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42-forum shared microphone

Democratic candidate Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi hands the microphone to incumbent state Rep. Jon Plumer, R-Lodi, after completing her response to a question in Wednesday's state Assembly District 42 candidates' forum. The Lodi Optimist Club sponsored the forum, held at Lodi High School.

LODI — During a sometimes confrontational forum Wednesday, the two candidates for the District 42 state Assembly seat expressed agreement on many fronts.

Both Rep. Jon Plumer, R-Lodi, and his Democratic challenger, Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi, said they would let their local values guide their decisions in the Legislature.

The difference, Groves Lloyd said, lies in their approaches to issues.

“Jon is right about doing the right thing,” she said. “I think we differ about what the right thing is.”

Moderator Bill Haupt said the Lodi Optimist Club has sponsored candidates’ forums at Lodi High School for Lodi-area Legislative races for the past 30 years. And the rules, he said, are always the same — audience members may pose questions to the candidates, but they are discouraged from making speeches of their own.

Now and then, however, Haupt reminded attendees to state their questions.

Plumer got the brunt of the confrontation, on issues such as gun laws, climate change, gerrymandering and mandatory voter ID.

But when questioners cited recent Republican rhetoric on these and other issues, Plumer reminded them that, because he was elected in a court-mandated special election in June, he has yet to participate in a debate or cast a vote in the Assembly, which has not been in session.

If people have to present identification to do things such as purchase cellular phone service, Plumer said, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be required to show identification before casting a ballot.

“I have no idea how widespread voter fraud is, but if we have even one vote cast illegally, that vote cancels out somebody else’s vote,” he said.

Groves Lloyd said there are a number of reasons why a person might have difficulty obtaining a state-issued identification card, including lack of transportation and difficulty obtaining supporting documentation such as a birth certificate.

But lack of ID is not the only barrier to voting, she said. Holding elections on Tuesdays — a weekday, when many people work — might also prevent someone from casting a ballot.

“We should look for ways to make sure everyone has the chance to make their voice heard with their vote,” she said.

Groves Lloyd characterized District 42 as “one of the most gerrymandered districts in the state,” with lines deliberately drawn to exclude high-population communities. The city of Lodi, with a population of about 3,000, is the largest incorporated community in the district.

She called for change in the state’s practice of having legislators redraw district boundaries every 10 years, and said an independent body should do the redistricting.

“No one with skin in the game should be allowed to draw the district lines,” she said.

Plumer said Democrats and Republicans have, over the years, drawn gerrymandered districts when their party was in power. However, he said he remains open to considering having an independent non-partisan body take charge of Wisconsin’s redistricting.

When an attendee said Plumer had misspoken at a forum last spring in alleging gun violence increased as a result of stricter gun control laws in Australia, Plumer responded that what he had said was that violence in general, not gun violence, had increased — and that a police officer told him this was the case.

In a one-on-one conversation with an attendee after the forum, Plumer said that Wisconsin requires gun safety education for anyone seeking a conceal-carry permit, and that he favors this requirement.

Groves Lloyd said she favors “common sense” gun laws to make it harder for people with suicidal depression, or others who shouldn’t have firearms, to obtain them.

“I don’t intend to take anyone’s gun away,” she said. “I’m not going to restrict people’s ability to hunt, recreate and feel safe.”

In response to another question, Plumer said, “I believe climate change is real, and I’ve believed that for a long time. My problem is, I don’t know if it’s man-made. Is it something that happens naturally, over a period of thousands of years?”

Groves Lloyd said she believes climate change is real and caused by human activity — a view she described as being in line with science.

“There are many things individuals can do, but sticking our heads in the sand is not one of them,” she said.

In response to a Lodi High School student’s question about whether a woman should have the legal right to choose abortion, Plumer described himself as a “pro-life” grandfather of seven. However, he suggested that making adoption easier and more efficient could be a solution to unwanted pregnancies.

Groves Lloyd said, “A woman’s choice is her choice. I will unequivocally protect a woman’s right to have control over her own body, her own health and her well-being.”

On one issue, the candidates were of one mind.

When an attendee asked whether lawmakers, in seeking solutions to paying for road repairs, should refer to a study on that matter conducted five years ago, Groves Lloyd said there may be no need to “reinvent the wheel” if a possible solution can be found in that study.

Plumer’s answer: “Yes.”

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde or contact her at 608-745-3587.

Portage Daily Register Reporter