U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, and GOP challenger Jay Allen squared off in Augusta last night at a Maine Public 1st District debate that largely reflected the country’s partisan divide on fundamental issues.
Allen argued, for instance, that there is not systemic racism in the U.S. Asked about studies showing that Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be shot by police, he asserted that they commit more crimes than others.
Allen blamed that alleged criminality on the rise of the welfare state. And he asserted that police are extra careful when confronting Black Americans.
“They know that if they shoot a Black person then they will face an inquisition if they shoot that Black person. So they have to be pretty sure that that Black person needs to be shot,” he said.
Pingree said lawmakers should take action on laws that hinder investigation of police shootings. And she said despite policies mandating equal treatment, Black Americans face unequal access to education, health care and capital.
“And those are part of our system, they’ve been part of our system for a long time, whether it was red-lining of houses or less money spent in schools in certain neighborhoods, these are things that we all have to have a level of awareness and do something about it,” she said.
On other issues, Allen said that global warming has not occurred in the last decade — Pingree said it’s an all-too-apparent threat. Allen said the best response to the COVID-19 pandemic would be to ease social restrictions and speed the country’s achievement of “herd immunity.” Pingree says widespread mask-wearing and other social restrictions are necessary responses.
There were some moments of agreement, however. Both showed interest in limiting lifetime tenure in the judiciary.
“As far as the Supreme Court, you do want someone who is not going to be prone to political pressure. So I think it makes less sense for someone who is being nominated to the Supreme Court to have some sort of [term] limitations on them. It may be wise to propose a mandatory retirement age,” Allen said.
In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death in office at the age of 87, and the likely nomination of 48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett to succeed her, Pingree said judicial reform needs attention.
“Young judges who are appointed for life don’t necessarily reflect the will of the people when they are 30 years into it. And I think there could be a good argument for a mandatory retirement age or a term limit on a judge or a term limit on a member of the Supreme Court,” she said.
Pingree also cautioned against an overreaction. And the six-term incumbent drew a line when Allen called for term limits for members of Congress, saying voters do get the chance to vote her out every two years. Allen pledged that if elected, he would not serve more than three terms in Congress.