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.

Maine Secretary of State Charlie E. Summers Jr., a Republican from Scarborough, is seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate being vacated by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

He is being challenged by former Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent from Brunswick, and Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth, among others.

Why are you running?

Over the years I have had the honor to serve Maine as a state senator, an aide to U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, and now as secretary of state. As a military officer, I have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maine has a long history of sending strong leaders to Washington who were effective and got things done for our state. Margaret Chase Smith, Ed Muskie, Bill Cohen, George Mitchell, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins all had at least one thing in common: they all brought the Maine way to Washington. Preserving that tradition will be my goal in the U.S. Senate.

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?

We must take a look at Medicare very carefully. Both parties agree that Medicare is unsustainable on its current trajectory, and I want to protect the health care of Maine's seniors who have paid into the system all their lives. However, we know entitlements must be reformed in order to make them last. I would push to ensure any changes to Medicare are done with care and not rushed through.

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

I commend the president for tackling what has historically been a very difficult issue in this country, but I don't believe the health care law is working for Mainers. I'm particularly concerned with the law's provisions that take $700 billion out of Medicare in order to pay for what amounts to another large entitlement — a new study said Maine's seniors would lose $2.5 billion from their Medicare plans alone. I would've liked to see health care reform address medical malpractice reform, which drives up health care costs, especially in rural parts of the country. Also I would like to see folks be able to buy their health insurance the same way they buy their car insurance — across state lines, from the lowest-cost provider.

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

In Washington I will not vote to raise taxes on Mainers, and I believe the current tax rates should be made permanent. This will provide a level of stability for business so more are willing to make investments and hire people. We can't tax or regulate our way out of where we are as a nation.

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 am pro-choice; I believe in a woman's right to choose.

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

I have grave concerns about broadcasting to our enemies a hard deadline for when we plan to withdraw our troops. I don't believe we should have an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan, but we must listen to our generals on the ground and let the conditions dictate our timeline.

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

We must ensure employers fully understand the value of our veterans, and helping Maine's heroes find good-paying jobs when they return home will be a top priority of mine. I've been fortunate to work with First Lady Anne LePage and both the Portland and Bangor Chambers of Commerce in this area. Thanks to our work, the Portland Chamber created the Portland Veterans Network, which focuses on jobs, wellness, educational, and networking opportunities for returning veterans.

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

September was the 43rd consecutive month the unemployment rate was 8 percent or higher, and for every American who found a job, four people gave up looking altogether. We must preserve middle class tax cuts, reform our convoluted tax code — including closing loopholes and exceptions — and ease burdensome regulations, particularly on small businesses. Doing these things would be an excellent start to getting our economy back on track and putting people back to work.

What should be done about the national deficit?

We must curb our runaway federal spending, which has ballooned under both parties. As a small business owner I quickly learned the necessity of a budget, and just as every family and business has to have one, so should the federal government. I will push for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, just like we have here in Maine. Middle class families across the country balance their budgets every day, and so should Washington.

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?

We have a responsibility to ensure that those who want to earn a four-year degree have access to the means to achieve that goal. Moreover, I am a graduate of junior college, and would also support improving access for students to two year and technical colleges, which for many are a better option and will help prepare them for a job in a highly-specialized field.

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?

As Mainers we live in the most beautiful state in the nation, and we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. It's important that we strike a good balance by protecting our environment, but not in a way that will hamper our businesses from growing and creating jobs.

Where do you stand on campaign financing?

I believe that everyone has a constitutionally-protected right to free speech and to engage in the political process, but I am open to improving the current law and increasing transparency requirements.

Do you support allowing gay marriage?

I believe marriage is defined as between one man and one woman, and I support the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family? Are you married with children or grandchildren?

I grew up in Kewanee, Ill. My father was a small business owner, running a hotel and restaurant, which I worked in when I was growing up. After moving to Maine, I worked in the hotel business and opened up my own small business in Biddeford. After serving in both state government in August and as an aide to Sen. Snowe, I did two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm currently married to Ruth Summers, and have three children: Chas, Tricia, and Thomas.