ROCKLAND — Incumbent Representative William Pluecker, I-Warren, and Republican challenger Crystal Daggett Robinson of Hope differed on most topics including education, the environment and health during a candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on Wednesday, October 19 at Rockland City Hall.
Robinson, now retired, worked with the family business Daggett Builders and for Procter & Gamble in Switzerland.
Pluecker is the owner and farmer of Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren, a community-supported organic farming farm. He also serves as a substitute teacher and is a member of the MOFGA and trustee of the First Universalist Church in Rockland.
Robinson said, “The Maine Chamber of Commerce rated my opponent 15.5 out of 100, which puts him in the bottom 15% of lawmakers who support Maine’s economy.”
She criticized state lockdowns during the pandemic, saying the state should have asked companies for their ideas and argued that the state was inconsistent, allowing large companies to stay open while closing individuals. She criticized Pluecker for voting to extend the lockdowns.
“Our governor is not a queen, so she can’t just decide what everyone else says,” she said. “Companies need employees. We need to stop paying people to stay home on unemployment. They should be looking for a job.”
“I thought we weren’t doing personal attacks,” Pluecker said. For this, a group of audience members shouted that he should defend his record. Pluecker said, “I’m ready if you are.”
Later in the debate, he responded, “There’s a reason the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t like me; It’s because I stand for what I believe. It’s because they have wealthy State House lobbyists walking the halls… and I fight them. I work against them. I am not bought by them. … They play a partisan game. I’m there to represent the workers in our district. A two-party system got us where we are. When people go there and fight, the problems continue.”
On the environment, Robinson said: “Climate change, that word doesn’t mean much and it causes anxiety. It’s like saying the sky is falling and there’s nothing we can do about it. I feel sorry for our children having to live under that cloud. I prefer to use specific terms to address specific issues. For example, if we all wore clothes made from natural materials and didn’t use polyester, we would have less microplastics in our water. This is something that people can deal with as they have one specific thing.
“If we want to talk about climate change, we can talk about winter. Winter is climate change and winter is coming and people are really going to suffer. The measures that the federal government has taken and the lack of foresight by the state government will cause people to freeze in their homes. There will be food shortages. Our president warned us about this. The cost of wood has doubled. The cost of electricity has tripled in the last three years. The state government should look at our energy infrastructure.”
Pluecker said he sees major impacts of climate change in droughts that cause his farm to need irrigation and an increase in ticks and brown-tailed moths. He said warming waters are causing the lobster to migrate. He said he has been working on these issues at the State House.
On health care, Robinsons said: “Health care starts at the kitchen table with the family, both emotionally and physically. My doctor told me that 80% of our health problems are due to choices.”
She criticized Pluecker for voting against patient privacy on the vaccine issue and said she believed in medical freedom.
Pluecker saw the issue of health care locally as an issue of access and shortage of staff and providers. He advocated building the health care infrastructure.
Pluecker said he trusts local election officials and the electoral process.
Robinson said, “If someone comes to you and has a problem, don’t say it’s okay. Listen to them. We have half of this country that believes we have a problem, so we have to see why, what has changed, what laws have changed. What are we doing differently? People have questioned our elections since 2000 in both parties.”
She continued, “So we have rating voting. It’s complicated and people don’t understand. When people don’t understand something, they don’t trust what they don’t understand.”
On the abortion issue, Pluecker said he is endorsed by Planned Parenthood and supports Maine’s current law.
Robinson said: “I do not support forcing insurance companies to fund abortions. I would not support taxpayer funding of abortions and I would not support what we are doing in seven states across the country allowing abortions until the day the child is born. Maine restricts abortion in the third trimester. …The only thing I would like to focus on is supporting women and giving them what they need to help them. Instead of changing the law, focus on helping people make better choices and taking care of the children they have.”
They differed on the issues of gender-affirming surgery, with Robinson objecting and Pluecker wanting to leave the decision to the families and their doctors. The also spoke on the issue of banning books. Robinson spoke of a book containing offensive material that parents seemed powerless to remove from schools. She said they might have to leave schools because of this.
Pluecker, who works in the schools, said this isn’t a big issue for children in the community, but it is for some adults who want to gain political momentum ahead of elections. He opposes banning books.
Robinson argued that Democrats have controlled the Legislature for most of the last 50 years, resulting in a one-party government, and she argued that Pluecker as an independent should please the Democrats since they have not put forward a candidate to oppose him.
Pluecker disagreed. He said he voted with the Republicans on certain issues. He is in favor of medical freedom and supports Second Amendment rights.
“But the Democratic Party understands that I’m easier to work with than some of the Republicans up there, and I can be a voice across the aisle.”
Tensions High in House District 43 Candidate Debate