BRUNSWICK — Incumbent Ralph Tucker is fending off a challenge for his seat in state House District 50 to represent Brunswick against political newcomer Michael Lawler.

Tucker, aiming for his fourth and final two-year term, hopes to continue his work to protect the environment and achieve free health care in Maine, while Lawler is focused on increasing transparency among state officials and minimizing any tax increases.

Tucker

Tucker said he sees two “unsustainable threats in the state” – global warming and a “rigged economic system” – that would be his focus if reelected.

“There is an accelerating wealth gap and the fruits of our economy are not being fairly shared,” Tucker said. “We are fouling our own nest, global warming compounds the economic inequalities and so we have to take action. Two big components of the solution would be to reinforce in a massive way public education and also to provide for health care for everyone and to dismantle the rigged economy.”

Dismantling a rigged economy, he said, takes across-the-board reform, covering everything from patent and bankruptcy laws to tax codes. While he hopes to address economics, as co-chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources the environment is his “wheelhouse.” 

“We have a number, maybe seven or eight laws, almost passed in the last Legislature which was cut short by the pandemic, so we have to reenact those bills to limit (carbons) that are released in the atmosphere,” Tucker said. “We have a waste problem, we have inadequate recycling, the recycling programs of our towns have to be redesigned and there are a number of ways we have to increase enforcement of clean water and clean air.”

Tucker said that his experience makes him a good candidate.

“I have experience in law, drafting laws and in helping put together coalitions to pass laws,” he said. “We were able to solve a major problem about the regulation of metallic mining and I was able to help put together a consensus bill that will protect Maine from the extreme hazards of metallic mining. I can be civil, fair to all sides and in my work I am trying to do the best I can to have everyone heard.”

Lawler

Lawler said if he is elected, he wants to increase transparency in the state House through policies to improve communication with residents about what is being decided and why.

“From an outsider’s point of view it’s not clear how things happen, how they come about and how an ordinary citizen can participate in the process,” he said. “The problem is, the ethics commission is not enabled to bring about accountability and that’s from the lonely legislator to the most far-flung county all the way up to the officers and representatives in the House and Senate.”

Lawler’s cited Maine’s House Speaker Sara Gideon as an example of a lack of accountability. Gideon was fined last year for taking corporate money for her race in 2016, but Lawler thinks a punishment should go beyond a $500 fine.

“The people who play fast and loose with these PAC accounts are on all sides; this applies to everyone. My two main goals are transparency and accountability,” he said.

Lawler also hopes to focus on curbing tax increases, which he worries will follow a projected $1.4 billion shortfall in the state budget over the next three years. The shortfall is largely blamed on the pandemic, he said, but overspending prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 is the reason behind the shortfall.

I would advocate for a 30% budget cut across the board in every single state commission and department before any consideration on an increase in taxes,” Lawler said. “It is serious and the mess we are in because of all that spending will be tough to recover from.”

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