mills said. "I seriously wonder what your position really is, Dave."

"Well, I just told you," Emery replied.

Subsequent efforts by Caldwell continued to go nowhere, as he attempted to pin Emery down on whether he thought a woman should be allowed to obtain an abortion in the first trimester of her pregnancy.

"Under the circumstances that I mentioned," Emery said.

"That's 'no' except for the exceptions that you noted?" Caldwell asked.

"As I said there may be some other exceptions," Emery replied as Caldwell threw in the towel and moved on to another subject.

The three candidates are locked in a statistical dead heat in the June 13 primary according to a poll released Monday by WCSH Channel 6-TV in Portland and WLBZ Channel 2-TV in Bangor.

With a margin of error of 5 percent, the stations' poll of 400 likely GOP primary voters indicated that 31 percent of the respondents indicated they would vote for Emery; 27 percent favored Mills and 29 percent planned to vote for Woodcock. Twelve percent of those surveyed were undecided and each of the candidates is hoping to claim the largest chunk of that segment for himself.

Asked by Shannon what the three would do to decrease the tax burden for the average Mainer, Emery said he would reduce spending, initiate a state audit and move the state to zero-based budgeting among other things. Mills said he would rein in out-of-control government agencies. Woodcock said he would support the Taxpayer Bill of Rights tax cap and assess all government programs.

No one named a tax they would cut - to the minor frustration of the newscaster.

"I have to say that during the break, I hope you guys rethink your answers, because as a taxpayer, I didn't hear any relief," Shannon said. "We've [seen] so much wringing of hands in the Legislature over the past two years ... what people want to hear is what you're going to do to reduce the taxes."

In response to a viewer that took exception to her tone, Shannon later apologized to anyone she might have unintentionally offended.