Pingree, Thelander clash over support for lobster industry in 1st Congressional District debate
Oct. 12 – Republican Ed Thelander has apologized for calling federal fisheries regulators rapists after he was slammed by Democratic U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree during a heated debate between candidates in the 1st Congressional District on Wednesday.
As the candidates debated a range of issues including asylum seekers, energy, abortion and student loan debt, it got personal as they challenged themselves to support the industry Maine lobster, which faces severe restrictions to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale. .
Pingree called out Thelander for statements he made earlier Wednesday at a rally for the lobster industry in Portland. In a speech at the event, Thelander compared federal regulations to child rape, saying “you don’t negotiate with rapists.” Maine Democrats released a statement on Wednesday saying the comments show he is unfit for office.
“It’s not a good way to advance politics and I don’t think it helps the debate at all,” Pingree said during the debate. “It kind of drags him down the gutter in a way that shouldn’t happen.”
After Pingree criticized the comments, Thelander apologized.
“My comments were exaggerated and I apologize for that,” he said. “I’m very passionate about it. I love these families. I see the struggles they have and nothing has been done about it.”
Pingree rejected this assessment. “We didn’t do anything,” she said, pointing out that she and other members of the delegation from both sides had been fighting similar restrictions since 1997. “Don’t say I’m not excited about that,” said Pingree, who lives in an island community that depends on the lobster industry.
Both candidates agreed that asylum seekers who are legally in the country should be allowed to work earlier. But Thelander also alleged that asylum seekers were behind the crime – a claim that has already been refuted by law enforcement.
“If people come here legally, we have to make them work,” he said, adding “because if they come here and can’t work, what do they do – they steal or they cause trouble” .
When asked why immigration reform, when framed as a labor issue, doesn’t enjoy bipartisan support in Congress, Pingree accused Republicans of stoking fear that immigrants seek to steal jobs from citizens to gain votes.
“I think it’s partly because Republicans use it for rhetoric and campaigning,” she said. “They want to scare people.”
Thelander also criticized Pingree for backing student loan forgiveness, saying blue-collar workers who didn’t go to college are being left behind. He said going to college is “a business decision”, and if a student doesn’t have a plan to repay loans, “then shame on you – you made a deal”.
Pingree acknowledged that this was a difficult problem, but said the problem had developed too long.
“A tremendous number of Maine youth, youth and families, are struggling under the weight of this debt,” she said, adding that many people in their 40s are also struggling with college bills. “If we don’t sort this out, I think we’re going to be in trouble.”
Regarding energy policy, Thelander argued that the United States could lower prices in general by increasing the supply of oil. “We need to start drilling for oil again here in America,” Thelander said. “Bringing the price of oil down will help everything.”
Pingree said Maine residents are facing a tough winter with rising energy costs, but drilling for oil won’t help. “I believe investing in renewable energy is how we will reduce costs,” she said.
On abortion, Pingree said she supports passing federal legislation to restore the right to abortion nationwide following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v . Wade and the adoption of strict bans in many states. While Maine law allows abortion until a fetus is viable, or 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, Pingree said that could change if Republicans win control of the Blaine. House and Legislature.
“We would be in Alabama tomorrow,” she said, referring to one of the states that banned abortion after the Supreme Court ruling.
Thelander said he was opposed to abortion, but would leave it up to individual states to set limits and did not support a nationwide ban on abortion. “It’s not a federal issue,” he said, adding that he would not impose his personal views through federal law.
The candidates also clashed over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Thelander said the invasion was caused by a lack of respect for US foreign policy resulting from the disorderly withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. “We have to lean forward and get that back,” he said.
Pingree, however, accused Thelander of excusing “Putin’s horrible actions and what he did to the Ukrainian people”, adding that Republicans and Democrats are united in helping Ukraine.
“Look, I lived four years under the Trump administration,” she said, saying the former president shuns allies and embraces adversaries. “He helped put us in this situation by being lenient with Putin.”
The debate can be streamed on pressherald.com. The event was sponsored by the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Public. Jennifer Rooks of Maine Public moderated the discussion, and Joe Lawlor of the Press Herald and Kevin Miller of Maine Public posed questions.
Pingree has represented Maine’s coastal and southern 1st congressional district since 2009 and hopes to win an eighth term on Nov. 8. Thelander, a former Navy SEAL and newcomer to the Maine political scene, is campaigning to end that winning streak.
The candidates, like their parties, have opposing views on a wide variety of issues facing Congress and the state.
Pingree has easily defended his seat over the years. In 2020, she won re-election with 62% of the vote and her district is heavily biased towards Democrats. A September poll from the University of New Hampshire showed Pingree leading Thelander 57% to 32%. Pingree also leads in the cash race, with $615,000 in cash, according to the latest federal campaign reports, compared to $154,000 for Thelander.
Pingree, 67, lives in North Haven, an island in Penobscot Bay. A former state senator, Pingree challenged Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins in 2002, but lost that race. Before winning her congressional seat in 2008, Pingree was president and CEO of Common Cause, a national nonprofit whose mission was to police government. She has three adult children.
Thelander, 53, served in the Navy for 21 years and participated in US operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, according to his campaign website. . He lives in Bristol with his wife, Liliana, who immigrated from Venezuela and became an American citizen in 1999. They have three children.