Monday, November 3, 2014

I Ask For Your Vote

With my friend Senator Patrick Flood at Swearing-In Ceremonies, December 5, 2012.

Dear Neighbor,

My name is Craig Hickman. If you live in Readfield or Winthrop, I am your Representative to the Legislature. If you live in the part of North Monmouth, because of redistricting, you will become part of the district I currently represent in the Maine House of Representatives. If we haven’t yet had a chance to meet in person, I’m the hard-working, organic-farming, small-business-owning poet, author, and chef with a Harvard degree in government that you elected two years ago.

I ask for your vote for re-election on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. It would be my great pleasure to serve another term as your State Representative in the 127th Legislature.

I will remain forever grateful to be part of this awesome community; I won’t ever turn my back on you. Currently, I serve as Chair of the Winthrop Area Rotary Foundation, Director of the Winthrop Community Gardens & Fresh Food Bank at Annabessacook Farm, and Secretary of the Winthrop Hot Meal Kitchen. I also serve on the boards of the Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association, Theater at Monmouth, and the Western Kennebec Economic Development Alliance. I enjoy memberships in the Sons of the American Legion, Kennebec Land Trust, Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Readfield and Winthrop Historical Societies, the Winthrop Area Federal Credit Union, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Farmland Trust, and Maine Tourism Association.

Preparing the smoker for the Winthrop Rotary Family Barbecue & Gumbo Festival to End Hunger, August 16, 2014. (Photo from KJ)

It has been the highest honor of my life to represent you in the 126th Legislature. What an unbelievably rewarding and humbling experience. To this day, I have moments when I have to ask my family if this is real. It was always my father’s dream that I become a public servant, and while I wish he were here to see me living (and loving) his dream, I believe he’s smiling down from heaven. I can almost hear his oft-repeated caveat right now: “Don’t get so comfortable with what you think you know that you fix your mind to stop learning, young man.”

I have learned that there’s more to a piece of legislation than the title; that the devil is in the details; and that lawmakers don’t always read every word of the laws we take roll-call votes on.

I have learned that too many political reporters don’t read the laws they report on; that they consistently frame every issue through the lens of partisanship; and that too much of what they write may include the facts but is nowhere near the entire truth.

I have learned that industry and special interest lobbyists have more access to the administration than lawmakers; that far too many deals on so many vital matters are made behind closed doors.

I have learned that mendacity can rule the day under the dome in Augusta; that too many people will lie to your face, repeatedly; and that bravery is a rarity in the legislative process.

Students from Maranacook Student Health Center at the State House for the suicide prevention bill.

Even still, there are times when we do the right thing, when pragmatic policy prevails over partisan politics, when the people of this great State are served well. Both the House and the Senate voted unanimously to pass a teen suicide prevention bill. We strengthened privacy rights by requiring a warrant before anyone can monitor your cell phone, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. We heard you loud and clear and voted overwhelmingly to require GMO labeling on most packaged food sold in Maine. We passed a responsible bipartisan budget that respected our civil servants, increased investments in education, and prevented a State shutdown. It would have been a profound failure of governance—the height of irresponsibility—if the Legislature had allowed that to happen.

For my part, most of the ten bills I presented were about creating a more robust food economy and protecting the long-term viability of small farms and homesteads. Four of them became public law: An Act To Expand Wild Turkey Hunting; An Act To Amend the Medical Marijuana Act at the request of two licensed caregivers in Readfield and Winthrop; An Act To Encourage Edible Landscaping in a Portion of Capitol Park; and a Resolve, To Establish a Veteran-to-Farmer Training Pilot Program.

I am proud that my resolve, under the outstanding leadership of Stephanie Gilbert of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry and Tori Lee Jackson of University of Maine Cooperative Extension, brought together representatives from six governmental and three nongovernmental agencies to craft an education and training program out of existing resources for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans interested in agricultural careers.

With the O'Keefe Family at the Freedom Salute for 133rd Engineer Battalion and 1025th Survey and Design Team, August 17, 2014.

I am proud of my work with Senator Thomas Saviello and Senator Patrick Flood on a bill that helped save a family farm and small business in Readfield. In a letter to me, Jon Olson, Executive Secretary of the Maine Farm Bureau Association, wrote:
“I strongly feel one of the reasons LD696—An Act To Include Raising Equines in the Definition of Agriculture for the Purpose of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act of 1992—passed was because of your involvement. Not only did you testify at the public hearing, you also participated at the work session. From my experience being involved in the legislative process, it’s unusual for a cosponsor of a bill to do both. … LD696 was one of the most significant agricultural bills passed this session…. [It] will positively benefit all horse farms that provide boarding services as part of their operations. I know on the [Readfield] farm the cost of having to purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance would have forced them to close. There are dozens of horse farms in Maine that would have been placed in the same financial straits. Your action is appreciated by all these farmers.”

Finally, I am proud that my bill, An Act To Increase Consumption of Maine Foods in All State Institutions, overcame the difficult threshold of a two-thirds supermajority vote of both Chambers. The legislation was held over and vetoed at the opening of the Second Regular Session this past January. So I went to work to keep this rural economic development bill—this job-creating bill—alive. The House overrode the veto with the exact number of votes required. “Freshmen don’t override vetoes in either chamber, Hickman,” said a veteran newscaster. The Senate, however, sustained the veto by a two-vote margin. If we are going to incentivize state government to invest more of our own money in Maine’s farms and fisheries in order for Maine to become more food self-sufficient, a State policy my bill would help to implement, then we will have to try once more. And so it’s time to step up again.

Harvesting Garlic Scapes at Annabessacook Farm, July 9, 2014. (Photo from PPH)

I ask for your vote because we have more work to do. I have sown some seeds. A few of our ideas have taken root. I would love to see them bear fruit.

I take great pride in earning the respect of legislators from across the political spectrum in both the House and the Senate; in listening to every point of view and reading every word of all the bills and amendments before I vote on them; in voting my conscience even when it goes against my party. I take great pride in admitting when I make a mistake or drop the ball; in answering every phone message (377-FARM) and email ( and letter that I receive. Yes, legislators represent the people of our districts, but at the end of the day, our votes affect the people of the entire State. And so if someone from Madawaska or Kittery or anywhere in between takes the time to reach out to me, I will respond and do my best to help. The people deserve nothing less.

We are at a crossroads. If you believe we need to elect a Representative who listens, who thinks critically, independently, and values personal liberty; a Representative who asks the hard questions and honors the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; a Representative who isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes and will never be for sale, then I believe this Representative is the best choice for these tough times.

The Oath of Office, December 5, 2012.

I ask for your vote. On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, please go to the polls and vote Hickman back in the House. It has been the highest honor of my life to represent you. I will continue to work hard for you every single day. I humbly ask for more time in Augusta to help craft creative, pragmatic policies that will rebuild this beautiful state and grow Maine’s economy from the ground up.

Thank you. Take care of your blessings.

Craig V. Hickman