This past week I got the opportunity to interview Dale Crafts, the GOP candidate in Maine’s 2nd Congressional district. Elections Daily currently rates this race as a Tossup. Below is the full transcribed interview with Mr. Crafts. If you would instead like to listen to the interview, the audio can be found at the YouTube embed below as well as on our podcast platforms. I want to thank Mr. Crafts for taking the time to speak with me for this interview.
What inspired you to run for Congress?
Crafts: I’ll tell you. What happened was I termed out after four terms in the state house and I was back running my business and spending time with my family.
The I got a call from Senator Jeff Timberlake, whose a leader in the state senate. He called me and said, “Dale, I want to ask you to run for Congress, we really think you can be the guy to win against Congressman Golden.” I was kind of humbled by the call and gave it some thought and then two days later the former Governor Paul LePage called me. He asked me the same thing, he said “Dale, I’m calling to ask you to run for Congress.”
I was again humbled by that. So, I spent some time with my family and friends to talk to them about it. I spent some time in prayer about it. The las thing I did is I brought all my kids over, all six kids and fourteen grandkids. We gathered them over at the house and had a cookout at my house. I gathered them in a circle and we sat down and talked and I asked them. They were all so encouraging, saying “Dad you’ve always made a difference, this is you, you’ll go down there and serve the people and we’re 100% behind you.” That day I had the confirmation that this is what I needed to do.
How has the pandemic affected the way you campaign?
Crafts: You know, I’ve been in a lot of elections over the years. Four elections of my own and then I helped my cousin Garett Mason, who was the Majority Leader in the Senate when he ran for Governor. I drove him all around for nine months.
We had quite a full schedule going. We had a full schedule and a calendar of meeting people and a different events. Then just overnight everything just evaporated. It was like cancel, cancel, cancel and we were wondering what would we do?
It was certainly a different campaign than we’ve ever run, but you know it worked out fine. We had a guy who works for us whose really good at social media and he’s a professional photographer and video guy. He really got my story out there to be honest with you. When I started out in this campaign, I had the least recognized name out of three candidates since I had served only my local town and not the whole state. Once we got our story out there through social media, making calls and mailers, that’s when we really started to surge. You saw on election night we won by quite a significant amount and that’s really how we did it.
You were paralyzed in an accident in 1983. How has that incident affected you personally and politically since that moment?
Crafts: I’ve always been a go-getter and a very ambitious guy. Growing up in school I was always a leader in my school and captain of the football team my senior year. So I was a pretty ambitious young man. I married my high school sweetheart when I got out of high school in ’78 and bought my first home at nineteen. Then three years later we had our first daughter Barbie Lee.
Then in 1983, I had gotten on my motorcycle to deliver a part to my Dad’s garage because I worked for him as a mechanic. Another man turned in front of me and off the road I went. Next thing I know I’m in the hospital to find out I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
Through strong family, I have strong faith, I’m a Christian man and my family came around me and really encouraged me. I got a lot of support from my grandmother when I got out of rehab. She was the one that really inspired me to be an overcomer. So, I did and I overcame.
The thing is I tell the best part of my overcoming is when I was in rehab they said I couldn’t have anymore children, I only had the one daughter at the time. Now I have six children and fourteen grandchildren. That was part of overcoming, having kids even though I wasn’t supposed to. I don’t get into the details on that, it was a miracle in itself.
After that I was always dealing with business. My dad taught us how to buy and sell and how to make money and I did that in my teenage years. So I just went from doing that same stuff in a wheelchair. Starting businesses and I started multiple businesses successfully. As I went along I got into local town politics and got elected as a councilman. Then I got elected in 2008 to serve four terms in the legislature.
I always tell the story like this. Here’s a guy who had an accident and who’s family was popular so we were well known. It was like “John’s poor boy, his life is ruined now, he’s gonna spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.” Truth of the matter is I had the ability to raise a family, I have wonderful kids and grandkids. And whoever thought I’d go on to serve my town and my state and now I’m the candidate running for Congress. I’ve really lived the American dream and part of why I want to go to Congress is because I’m afraid that my children and grandchildren are losing the same opportunities that I had.
You were a state Rep for eight years, from 2008-16. How will you take the experience from that and use that in the House if elected?
Crafts: Certainly you learn how legislation works. It is quite a process and what I’ve found in the way our county is set up, state legislation is similar to how we do it in Congress.
The ability to know how to sit on a committee. The ability to learn all the information on both sides. To have committee debates, to discuss and vote. Then to have the debate on the floor and put legislation forward. Constituents come to you with a lot of problems and they want changes. They come to you with an idea and you’ve got to write it in legislation and you put it forward to be debated.
So certainly with eight years of sitting in the state house and the time I spent on local government, running my town and helping with local projects. All that experience I think makes a big difference.
Maine’s 2nd Congressional district is very rural with many small towns. What is it like campaigning in such a spread out district?
Crafts: It’s a large district, it’s the largest land sized district this side of the Mississippi. The cool part is, lots of people say we have two Maines and in a sense we do. The rural parts are the old fashioned Maine, mostly locals who have been there generation after generation. So it’s a really great experience to go out in the second district and see all these small businesses, little farms, the fishing communities, the lobster communities. It’s enjoyable.
It is a lot of work, I put on over twenty-thousand miles on my truck. The thing is we spent a good half of my campaign in my office. So when you’re riding in Maine’s rural district, it takes from my house to Fort Kent, Maine, it’s about a five and a half hour drive. Just to get to the end of the district, from my house. And I’m on the other end of the district, I’m right on the border of the first district. So that’s one end to the other.
It’s great, I mean Maine is a very beautiful place. All the way up to the Canadian borders, down east, the western mountains, Baxter State Park. I mean this area is just so beautiful and it’s so beautiful when you’re raveling out here. Maine is an amazing state when it comes to that.
You ended up with a very high first ballot total in your primary. Did those numbers surprise you at all?
Crafts: You know from the polling we’d seen earlier, numbers we were looking at, we’d thought we would be around 45-47%. Then there was a poll that came out a couple weeks before the primary that showed me at 46%. That night we were watching each town come in and we were looking at the percentages. It was pretty consistent with the numbers we saw in the last poll.
So we were really, really happy. We felt that early on when the numbers started coming in that it was going to be hard for my opponents to overcome that. When they did the Ranked-Choice voting (RCV) and they added it up we ended up with about 58%.
You’re going up against Democrat Jared Golden, the incumbent who has millions of dollars on hand in fundraising. Do you think your message will be able to break through Golden’s huge cash advantage?
Crafts: I really do and I think we have the plan that we have to raise the cash. We may not raise as much as him, but I think it will be like the primary. Once my story gets out there and people see who I am and look at my legislative record.
Former Governor Paul LePage, who is a very popular former governor who plans on running again. With his endorsement and fifty other legislators endorsements, many sportsmen and I’m a big sportsman and hunter. I have a large sportsman community behind me. I have a lot of veterans behind me even though Jared’s a veteran. Then in the business community, I had a tremendous amount of business support and endorsements.
So, I really do think once my story gets out there and people see the accomplishments and how I overcame in life. Started up multiple businesses and being able to serve ion the state and my local community. I really do think that will resonate.
You take the fact that Donald Trump in 2016 won the district by ten points. Then in 2018, there was a big blue wave and Bruce Poliquin did come out the winner that night and lost through RCV. This time President Trump will be on the ballot, along with Senator Susan Collins which is going to be a big turnout for Republicans. I think with my life story, my legislative experience and my business experience, I think this is absolutely a time where we can overcome that and flip this seat back. It’s one of the op five seats that the NRCC is focused on that they believe can be flipped.
Jared Golden also won thanks to the inclusion of Ranked Choice Voting in 2018. Do you think Maine should continue to use ranked choice voting past 2020?
Crafts: No, they shouldn’t. The good part is there’s no third candidate, so I will not have to deal with RCV. That I think is a real positive.
I think a lot of people, certainly a lot of Republicans want to just vote the way they’ve done all their life. A plurality vote and just vote for one person. So, I hope the people will realize even though we’ve had several elections with RCV, people are still very confused on how they vote, how they rank and I think people are getting frustrated with that system.
I’m hoping that we can get it on the ballot. It was supposed to be on the ballot to stop the Presidential RCV and we collected the signatures, but the Secretary of State threw out enough so that it’s just under the threshold to get it on the ballot. There has been some court filings to fix that and get back some certified signatures so we can get it on the ballot for the Presidential race only. Then we’ll see how the people vote on that and hopefully if they vote to get rid of it for the Presidential race then we’ll go out and collect enough signatures to remove it altogether. Hopefully we will then not have to deal with RCV in the future.
You’ve received a lot of support from former Governor Paul LePage in your run. How much has his support been a help to the campaign?
Crafts: I think it’s helped a lot. When I served with him, since I got elected in 2008, he got elected in 2010 when we took control of the House, Senate and executive. I was there as a legislator when he successfully turned Maine around, paid the bills, we had the biggest tax cut and we did welfare reform.
We left a nice rainy-day surplus for the future. What happened is the new Governor we had, she came in when the economy was booming, has never been better. She spent all kinds of money, spent the rainy day fund and then we had the pandemic hit. So what has happened is former Governor LePage has announced he’s going to run again. The enthusiasm for the Governor to run again is extremely high and I really believe that if he runs again, he’s going to announce right after the November 3rd election, I think he’ll win the Governorship again.
So I do think it was significant. I had several people tell me that once they heard Governor LePage had endorsed me that it’d helped them make their decisions. So it did have an influence.
Being disabled yourself, what will you do to make sure that disabled Americans are given a fair chance in all aspects of life if you are elected to Congress?
Crafts: You know what, I love freedom. Freedom loving, freedom living patriot and I think that our founders were the most brilliant amazing founders we could’ve had. The documents they had established through free-market capitalism gave us a solid foundation.
The problem I see is we have to stop the progressive left, who is moving further to the left, that believes the Constitution is an organic document that just changes with society and time. I always say, whose going to decide that, whose going to change society. The truth is that it’s the foundation of our rule and law and there are processes in place if somebody wants o change the Constitution.
So we’ve got to get back to the very free market capitalism principles that this nation changed the world from and get people back to work. With all that’s going on and up here in the state of Maine, when this thing hit our Governor, who I wouldn’t want to be in her position and she’s trying her best. But she shut down the whole state of Maine and we had twelve counties in Maine that were hardly affected by the pandemic. There were a lot of counties that never had a hospitalization and she shut down all their businesses.
To get back to your question, we have got to get the economy going, get people back to work and grow the economy. We can do that through a lot of the things the President is trying to do and that’s to bring back fair trade. We’ve been ripped off by China and other countries long enough. I think when we win the trade war you’re going to see America boom like never before. That’s what I really think is the best thing we can do for the people of the state of Maine and our country.
In the Maine House you were part of crafting a law that took 70,000 of Maine’s lowest earners off the tax rolls. Would you try and craft something similar for the entire nation?
Crafts: Well, you saw President Trump did that and he had a tax cut and we saw how that worked. When you put more money in peoples pockets and you reduce the size of Government like we did in the Maine legislature in a lot of ways.
I would most definitely be willing to do that. I believe the overburden of Government, of high taxes, of high regulation is what holds the economy back ands actually takes freedom away from people. Especially people who want to get into business, build a star up and make a living for their family. So yes, I would certainly favor helping any way we can, but I think we need to do it by making government run more efficiently.
I don’t think we have a revenue problem, I think we have a spending problem. When I run my business I have to make sure that I watch every line in my business so I watch the spending. When Federal Government doesn’t watch their spending and I’ll tell you a quick story.
A guy I know he works in the national guard and he has about 100 soldiers working underneath him. He told me, that at the end of the budget they had a surplus of money and he had to go tell his soldiers to spend the money. He told them to spend the money or they wouldn’t get the money again. That’s just one little example, now just times that by the millions of wasted money in the federal government.
As a businessman like Donald Trump and former Governor LePage, I’m going to go down there and watch their tax revenue that comes in from the working class people and see how it’s spent. I think that we need to look at every part of government and their budgets and make sure the money is spent properly. Certainly when you put more money back in people’s pockets, you put more money back into the economy. It gives people a better opportunity to buy vehicles, put their kids through schools, to prosper and start businesses.
What would be your day-one issue if you were elected to serve Maine in the house?
Crafts: I want to go down to Washington and certainly do whatever I can to help stimulate Maine’s economy. Up in the second district, it’s a very difficult way to make a living. It’s very rural, it’s very cold in the winter, the working season‘s short, the farming season’s short. So I would have to go down there and take a look at how I can help the second district, how I can help the agriculture down east. We have one of the deepest water ports in the Atlantic in Eastport, Maine. There’s huge opportunities there, there’s all kinds of opportunities for me to go down and push hard for the state of Maine. I’ve got to represent the Maine people and help them get back to work and grow the economy.