The three candidates for the Democratic nomination in Maine House District 90 and one candidate for county commissioner talked about policing reform, access to health care, and prospects for post-COVID-19 economic recovery during a forum Tuesday, June 9.
J.W. Oliver, editor of The Lincoln County News, moderated the forum. Lincoln County Television filmed the forum at its studio in Newcastle. The forum first aired Thursday, June 11.
The forum was the LCN’s second and final forum for legislative and county-level candidates ahead of the state primary July 14.
Lydia Crafts, of Newcastle, David Levesque, of Newcastle, and Wendy Pieh, of Bremen, are seeking the Democratic nomination in House District 90, which includes Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Monhegan, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, and part of South Bristol.
District 3 County Commissioner Mary Trescot, of Damariscotta, is running for the Democratic nomination. Trescot was due to appear alongside primary challenger Jane Langdon-Gray, of Newcastle, but Langdon-Gray ended her campaign the day before the forum.
Levesque, who has a law practice in Damariscotta, highlighted the need for accessible education, saying he “greatly benefited” from Maine public schools and was the first in his family to attend college.
“I believe preschool through 12th grade should be fully funded,” Levesque said, citing a need for more state assistance to take the burden off of local taxpayers. He said free tuition should be available for those seeking higher education.
“America was founded on giving people the opportunity to pull themselves up,” he said.
Candidates discussed health care and whether the Legislature should take action to make it more affordable.
“We have great health care in Lincoln County and that allows people to age here,” said Crafts, a social worker. “We need a Maine that works for everyone.”
Crafts said it’s a problem that health care is often tied to employment, especially during the pandemic. As people lose their jobs, they lose coverage, and then they can’t access health care during a health crisis.
Pieh, who previously served eight years in the Legislature, said she lived in Canada for 20 years and didn’t have to worry about health insurance due to the country’s publicly funded health care system. She said one obstacle to affordable health care in the U.S. is that the federal government will not allow the negotiation of medicine prices.
The candidates also took up the issue of policing reform, a subject that has dominated international news amid protests.
“I was a police officer for 24 years because I wanted to help people,” Trescot said. “We need to go back to that.” She said Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett is doing “really well” in his position.
Crafts has been attending weekly protests in Newcastle and said she has heard from constituents that the Black Lives Matter movement is not applicable in this area because black people make up a small percentage of the state’s population.
“A population of 2% is still 20,000 people,” Crafts said. She called for more extensive training on civil rights for police officers.
Oliver asked the candidates whether they support a bond issue for investment in high-speed internet infrastructure, which will be on the ballot July 14. All four agreed that reliable internet access has become a necessity.
Pieh said Bremen recently received a grant to expand broadband access. She said people are struggling to work from home during the pandemic because of limited internet access, and highlighted the need for fast internet to facilitate telehealth.
The candidates also talked about climate change and how legislators can address it.
“I support the Green New Deal. There’s a road map there,” Levesque said. He emphasized the need to create green jobs and incentivize companies to cut back on plastic usage.
The forum also included discussion of unemployment claims and safety concerns surrounding the July and November elections. The full forum is available to watch at lctv.org.