Courier Publications reporters and editors came up with a list of questions for candidates based in part on concerns raised by members of the public in "Heard on the Street" interviews. The questions were posed to candidates via email.

Former Maine Gov. Angus King is running as an independent for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Olympia Snowe.

He is running in a crowded field facing challenges from Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charles E. Summers Jr., who is serving as Maine Secretary of State, among others.

Why are you running?

I am running because our country faces very serious problems, from a stagnant economy and dismal jobs numbers, to massive deficit spending. The time to act is now. However, we cannot begin to address these problems if Congress is not working.

Therefore, I’m running for the mirror image of the reason Olympia Snowe left office — she said that Washington was broken. I am running in the hopes that, if we try something new, we can begin to end this gridlock and attack the difficult issues our nation faces.

Knowing the level of seniority and the respect that Snowe marshaled during her time in Congress, I came to the realization that the only way forward would be to try things in an entirely different way. Our politicians are putting party before country, and the result is that some of our greatest national concerns — jobs, the national deficit, and energy — take a backseat to political theatrics.

For a small state, Maine has produced a phenomenal string of U.S. Senators. In fact, this open Senate seat was once held by Ed Muskie and George Mitchell. I take that lineage seriously. Fittingly, Maine’s motto is “Dirigo,” which means, “I lead.” Maine is poised to decide the balance of power in the Senate, and our next Senator will be asked to carry Maine’s great legacy forward. We can either send another partisan log into a partisan logjam, or we can rise to the occasion, and try something new.

What changes, if any, would you propose or support to federal programs providing health coverage and disability benefits to citizens, including Medicare, Medicaid and social security?

I will oppose any effort to privatize Social Security or "voucherize" Medicare. Many Mainers rely on these programs, and I will not allow them to be subjected to the volatility of Washington or Wall Street. Further, I will oppose efforts to substantially modify Medicaid, such as block-granting funds to states. Leaving disbursement of the funds to the discretion of individual states changes the "entitlement" nature of the program and could result in certain poor, sick, or disabled individuals not getting the coverage they need.

The next front in the healthcare crisis is skyrocketing costs, and this problem extends beyond the scope of any one program. We need to enact a fundamental shift toward, among other things, greater primary and preventative care, in order to limit future acceleration of costs.

Do you support a government program to create a single-payer universal healthcare program, or do you feel these services would be better provided in the private sector? Can you explain your position on national healthcare?

I support the Affordable Care Act as an important step in addressing healthcare reform. On average, one in five dollars in Maine is spent on health care. That’s simply too much. Solutions must be found to fix this failing system in order to keep it from breaking completely and leaving Americans unable to afford the health services they need. As a country, we must reduce the cost of healthcare in part by moving toward outcome-based models of compensation, rather than fee-for-service. Further, there needs to be a much greater focus on primary and preventative care.

Our most important healthcare priority over the next several years will be to ensure the fair implementation of the ACA, and to begin serious efforts to rein in costs. If implemented properly, the ACA has the potential of creating the opportunity to provide coverage for many millions of previously uninsured people.

What changes would you propose or support when it comes to tax policies?

Our tax structure must be simplified and reformed to lower rates, close loopholes, and ensure that everyone is paying their fair share, including the wealthiest Americans.

One opportunity for reform is the currently low capital gains tax rate, which largely benefits the wealthiest Americans. I believe capital gains should be taxed at the same rate as ordinary income.

I support temporarily extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels, the Obama 2009 expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and the payroll boost, which allows workers to keep an additional 2 percent of their paycheck up to an annual amount of $2,202. All of these relief programs benefit low and moderate-income working families and are set to expire at the end of this year.

The sunset of these tax policies should be tied to measurable economic indicators, such as a growth rate or a specific employment rate, rather than arbitrary calendar dates. By separating tax cut packages from the political process, we can avoid the recurring political infighting that damages our economy and fails to produce solutions-oriented results. Extending policies without comprehensive foresight is to continue down a road we have been before with little success.

Just recently, both Slate and the Washington Post called my proposal to the current conflict regarding the Bush tax cuts an original and nuanced way to approach tax policy.

What is your position on women's health issues including insurance coverage for contraceptives and the option of having abortions to terminate unwanted pregnancies?

I support a woman’s right to choose how to address all of her healthcare decisions in consultation with personal and professional advisors. I support the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance providers to cover contraceptives without co-pays. Preserving the reproductive rights of women is critical to building strong families and communities. Bill Clinton once said that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, and I agree. I am and always have been a strong advocate for reproductive rights.

What would you do about the ongoing presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan? Do you support the planned withdrawal?

I support a gradual withdrawal of active on-the-ground troops while maintaining a commitment to rebuilding the future of the country. Suicide is currently claiming more active military lives than combat is – clearly, our policy is not working for Afghanistan or for the U.S. The war in Afghanistan will have many lasting impacts on Mainers and the nation – veterans are facing terrible effects that last long after the battlefield is quiet. Further, the injuries and loss of life, and the resulting impact on our military and their families and our communities is staggering.

What should we as a nation do for veterans returning from Afghanistan and other war zones?

I believe that our veterans have earned the best access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities that our country can provide. In Maine, and throughout the country, we are not living up to this commitment. The problems of war are legacy problems that veterans live with long after a high-profile conflict is over. Additionally, more Guard and Reserve members are seeing combat. Unfortunately, this is all during a time when access to veterans’ services is increasingly limited. I am committed to doing my part to ensure that our veterans, who have sacrificed so much, are not left behind.

To that end, in May I proposed the formation of a “Veterans Advocate Corps.” Using existing programs, and the knowledge and experience of veterans who can assist other veterans, we can find efficient solutions to the problems that veterans are facing. This volunteer corps would be composed of veterans and operate independently from government service providers in order to personally guide veterans who are seeking services related to healthcare, education, and employment. This one-to-one support will assist veterans in accessing the full range of resources that they have already earned, and that are already offered – without significantly increasing federal spending.

What do you think should be done to stimulate the economy and job growth?

As governor, I did economic development everyday for eight years. In that time I learned that there is no one solution to an economy and jobs problem – there’s no silver bullet, but there is silver buckshot. We must address many things at once, including regulation reform so that our small businesses are not smothered by the government, tax reform that makes sure everyone pays their fair share and that encourages repatriation of foreign funds, trade reform to level the playing field so that our businesses don’t have the deck stacked against them, and more research and development.

Also, we must make sure that our education system is better tailored to the job market and business needs – we need more targeted technical education – and we must ensure that our student aid programs really benefit students, instead of saddling them with debt.

What should be done about the national deficit?

I believe our national debt problem should not serve as a partisan football. Our debt is a significant threat to national security. But, it’s more than that – it is immoral to leave this debt to the next generation. We have no right to spend the money and leave them to pay the bills. There are two realistic bi-partisan proposals that I have been reviewing: the Simpson-Bowles report and the Domenici-Rivlin commission plan. I firmly believe that the data and analysis in these plans can form the basis of a solution, but it won’t be easy. While I may not agree on all the details, I think the overall approach they take makes a great deal of sense: cut spending in an intelligent way, simplify the tax code, cut tax rates and eliminate most loopholes to generate additional revenue. Such a combination can put us on a trajectory toward serious and substantial deficit reduction.

Can you explain what role, if any, you feel the government should play in providing higher education to low income and middle income high school graduates concerned about the cost of school loans?

Higher education provides the surest avenue to a better standard of living. It also used to provide the surest way out of poverty. Unfortunately, the cost of higher education has become so burdensome that many of our young people are graduating under massive debt loads that can drive them into poverty.

If the federal government partners with schools to provide student loans, it should be done to help students, not to benefit large financial institutions and artificially inflate tuition rates. For example, we might consider tying the interest rate on federal loans to the 10-year T-Note – this way the government does not lose money, but also does not make money off of our students.

Keeping interest rates low helps, but is only a Band-Aid over the real problem: astronomical tuition increases and a flood of loans.

To that end, we must move away from the “debt-as-default” model of accessing higher education. Some schools are implementing their own no-loan policy, which I commend. The government should focus more on need and merit-based grants, rather than abundant loans. Where federal loans are made available, they should reward performance and completion of a degree, rather than be one-size fits all.

In order to help graduates who are currently saddled with debt, I support the income-based repayment program, and I believe we should also consider more selective forgiveness programs. For example, if we need people to teach in the STEM areas, then we should consider forgiving their loans – this model could be expanded to help fill needs in other industries as they arise.

What is your position on the environment? What specific policies would you support in balancing the needs of the environment with the needs of industry and the economy?

I am committed to protecting the integrity of Maine’s environment and that of the nation – and to providing access to it. People love Maine because of its natural beauty – protecting our environment is not only the right thing to do, it’s also smart business. I support strong enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, two laws crafted by Maine Sen. Ed Muskie, and I also support carbon-reduction initiatives and increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards. I oppose drilling in ANWR – it has a relatively small supply of oil that would come at great environmental risk to extract. Further, any new developments in the energy industry – like fracking for natural gas, and running the Keystone Pipeline through the U.S. – should be subject to all appropriate environmental safeguards to protect both the American people and the American land.

During my eight years as governor, we streamlined environmental processes to benefit both business and the environment. For example, we crafted an unprecedented agreement with industry to eliminate dioxin discharges into Maine rivers, which led to the toughest dioxin controls in the nation. This system was timely and predictable, which encouraged economic development without altering or diminishing environmental standards.

Where do you stand on campaign financing?

I firmly believe that campaign finance laws must be reformed; nameless, faceless, out-of-state money should not try to tell you how to vote. We must start with real-time, mandated disclosure of who is contributing money. Citizens United was one of the worst decisions in the court’s history; unfortunately, it now frames the economic reality of campaigns. The first step toward electoral integrity is transparency in funding. To that end, I would support legislation like the DISCLOSE Act, provided the act eliminates its existing exceptions for certain special interest groups.

Do you support allowing gay marriage?

I will be voting in support of marriage equality in Maine this fall. I support overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, which is an ill-conceived law that deprives legally married same-sex couples of federal benefits. I believe DOMA represents an intrusion of the federal government into decisions that are historically left to individual states.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

I have been married to my beautiful wife, Mary Herman, for 28 years. We have two fantastic children, Ben and Molly, who are now both in college. I was previously married to Edie Birney, with whom I had three sons, Angus III, James, and Duncan.

After 40 years, we no longer have children at home!

I have five wonderful grandchildren, and one of my primary motivations in running for the U.S. Senate is to ensure that my grandkids, and all Maine families, can enjoy the same benefits that this great country gave to me.