ROCKLAND — Incumbent Rep. William Pluecker, I-Warren, and Republican challenger Crystal Daggett Robinson of Hope differed on most topics including education, the environment and health care during a candidate forum organized by the League of Women Voters Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Rockland City Hall.

Robinson, now retired, has worked with her family business Daggett Builders and for Procter & Gamble in Switzerland.

Pluecker is the owner and farmer for the Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren, an organic Community Supported Agriculture farm. He also serves as a substitute teacher and is a member of MOFGA and a trustee in the First Universalist Church in Rockland.

Robinson said, “The Maine Chamber of Commerce rated my opponent a 15.5 out of a 100, which puts him in the bottom 15 percent of legislators who support the Maine economy.”

She criticized the state lockdowns during the pandemic, saying the state should have asked businesses for their ideas, and she argued the state was inconsistent, allowing large businesses to remain open while shutting down individuals. She criticized Pluecker for voting to extend lockdowns.

“Our governor is not a queen so she can’t just decide what everyone says,” she said. “Businesses need employees. We need to stop paying people to stay home on unemployment. They should be looking for jobs.”

“I thought we were not doing personal attacks,” Pluecker said. To 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 up for what I believe in. It’s because they have well-heeled lobbyists in the State House walking the corridors … and I fight them. I work against them. I’m not bought by them. … They play a partisan game. I’m there to represent the working people of our district. A two-party system got us where we are. When the people go up there and bicker, the problems continue.”

On the environment, Robinson said, “Climate change, that word doesn’t mean a whole lot and it causes anxiety. It’s like saying the sky’s 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 clothing from natural materials and didn’t wear polyester then we would have less microplastics in our water. That is something people can deal with since they have a specific thing.

“If we want to talk about climate change, we can talk about winter. Winter’s a climate change and winter’s coming and people are really going to be hurting. The measures that federal government have taken and the lack of foresight from state government are going to cause people to freeze in their homes. There are going to be food shortages. Our president has warned us about this. The cost of wood has doubled. The cost of electricity has tripled in the last three years. State government should look at our energy infrastructure.”

Pluecker said he sees big impacts from climate change in droughts that cause the need for irrigation on his farm and increases in ticks and brown-tail moths. He said warming waters are causing 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 emotional and physical. My doctor told me that 80 percent of our health care problems are due to choices.”

She criticized Pluecker for voting against patient privacy on the issue of vaccines and said she believes in medical freedom.

Pluecker saw the health care issue locally as a problem of access and shortage of staff and providers. He advocated for building up the health care infrastructure.

Pluecker said he trusts local election clerks and in the election process.

Robinson said, “If somebody comes to you and they have a problem, don’t tell them that there is no problem. Listen to them. We have half of this country that believes we do have a problem, so we have to look at why, what’s changed, what laws have changed. What are we doing differently? People have been questioning our elections since 2000 in both parties.”

She went on, “Then we have ranked-choice voting. It’s complicated and people don’t understand it. When people don’t understand something, they don’t trust what they don’t understand.”

On the issue of abortion, Pluecker said he is endorsed by Planned Parenthood and he 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 would not support what we are doing in seven states in the country allowing abortions up until day child is born. Maine restricts abortion in third trimester. …The one thing I would like to focus on is support women and give them what they need to help them. Rather than change the law, focus on helping people make better choices and take care of the children they have.”

They differed on the issues of gender-affirming surgery, with Robinson opposing it and Pluecker wanting to leave the decision with families and their doctors. They also spoke on the issue of book-banning. Robinson spoke of a book containing offensive material that parents seemed powerless to remove from schools. She said they may have to leave schools over it.

Pluecker, who works in the schools, said this is not a big issue for the children in the community, but it is for some adults who want to gain political momentum leading up to the election. He opposes banning books.

Robinson argued Democrats have controlled the Legislature for most of the last 50 years resulting in one-party rule, and she argued Pluecker as an independent must please Democrats since they did not put up a candidate to oppose him.

Pluecker disagreed. He said he has voted with Republicans on certain issues. He favors 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 that goes across the aisle.”

Watch the entire debate on video on YouTube.

Moderator Ann Luther of the League of Women Voters. Daniel Dunkle