The three candidates in Maine’s First District congressional race are facing off over defense spending and, in particular, incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree’s voting record.
Independent Marty Grohman, a former Democrat from Biddeford, held a news conference on a dock sticking out into the Kennebec River just south of Bath Iron Works (BIW). He said that Pingree has jeopardized jobs at BIW and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery because of her opposition to recent National Defense Authorization Acts. He also says that workers at BIW are worried.
“Wondering about how you are going to make your mortgage payment and wondering if your representative in Congress is going to back you up by supporting the National Defense Authorization Act,” says Groham. “When I am down there in Congress, you won’t ever have to worry about that.”
But Pingree says Grohman doesn’t understand the workings of the federal budget process. She says she has worked hard for funding in the actual budget bills for both warship construction at BIW and the expansion of Portsmouth to handle the overhaul of more submarines.
”It’s really just a political statement and, frankly, funding for shipbuilding in Maine is far more complicated than that,” she says.
Pingree says that Grohman does not understand the interaction between the congressional committees that authorize defense spending measures and The Appropriations Committee.
Somewhat surprisingly, her Republican opponent, Mark Holbrook sides with Pingree. He says that Grohman appears to not have a grasp on the process. But Holbrook is also critical of Pingree’s Appropriations votes, and says that she hasn’t supported additional funding for defense programs.
“She could be doing a lot more. She has been in the position to create the conditions where southern Maine could flourish, and she’s not done a thing,” Holbrook says.
Pingree defends her record on the issue. She says that as a member of the Appropriations Committee, she has to weigh all federal government programs and balance needs. She says some constituents believe that she has supported too much military spending.
“We have greatly increased our defense spending, and, frankly, I hear from a lot of people who have concerns about the amount of money we spend on defense,” Pingree says. “And the overall picture of this funding and the money we have spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The three are scheduled to participate in debates through the rest of the month, and it's clear that defense spending will likely be a key issue in the race.