Crown Politics

Left versus inside: Recapping the Maine Democratic gubernatorial debate

Good morning from Augusta, where it feels a lot like March 2016 — and not just because of the weather.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nomination fight between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton framed much of Tuesday’s broadcast debate between Maine Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Sanders easily won the Maine caucuses in March 2016, but lost the nomination to Clinton, an established front-runner who went on to lose the general election — and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — in a shocking upset to political outsider Donald Trump.

One problem with the debate, co-hosted by WGME and the BDN, was that there were seven participants. That limited the questions that could be asked and made it difficult for any of the candidates to stand out from the field.

The debate affirmed Janet Mills’ position as the perceived front-runner.With half of the other candidates directing questions at her, those seeking to cut into Mills’ perceived lead tried to put her on the defensive. But for the most part, she rebuffed their efforts to portray her as against raising the minimum wage or pro-gun with some of the most detailed responses in a debate that was starkly lacking in details.

For others, it was a battle for the Bernie Sanders voters. Candidates staked out positions to the far left, well into the realm of democratic socialism, while trying to portray themselves as populists by defending ranked-choice voting and championing the referendum process while shying away from questions about the repercussions of those ballot questions. Betsy Sweet tried to highlight her status as the only publicly financed candidate, while Diane Russell touted her crusade against superdelegates during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

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