Democrat Vicki Doudera of Camden argued Oct. 18 that more Democrats are needed in Augusta after eight years under Gov. Paul LePage to either overturn vetoes from a new Republican governor or to help Democrat Janet Mills make some real progress.

Doudera is challenging incumbent Rep. Owen Casas, an independent from Rockport for the House District 94 seat, representing Camden, Rockport and Islesboro.

"I'm worried about the fact that we do have two independents in the race for governor, and that could be a spoiler, and we could end up with [Republican] Shawn Moody; end up fighting the same fights we have fought for eight years," she said.

Doudera also said she would not simply move in lockstep with her party, but would do what she thought was best to serve her constituents.

Casas said that has not been his experience in Augusta.

"It has been my observation that yes, every once in a while, there is a party member that goes against their party," he said. "I will say, though, that it is few and far between. … My observations have been that there is significant pressure put on the party members to do the right thing. Sometimes it's when you're in the majority that it is where the pressure is stronger, because you can't afford to lose a handful of folks on votes."

He said he has seen far too many votes of 77-68 where the parties vote as blocs.

Doudera criticized Casas most specifically because he voted against the Red Flag gun bill, which would have empowered courts to take away the right to own guns from those who have made threats. She said she knows Casas tries to walk the line between Democrats and Republicans, but she felt this bill, which she said was about mental health, should have been supported.

Casas said he supports the Second Amendment and that Maine has a strong heritage of responsible gun ownership. He added that he supported a measure on background checks and worked hard to find an acceptable compromise. He said he met with groups including the NRA and the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine to see if there could be an adult conversation about providing background checks for private sales. He said he did not support the Red Flag bill, noting that concerns were raised about unreasonable search and seizure when police come to take away firearms.

Another area where the two candidates disagreed was the minimum wage. Doudera supported the increase in minimum wage and disagreed with the Republicans' efforts to create a training wage or different wage for minors. "I was a teen myself and I worked my butt off," she said. "They [young people] have expenses, too. Things aren't cheaper for them when they go out into the world."

"I've struggled with minimum wage," Casas said. "It was the timeline and the concern of the business community and how aggressive it was."

He said he voted to reinstate the tipped credit, and that was the one thing he supported in fiddling with the citizen's initiative that brought about the increase in the minimum wage. While he said he thought one proposal to bring the per-year increase from $1 down to 50 cents was appropriate, he did not support that change, because he knew many of his constituents in the district supported the increase. He said he would be willing to explore a lower training wage for those working on a work permit.

While they had a few areas of disagreement, the candidates agreed on several issues. Both voiced support for solar energy and renewable energy initiatives, increasing access to broadband and Medicaid expansion.

"I support the protection of abortion rights," Doudera said. "Abortion should be a decision that is made between a woman and her doctor."

She added that the state should increase access to reproductive health care for women. "Women need to get the health care they need, regardless of where they are in the state, how rural they are and how big their pocketbooks are," she said.

"I personally, in my personal life, am not the biggest fan of abortion," Casas said. "My father is adopted. My best friend is adopted. I think adoption is great. That said, I don't think that I should be making this decision for women. This is an extremely personal decision. I have consistently been in favor of pro-choice."

Casas said he consults the women in his life and female legislators before voting on some of these issues, such as increasing the length of birth control prescriptions.

On the issue of attracting people to the state and retaining young people, Casas noted that there is a $4,000 tax credit available to offset student loans for those who commit to working in Maine through Opportunity Maine.

He said attracting and retaining workers was a problem that needed to be approached from several angles, including affordable housing and improved broadband.

Doudera agreed it was a multi-pronged problem. She added that Mainers should stop talking about "people from away."

Casas said he is supporting independent Terry Hayes for governor. Doudera supports Democrat Janet Mills.

The candidates met to debate the issues and take questions from the public Oct. 18 at the Rockport Opera House. Editor Daniel Dunkle of The Camden Herald moderated the debate.

Video of the debate can be found at