Maine Candidate Voices Support for Academic Bill of Rights · 06 November 2006

By Brian Sylvester--Maine Campus--10/30/06

Thursday evening, UMaine UVote sponsored a debate between state representative candidates Emily Cain, incumbent Democrat, and Lance Cowan, Republican. The debate was attended by about 100 members of the student body, many of whom came bearing stickers and signs for the candidate of their choice. University of Maine professor of political science Richard Powell moderated the debate.

Emily Cain is up for re-election after her first term as state representative. "I have made progress in all the areas I promised to," she said in her opening statement. She is an alumna of the University of Maine, class of 2002, and is currently a doctoral candidate in the School of Higher Education.

Lance Cowan is an Orono native and current student at Husson College. "Maine is in a great deal of economic trouble," Cowan said. He proposed loosening taxes and restrictions on local and small businesses in the state to help with economic troubles. He also proposed to re-introduce an 'Academic Bill of Rights,' geared at making sure no students or university professors are discriminated against on the basis of political affiliation or beliefs.

The two candidates fielded a wide variety of questions, ranging from state issues like the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and Dirigo Health, to questions about national issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and the teaching of creation science or Intelligent Design in science classrooms.

Cain was opposed to TABOR. She spoke about conditions in Colorado, where a similar law was recently repealed. "It's basically put their universities on a voucher system," she said.

Cowan supports TABOR, adding that he supports any form of tax relief for Maine citizens. On the issue of Dirigo Health, Cowan felt that it should be removed or replaced. "I believe that Dirigo Health is a failure," he said, citing statistics to show that Dirigo had failed to live up to its promises. Cain, on the other hand, supports the program.

They sparred on a number of other local topics, including Cowan's proposal for an academic bill of rights, to which Cain is opposed. She feels that the discrimination the bill would address, while unfortunate, is best dealt with at the local level. However, there were some issues that both candidates favored, such as the construction of legal racinos in the state of Maine.

"It will bring in a situation where people can work and have a good time at the same time," Cowan said.

They also agreed on the importance of increased attention to environmental issues, tourism, and the need to make Maine attractive to young people.

"I believe young people will stay here for the quality of life," Cain said, when asked what could be done to make Maine more desirable for young professionals. Maine has suffered in recent years from ever-growing numbers of young people leaving due to lack of jobs. Cowan agreed that this was a major issue.

With regard to national issues, both candidates mostly sided with their respective political parties, with Cain coming out in favor of pro-choice legislation, against teaching intelligent design, and tentatively in favor of same-sex marriage. On the latter issue, she stressed that "Maine is not ready to have that discussion," adding that she supports the movement. Cowan came out against same-sex marriage and as a pro-life candidate, and added that he felt that it was in the best interests of students in Maine to be taught all sides of any given issue, including intelligent design theories.

"Everyone should be able to learn all sides of an issue," he said.