Maine’s gubernatorial candidates debate: Their answers on the housing crisis

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 10:49 PM EDT
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LEWISTON, Maine (WABI) - Maine’s three candidates for govenor - incumbent Democrat Janet Mills, Republican former governor Paul LePage and Independent Sam Hunkler - faced off in their first televised debate Tuesday in Lewiston.

The debate was hosted by MainePublic, the Portland Press Herald and the Sun Journal.

Candidates were asked their thoughts on inflation, education and abortion, among other topics.

One topic where the candidates’ approaches strongly differed was on homelessness, which moderators said doubled over the last year.

LePage related the crisis to drug use, and offered a solution for both.

”A major part of the homelessness problem has to do with drugs, it has to do with mental illness,” LePage said. “We proposed a a facility in Windham that would have put 100 beds for detoxing people and 100 beds for dealing with mental illness, get them stabilized, get them back in the workforce, and work with them for housing. This governor got rid of that and we built dining rooms, gyms and libraries.”

Mills responded, saying in part,

”There was no plan left on my desk to create 100 units to incarcerate people with mental illness. no such plan,” Mills said. “But, we have responded to the drug issue by using medication-assisted treatment in the prison.

“There are many reasons people are without housing, and that’s also why the legislature enacted, and I signed into law, a budget that includes $23 million for emergency housing.”

And a part of Hunkler’s answer:

”They don’t have any place to go, so we have to open up something to help them out,” Hunkler said. “We can open up old schools or old buildings. We have to help them, we have to get them off the street. And we also have a lot of mental health in those people, we have to treat that as well.”

There are three more televised debates between the candidates.

A reminder that the final debate, Thursday, November 3, will be broadcast on WABI, as well as our partners WMTW and WAGM.