© 2023 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pingree and Thelander spar over lobster, abortion, immigration during debate

YV22 1st District Congress Debate-01645.jpg
Rebecca Conley
Maine Public
Incumbent First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, debates Republican challenger Ed Thelander on Oct. 12.

Democratic First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Republican challenger Ed Thelander sparred Wednesday night over the fate of the lobster industry, abortion, immigration and the invasion of Ukraine during a debate sponsored by Maine Public and the Portland Press Herald.

The hourlong debate featured several exchanges between Pingree, who is seeking her eighth term in the U.S. House, and Thelander, a former Navy SEAL who has never held political office.

REWATCH: Wabanaki Nations' State of the Tribes Address

The two candidates tussled over a range of hot-button issues, including federal regulations affecting Maine's lobster industry, which Thelander earlier in the day had compared to rape during a rally in Portland.

He apologized for those remarks during the debate, but he drew a strong rebuke from Pingree when he later blamed Russia's invasion of Ukraine on America's botched pullout from Afghanistan.

Pingree agreed that the Afghanistan withdrawal was poorly executed.

"But you can't give (Russian President Vladimir) Putin an excuse and say, 'Eh, I didn't respect the United States,'" she said. "Listen, I lived through four years of the Trump administration and if we lost any respect it was when a man (Trump) believed we should not be in the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), who didn't understand or treat any of our allies with respect. And treated our non-allies like Putin and the head of North Korea as if they were his friends and they wrote him letters every day. Look, he (Trump) helped us get into this situation by being soft on Putin."}

The two candidates appeared to agree on changing federal law to make it easier for asylum seekers to work, with Thelander saying he supports Pingree's bill to do just that.

But there were sharp differences over what needs to be done overall to address immigration policy, as well as the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, government spending, raising the federal minimum wage and climate change.

Thelander also said he did not support a Republican bill to limit abortion access, but Pingree suggested that she doesn't trust Republicans on the issue.