May 23, 2012

Plowman: 'I'm not all that easy to push around'

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Third in a series profiling the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.

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Maine Senator Debra Plowman officially kicked off her U.S. Senate campaign on Friday morning in Lewiston.

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DEBRA PLOWMAN

Party: Republican
Age: 51
Home: Hampden
Family: Married (David), three children (James 25, Katie 22, Olivia 16), two grandchildren
Education: Studied political science at University of Southern Maine
Occupation: Co-owner of PDQ Door, Hampden-based overhead door company
Political Experience: Maine House of Representatives, 1992-2000; Maine Senate, 2004-2012; assistant Senate majority leader, 2010-2012

SUPPORTERS

• The Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine
• VOICES of Conservative Women, a national political action committee
• Alan Burton, a vice president of Cianbro
• Michael Levesque, owner of Corinna-based Perfect Fit USA
• Barry Pottle, CEO of Bangor-based Pottle’s Transportation
• Rep. Joan Nass, R-Acton

ON THE ISSUES

• Do you support President Obama’s health care law? No

• Do you support a balanced budget amendment? Yes

• Would you support a tax increase for the wealthy? No, would prefer to examine exemptions used to avoid taxes.

• Would you vote to extend the nation’s debt limit? No

• Do you support legalizing gay marriage? No

• Do you support legal access to abortion? No

• What should Congress be doing to create jobs and improve the economy? “Congress does not create jobs. Congress should examine the excessive and expensive regulations on businesses as we did in the 125th Legislature. Business owners need to use their energies to grow their businesses and their economy. Spending valuable work hours filling out paperwork and jumping through bureaucratic hoops keeps businesses and their employees from concentrating on their businesses. Congress should concentrate on passing a budget and control our nation’s spending.”

Debra Plowman warns people not to be fooled by her soft voice and soft looks. Sound advice from the 51-year-old grandmother.

Plowman has won nine elections and lost none, so she's one of the longest-serving members of Maine's Legislature. She hopes to win a couple more and become Maine's next U.S. senator.

"I'm not all that easy to push around," said Plowman, who last year became assistant majority leader in the state Senate.

Plowman is one of six Republicans who hope to win their party's nomination June 12, then win in November and replace Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

The lawmaker from Hampden is the only woman in the GOP primary and the most politically experienced of the three socially conservative candidates who are vying for the support of the party's right wing. She also helped to build a successful family business, PDQ Door Co.

Plowman has some big challenges to overcome. Her name isn't widely known outside of her legislative district, and she lags behind other candidates in fundraising, in part because she was wrapping up the legislative session when her opponents were calling donors.

She had raised $5,261 and spent just $160 as of March 31, the end of the most recent reporting period. Her campaign, unlike her opponents', is an all-volunteer effort.

Lawmakers who know Plowman and her election record aren't writing off her chances.

"She could be a potential sleeper," said Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco.

Hobbins called Plowman the road-tested conservative in the GOP race. And, while they disagree on many issues, Plowman was good to work with in negotiations across the political aisle, he said. "She was aggressive but respectful."

Plowman was born in Birmingham, Ala., and raised the first few years of her life by her grandmother there after her mother died. She moved to Lewiston when she was 5 years old with her father, who was in the Navy.

She has worked multiple jobs ever since high school at St. Dominic Academy in Auburn.

It was at the Catholic school where she first took a stand against abortion. That stand would carry over into a 16-year legislative career. Plowman was 14 in 1974, when she and her St. Dom's classmates raised money and went to Washington, D.C., for the national prayer breakfast on the one-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Plowman studied political science at the University of Southern Maine, where she met her future husband and business partner, David.

She left USM before graduation and went to work full time as a legal secretary with law firms and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Bangor, moonlighting as a typist. In 1992, she took a typing job for a former state representative from Hampden who was looking for a Republican to run for his seat.

'I can do that'

"I heard him talk at the Republican caucus and said, 'Yeah, maybe I can do that,'" Plowman said.

She ran, and won a three-way general election with 65 percent of the vote.

In her first two legislative sessions, she sponsored successful bills to boost child support collections from dead-beat dads and reduce the practice of state government placing at-risk children with foster parents instead of family members.

Plowman spent 16 of the last 20 years in the Maine House and Senate, rising to assistant Senate majority leader when Republicans took the majority in 2010. It was Plowman's job to teach the ropes to new legislators and committee chairs, to help manage amendments and floor votes and whip Republicans into line when necessary, which she said was a matter of listening and problem-solving.

(Continued on page 2)

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