PORTLAND – Independent Steve Woods of Yarmouth used a smartphone and one of his shoes to address a debate question Thursday about whether education was providing young people with the right skills.

Woods said the education system needs to produce skills needed for high-tech jobs, not the dwindling shoe industry.

He was joined during the debate sponsored by Maine Public Broadcasting Network in Gracie Auditorium by Republican Charlie Summers, Democrat Cynthia Dill and independents Angus King, Andrew Ian Dodge and Danny Dalton. It was the first of three consecutive debates.

Only Dill and Woods stated unequivocally that they would support taxpayer funding for public television. The debate also touched on health care reform, government spending and Social Security and Medicare.

King said he can help get Congress back on track as a senator who’s not beholden to a party.

“Whatever we believe about those issues, Congress isn’t working,” he said.

Summers accused King of increasing government spending by 50 percent during two terms as governor and leaving the next governor with a shortfall.

Dill told the audience that the Senate needs more young people and women such as herself and not an “extremely wealthy, older white man” like King.

“Washington is broken because of extreme politics and extreme wealth,” she said.

Dalton attacked the parties. “It’s disgusting. I don’t know how you people can stand here and vote for the two parties,” he said.”