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BDN’s “The Point” is wrong about independents

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Vic Beradelli’s piece in “The Point” about primaries is right to point out that primary polls and votes could change.

However, he’s dead wrong in what he says about independents.

Beradelli writes:

[Independents] are mostly free thinkers who go back and forth between parties, and they dislike both parties as organizations. So they’re watching all of the pre-primary polling with an “is that the best you got?” cynicism.

Wrong. People who are unenrolled may think of themselves as “free thinkers” but decades of political science research has found that’s not supported by facts.

This contention is sometimes called “The myth of the independent voter,” which is also the name of the 1992 book.

In reality:

  • Very high percentages of people who don’t identify with a party vote lean toward one.
  • Those “leaners” vote with a political party as much as people who identify with a political party.
  • Around 10% of voters go between parties.
  • Those “pure independents” tend not to follow politics much and are low-informed compared to partisans.

Beradelli is not at all unusual in getting this wrong.

Eliot Cutler’s campaign used to point to data showing an increase in independents all the time, as if that meant there was some big pool of voters out there that was free-floating.

This sort of graph, from the Pew Research Center shows the increase in independents. One might look at it and think — wow! — 39% are independent now.

Source: Pew Research Center, “A Deep Dive into Party Affiliation” April 2015

However, people who promote the myth of the independent voter never grapple with what other data — including the below graph — show.

Pew Research Center, “A Deep Dive into Party Affiliation” April 2015

Here you see that 87% (48% + 39%) of Americans either identify with a political party or lean toward one, down a little from the 91% (49% + 42%) in 1992.

That means that 9% didn’t identify with a party or lean toward one in 1992, and 13% fell in that category in 2014. That is rather far from the 39% figure in the top graph.

Ideologies of leaners are very much like partisans. They’re not terribly independent at all.

It’s hard to kill this notion of independents as somehow above partisanship, but it’s just not true.

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Democrats blast Poliquin for 2nd-best donation haul from banking sector

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Happy Friday from Augusta, on the eve of the last weekend before school starts for many Maine kiddos. If you’re a parent (or not), make the most of this weekend. I’ve got two boys starting on Tuesday, including a kindergartener who’s growing much too fast. Here’s a song to put us in the mood to let our children brush our rock ‘n roll hair this weekend.

I’m thinking of buying an epic number of water balloons today and not telling my boys about them until the battle is on and I have all the ammo. Because that’s the kind of dad I am. 

Is it quitting time yet? 

Poliquin raking in Wall Street cash

Last year, just a few weeks after the election, we reported here at State & Capitol how Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, had been named to the House Committee on Financial Services, and how that appointment was a signal that Republicans saw him as a rising star and that they want him focused on his 2016 reelection bid.

Being named to the committee was due in part to his financier past, but the banking committee is also one of the plum positions from which House members can collect campaign donations. In 2013, for example, a Politico analysis of Federal Election Commission data showed that the 11 then-freshmen on the committee raised an average of more than $320,000 in the second quarter of 2013, which was $100,000 more than the average haul for all other House freshmen.

So, it should come as little surprise to see that Poliquin is raking in the cash. In fact, among 17 races for next year that are considered by several political publications to be “toss-ups,” Poliquin ranks second in terms of the percentage of his donations coming from Wall Street, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.org.

About 12 percent of Poliquin’s total — $132,000 — is from the banking and finance industries. That’s second only to Republican Illinois Rep. Robert Dold, who brought in $162,000, which is 13 percent of his total, from private equity firms, investment banks, hedge funds and other Wall Street sources.

According to FEC records, Poliquin took in slightly more than $1 million in the first half of 2015 and is sitting on a campaign bank account of nearly $950,000.

Former state senator Emily Cain, who has been campaigning for a rematch against Poliquin, used the analysis to attack Poliquin in a fundraising email as being a “friend of Wall Street, not of hardworking Mainers.” The Maine Democratic Party was circulating a similar message on Thursday.

FEC records show that Cain raised about $287,000 between January and June of this year and $238,000 in cash on hand.

While these totals mean little more than a year in advance of the election and several months before the real campaign spending starts, there’s no question that Cain has some catching up to do, or what one of her arguments against Poliquin’s re-election will be. There’s also no question, based on these numbers, that Republican donors see the likelihood of another win next year in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

Standish-area House seat to be filled in Nov. 3 special election

The Nov. 3 special election will be twice as special as originally planned. Already on the ballot was the Sanford-area house seat, which was left vacant earlier this year with the death of Democratic Rep. Bill Noon.

Then last week, fourth-term Rep. Mike Shaw, D-Standish, announced that because of his job, he has to move away from Standish and resign from his House seat. On Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced that Nov. 3 will also be the date for that election.

Democrats, Green Independents and Republicans have until Sept. 14 to choose candidates through a caucus process. Petitions for non-party candidates are also due Sept. 14 and write-in candidates have until Sept. 25.

Reading list More about my water balloon plan

So maybe if you read the opening item in today’s Daily Brief, you’re still incredulous at the cruelty of me stocking up on water balloons this weekend and waging a one-sided surprise attack on my sons (I’ll make sure the water is COLD, too).

There’s a reason.

Two nights ago, my kids begged my wife and I to play a game of hide-and-seek, which is one of our favorite bedtime activities. We usually turn off all the lights in the house and each take turns hiding in the inky blackness. It’s a nerve-wracking experience, thanks to me teaching them years ago that the correct way to play is for the hider to scream as loud as possible and scare everyone as soon as he or she is discovered.

So, on Wednesday night, it was my turn to hide. We long ago exhausted the list of new hiding places in the house so I’m always looking for ways to spice up the game. I hid in the bathtub, standing behind the partially closed shower curtain, and waited. The twist: I had a full cup of water in my hand with plans to drench whoever discovered me. (Yes, it was cold.)

I couldn’t see my five-year-old coming but I could hear him. I waited until I thought he was just about to see me and I flung the water. It didn’t work out as planned. I soaked the towel rack, the linen closet, the toothpaste, the toothbrushes, my wife’s hair care materials (she didn’t say anything about it, but didn’t need to), our bathmats, the sink and a sweeping portion of the wall. I totally missed the five-year-old. It was an utter failure on my part, causing my older son to say over and over again, “I can’t believe you were really trying to dump water on us, dad.”

Which is the “why” of my water balloon scheme: They need to believe. — Christopher Cousins

Despite the hype, actually Hillary Clinton’s campaign is doing just fine

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

It’s been odd to see all the claims that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is crashing or that she’s a terrible campaigner. That’s because the evidence just doesn’t back that up.

In the nomination fight, she’s far ahead in national polls and behind only in one state, New Hampshire, which happens to be right next to the leading candidate’s home state, Vermont. And there’s nothing remotely unusual about having a progressive candidate (or candidates together) picking up the 20-25% in a Democratic presidential contest that Sanders is getting in national polls.

In general election matchups, Clinton beats all GOP candidates in the national poll averages. That’s not so for all the swing states, but these have been polled so little by credible polling organizations that there’s just not good data yet.

While pundits bluster about Clinton not having a chance, members of the public have a lot of confidence in her prospects.

That’s shown in a YouGov poll that asked if particular candidates could get elected. Clinton got far and away the highest percentage of respondents.

When it comes to the fastest growing segment of the electorate — Hispanics — Clinton has very high favorable ratings, per Gallup. They’re not only much higher than any GOP candidate but are also much higher than other Democrats’ ratings.

Between this and Clinton’s top favorables among African-Americans, there’s no reason to think she should have any real trouble winning the nomination.

Here are the Democrats’ favorables among Hispanics:

And here are the Republicans’ favorables among Hispanics:

Why does the Hispanic vote matter? Well, Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said that, to win in November 2016, a GOP candidate would need to go from the 27% of the Hispanic vote Romney received, to 40%.

All sorts of folks claim that Clinton will crash because something will come out about her emals that isn’t known yet. Well, we don’t know what we don’t know, but based on what we do know, the whole email issue looks way overstated.

Most people writing about the emails either overlook or have a poor grasp of some of the the details of what happened.

They don’t seem to know that Clinton used a secure server for material labeled as classified.

And they don’t seem to know that the State Department’s unclassfied server was often used for the occasional (later reclassified) perhaps classified messages, including by Bush Secretary of State Condi Rice, just like Clinton’s.

Clinton’s email and server set-up was approved by the State Department. And while now State Department rules would not allow this system, they weren’t in effect and, as State Department spokesperson John Kirby recently said, “there was no prohibition” when Clinton used it.

Maybe someday the emails will prove to be a serious problem for Clinton. But if the story holds up where it is now, where there were no emails with classified markings sent to Clinton, then the story is likely to turn into background noise.

Voters are already taking this into account in evaluating Clinton and it’s certainly possible it won’t have any further impact on Clinton’s relative position. People care a lot about how candidates will deal with things that affect their lives and Clinton has lots of advantages over Republicans when it comes to that.

Democratic politicians are not only not backing away from her, but she continues to rack up endorsements.

In winter 2016, Clinton could wrap up the nomination while the GOP field continues to fight among itself, ramping up the arguments about issues that hurt Republicans particular groups and the general electorate.

And that could come after a fall when the GOP House and Sen. Ted Cruz try to shut down the federal government in an effort to strip funding from the popular organization, Planned Parenthood.

This is not to say that Clinton faces clear sailing.

All presidential campaigns are tough, Clinton has enemies who still think she murdered Vince Foster during her husband’s administration, and the national media have a tendency to paint her in a negative light and to be overly credulous when it comes leaks about the emails. (By the way, an email story by the NY Times that was pulled back because it lacked evidence was called “a mess” and “fraught with inaccuracies” by the paper’s public editor.)

Right now the claims that Clinton’s campaign is failing is hyperbolic and not supported by the evidence.

Presidential candidate Rand Paul announces visit to Maine next week

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta and welcome to the dry, crisp air that we’ve all been longing to. Here’s today’s soundtrack (it doesn’t get started until about 30 seconds in so be patient) (and disregard the “early grave” bit). 

It looks like most of the political action was packed into the first half of the week, with quiet days today and tomorrow. Wait, what am I saying? Haven’t we come to expect the unexpected in Augusta? Well, let’s get to it. 

Rand Paul coming to Maine

CNN reports that Rand Paul is coming to Maine next week. Specific details are sketchy but it looks as if Paul will have come and gone by Wednesday.

Paul, who is struggling in early polling, sees northern New England — and Maine in particular — as an opportunity for picking up support among libertarians. His father, Ron Paul, finished a close second in Maine behind Republican nominee Mitt Romney, 38 percent to 36 percent, in 2012. And there was also that dust-up caused by a bunch of die-hard Ron Paul supporters from Maine at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Another Republican presidential candidate, for Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, is also visiting Maine next week. She will attend the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s Freedom & Opportunity Luncheon on Sept. 3 in South Portland.

Sussman’s huge political donations

It comes as no surprise anymore that financier Donald Sussman, who is the husband of Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, gives a lot of money to political causes. What might be a little surprising is the degree to which he and a handful of his wealthy peers are staking a bigger claim to the overall pool of state-level political donations.

According to a report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, fewer than 400 families and companies have given almost half of all the funds given to the 2016 presidential campaigns and super-PACs. Many of those same donors are also giving to state-level campaigns.

Here’s a startling statistic: From 2000 through 2014, the top 50 donors gave a total of about $77 million to state campaigns. More than half of that total, $39 million, was given by the top five donors alone, and nearly half of the $39 million was given by the top donor.

Here are the totals for the top state campaign donors:

  • A. Jerrold Prenchio: $17.1 million.
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States: $6.3 million.
  • George Soros, $5.9 million.
  • S. Donald Sussman, $5.2 million.
  • Richard Ellis Uihlein, $4.7 million.

At the state level, the top 50 donors gave to Republican candidates and causes by a two-to-one ratio. Sussman goes a long way toward equalling that out in Maine. From 2008 through 2014, according to the Maine Ethics Commission, Sussman gave nearly $1.3 million to state and county-level Democratic Committees alone. He also gave a series of smaller donations to individual candidates, including the maximum $3,000 to 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud.

Campaign finance guru to visit Maine

Congressman John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland, is coming to Maine next week in support of Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot, which calls for a range of campaign finance reforms.

Sarbanes has carved out a niche for himself as a national leader on the issue of money in politics and had sponsored federal-level campaign finance bills while in Congress, according to a press release from the Yes on 1 campaign.

Sarbanes will participate in two public forums while in Maine:

PORTLAND EVENT DETAILS:
WHAT: Portland Breakfast Roundtable Discussion on Innovative Approaches to Fighting Money in Politics
WHERE: Room 109/110, Abromson Center, University of Southern Maine, Portland
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept 2 from 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.
MODERATOR: Alison Smith
PANELISTS: Congressman John Sarbanes, Hon. S. Peter Mills, Executive Director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Andrew Bossies, President of the League of Women Voters of Maine Jill Ward

BANGOR EVENT DETAILS:
WHAT: Bar Harbor Round Table Discussion on Innovative Approaches to Fighting Money in Politics
WHERE: Jesup Memorial Library, 34 Mt. Desert Street, Bar Harbor
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 2 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
MODERATOR: Hon. Jill Goldthwait
PANELISTS: Congressman John Sarbanes, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director Andrew Bossie

Question 1 proposes a range of campaign finance reforms, including increasing clean elections funding for candidates, requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads; will ramp up penalties for violating campaign finance laws, and implement new spending and contribution limits. The referendum also calls for the Legislature to find and cut some $6 million in corporate tax breaks to help finance the new law.

Reading list Excuse me while I plug my hometown

It’s not often that my beloved hometown of South Paris, Maine, makes the news, so it was with excitement that I read a small business there has received the 2015 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

Paris Autobarn LLC, one of more than 950 automotive shops in Maine, will change your oil or rebuild your transmission with a focus on environmentally stable practices. The business, located right there on East Maine Street, even has solar panels on the roof, heat pumps for warmth and LED lighting on the ceilings.

Judging by its website, the owners are pretty serious about being eco-friendly. Their epic beards prove they don’t even waste electricity on trimmers. — Christopher Cousins

 

The very European flavor of Donald Trump

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Donald Trump signs an autograph for a supporter in Dubuque, Iowa. Ben Brewer | Reuters

Yes, you read that right. European.

Journey with me, dear reader, across the pond to the European continent and her various nations, because believe it or not, the phenomenon of Donald Trump is not unique to our American shores.

That may sound unlikely. After all, Europeans are famous for their advanced (some would say snooty and elitist) culture, and Europeans, particularly French and British citizens, frequently look down on their American cousins as boorish, outlandish rubes.

But in many ways, Europe has been ahead of the curve when it comes to aggressive, divisive populist anger, and bombastic candidates who reflect it.

Consider, for example, the National Front in France — a far-right, nationalist political party in a country widely (and inaccurately, I might add) viewed as a socialist haven. It advocates a platform that sounds very similar to the message of Trump: economic protectionism, a renewed and aggressive focus on law and order, opposition to the European Union, and rabidly anti-immigration (legal or illegal) sentiments.

France has a two-round presidential election, whereby dozens of parties field candidates in the first round, and if no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers move on.

The National Front’s first leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, stood atop the party for decades, always firmly on the outside of French politics. But in 2002, his unified and energized populist supporters managed to shock French politics, and Le Pen came in second place, beating the much more established and respected Socialist Party by nearly 200,000 votes (though Le Pen was crushed by the center-right incumbent Jacques Chirac in the second round).

Flash forward to today and Le Pen’s far more articulate and politically savvy daughter, Marine Le Pen, heads up the party and according to polling, is a real threat to the old political establishment in the next French presidential election. A French Trump, if you will.

Or consider the UK Independence Party in Britain.

Like its French brethren, the UKIP is focused heavily on British nationalism, opposition to high levels of immigration and skepticism about the European Union. In the most recent parliamentary election, the UKIP increased its level of support in nationwide polling from its historically consistent numbers in the low single digits to nearly 20 percent.

Or we could, perhaps, talk about the Sweden Democrats, rooted in, you guessed it, populist right-wing politics, nationalism, and anti-immigration sentiments. A poll out of Sweden last week put the Sweden Democrats in the lead for the first time in its history.

The list goes on and on. And in most cases, the movement is growing, and growing significantly.

But the characteristics are always the same. These movements place a heavy emphasis on populism, which claims to represent the interests of “the people” against “the elites.” They appeal to a feeling of collective loss of identity, which is why the nationalist and anti-immigration messages work so well, as they specifically address those fears and concerns.

In Europe, however, these parties have been more readily apparent, even if they haven’t been as politically powerful, for years. And the simple reason for that is multi-party democracy.

Across the Atlantic, while there are always typically two “large parties” that function as the “acceptable right” and the “acceptable left,” differing election systems have allowed many other parties to flourish. Thus, divisions naturally crop up, and more extreme, hard line voters have the option to form their own, often single-minded political parties.

In the United States, we have (for a variety of reasons) a two-party system, and if either of the two parties broke itself into pieces, it would be guaranteeing elective success to its mortal enemy. Thus, extreme nationalists, populists, moderates, libertarians, Christian conservatives and a number of other groups all have to coexist under a single tent if they want a realistic chance of winning.

But whether you like Donald Trump or you don’t — and I’m on record firmly opposing his brand of authoritarian, anti-conservative populist rhetoric — he has emerged and finally given a voice to an increasingly unhappy group of people within the Republican Party.

To his supporters, being on the “right-wing team” has gotten them nothing, so there is no longer any reason to play for that team. The elites (of both parties) have failed them, and along comes a figure that perfectly encapsulates their frustration with the system.

It is no surprise, then, that Trump has risen, and that his rise has been durable. Looking to Europe, I don’t expect him to go away.

LePage pens letter in support of lawmaker who is taking heat for bond vote

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning, folks, and happy hump day. 

Gov. Paul LePage’s drug summit kicked off this morning at the Department of Public Safety in Augusta with a list of attendees that includes most of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in the state as well as some treatment and recovery specialists. Missing from the list of invitees are recovering addicts, which has drawn complaints from some, and legislators, which has drawn complaints from legislators

Check out this preview of today’s summit, written by my BDN colleague Beth Brogan, which includes details about what some of the summit’s participants hope to accomplish. 

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, both Democrats, urged LePage to bolster the fight against addiction on both the law enforcement and treatment and recovery sides of the equation. They delivered a lengthy list of recommendations to the governor, which include investments in programs that help law enforcement and treatment officials collaborate; increased access to treatment options; expansion of recovery programming; and soliciting more input from recovering addicts, addicts and their families. 

One issue many hope to hear more about is LePage’s plan to increase the Maine National Guard’s involvement in helping stop drug traffickers.

LePage’s drug summit comes a day after a similar one in Brewer, which was hosted by independent U.S. Sen. Angus King and Democratic 1st Congressional District Rep. Chellie Pingree. You can read all about yesterday’s summit by clicking here, courtesy of the BDN’s Nok-Noi Ricker. 

LePage defends GOP lawmaker

Gov. Paul LePage is well-known for sending hand-written notes to his supporters and opponents. Rarer are hand-written notes from the governor in defense of others. But that’s what the governor did recently with a letter to Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane, in which he defends Rep. Mike Timmons, R-Cumberland.

At issue is a bill debated in the Legislature earlier this year which sought to mostly remove the governor from the process of selling voter-approved bonds. LePage refused to issue bonds on several occasions during his first term until the Legislature met various demands. He is currently blocking the sale of more than $11 million in conservation bond funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program unless the Legislature agrees to his proposal to increase timber harvesting on public lands to fund a heating assistance program. Among the held-up bonds is funding for a project in the Cumberland area.

Timmons is one of a handful of lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill on enactment but then voted in favor of LePage’s veto of it. The veto override attempt failed by five votes in the House.

“The vote Mike took was not for [Land for Maine’s Future] bonds it was to take the governor’s powers away,” wrote LePage. “Had the veto been overridden it would have forced the issue into litigation for several years. The bill was factually unconstitutional.”

LePage continued to write that the bonds are not likely to be sold until after he has left office in 2018. Meanwhile, LePage’s Office of Policy and Management has intervened in a period self-review by the Land for Maine’s Future Board, which LePage in the past has characterized as an investigation. LePage also wrote letters to the Cumberland selectmen and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Read them for yourself if you’re interested.

Women’s Equality Day Rally planned for tonight in downtown Bangor

State and local leaders will gather this evening in downtown Bangor to celebrate 95 years of women’s suffrage and highlight five key areas for improving women’s lives, including improving reproductive rights; establishing equal pay; working toward equal political representation; ending gender and sexual orientation discrimination; and ending violence against women.

The event is sponsored by the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine Women’s Lobby. The list of speakers includes:

  • Posie Cowan, a Blue Hill resident and great-granddaughter of suffragist Sophie Meredith, who established the Virginia branch of the National Woman’s Party in 1915;
  • Catherine Kurr, advocacy services coordinator for Spruce Run — Womancare Alliance of Bangor;
  • Davida Ammerman, board member of the Maine People’s Alliance;
  • Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby;
  • Gibran Graham, Bangor city councilor; and
  • Andrea Irwin, executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor.

The rally kicks off at 6 p.m. at West Market Square in Bangor.

List of House candidates growing for Sanford-area special election

Democratic and Republican candidates have been chosen for the Nov. 3 special election in the Sanford area, which was left vacant in July with the death of Democratic Rep. Bill Noon. As previously reported, Noon’s wife Jean has been chosen by local Democrats. On Tuesday, Maine Republican Party Chairman Jason Savage said Matthew Harrington will be the Republican candidate.

According to seacoastonline.com, Harrington is a police officer in Kennebunk. The website also reported that a third candidate, Sanford City Councilor Victor DiGregorio, intends to run as an independent.

The special election is scheduled for Nov. 3. The deadline for filing nomination papers with the Secretary of State’s office is the end of the day Friday.

Rally in support of Iran deal today

A rally is scheduled for this afternoon in Portland to urge Republican Sen. Susan Collins to support a proposed agreement reached by the United States and other world powers to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, at least in the short term.

Collins is one of the few senators left who have not yet indicated how they will vote on the issue, which is scheduled to be taken up in Congress next month.

Participants in the rally intend to deliver hundreds of pages of petition signatures to Collins’ Portland office during the rally. The event is part of a national No War With Iran National Day of Action, which is taking place across the country. The Maine event is hosted by PeaceWorks and Peace Actin Maine.

The rally convenes at 2 p.m. in Portland’s Monument Square.

Reading list This is what happens if you feed raccoons. Is this a bad thing?

Check out this video that purports to show what happens if you feed raccoons outside your house, which caused quite a stir Tuesday at bangordailynews.com.

I’m trying to determine the downside. — Christopher Cousins

Mainer to serve as Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire Primary Director

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Maheu (with headset) at a Sanders rally in Portland | Jeff Kirlin/Thing of the Moment photo, courtesy of the campaign

Brandon Maheu, a longtime political operative living in Belfast, Maine, announced on social media this morning that he will soon be working as New Hampshire Primary Director for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.

“Joining Sen. Sanders’ campaign in New Hampshire in this capacity is a remarkable opportunity,” said Maheu by email. “I am eager to get to work helping to build an organization that leads to a victory for him in the first-in-the-nation primary.”

Maheu has a history in Democratic politics, having served previously as field director for the Maine Democratic Party and the Maine House Democratic Campaign Committee and as campaign manager for Pat McGowan’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2010.

Maheu burned some bridges with some Democrats during the 2014 cycle, however, when he took a job as field director for the campaign of independent candidate Eliot Cutler. Despite his hiring initially being touted by the Cutler campaign as a sign of their support among Democrats and their commitment to running a strong ground game, Maheu left his position eight months before the election for reasons that weren’t made public.

Maheu will be overseeing field, data and get-out-the-vote efforts and taking on other miscellaneous duties for Sanders in the Granite State. He had been working for the campaign in a volunteer capacity to this point, including organizing a record-breaking rally in Portland in July.

Aggregated polling for New Hampshire’s critical, first-in-the-nation primary shows Sanders having made big gains over the last few months and puts him in a virtual tie with the presumed frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Crushing college costs make the personal political

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Bob Donaldson | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via TNS

All around the country, students are packing up and going off to college. Proud parents are remembering moments like when their kids came home from the hospital, ventured off to kindergarten and attended their first school dance.

And while the food bill will go down a lot without that teenager and his or her crew around, finances are likely to be a big issue.

Maine college students graduate with some of the highest loan debt in the country, nearly $30,000 per person. Graduates are thus burdened with high-cost loans that make it harder for them to start their financial futures. Student debt affects everyone by creating a drag on the economy, since the money going to pay loans could be spent for a mortgage, in the community or otherwise invested.

Our convoluted financial aid process also dissuades some from applying to college. Many high-achieving, low-income students don’t know they could get quite a lot of aid, whether in merit awards from public or private universities or need-based funding from schools with huge endowments.

While not everyone should go to college, finances should not thwart students from attending, not in the United States, the wealthiest country on the planet.

It not only doesn’t have to be this way, but it wasn’t before.

As political scientist Suzanne Mettler notes, “College tuition costs actually declined relative to family income in the 1940s and 1950s, and held steady until about 1980.” Moreover, policy mattered. “The federal government stimulated attendance through its student aid policies,” starting with the G.I. Bill, which built the post-war American middle class.

In that same time, wealth was more evenly distributed than today, and more families could pay their bills and put away money for college. But as middle-class incomes stalled, with increasing wealth going to the very top, college got more expensive and federal financial aid fell.

Public universities now rely more on tuition than state appropriations, squeezing students and parents and sometimes leading to cuts that undermine the depth and breadth of education and reduce the classes students need to graduate.

Pell grants, which go to low-income students, are now worth less in inflation-adjusted terms than they were when the program started. Nearly 30,000 Maine students receive these awards.

As a professor, I’ve seen students working full-time, struggling to pay their bills, stay in school and get good grades.

Yet the House Republican budget, which Rep. Bruce Poliquin supported, cut funding for Pell grants. Meanwhile, Poliquin supported expanding 529 savings accounts, which go to families with 25 times the median assets of families who don’t have them.

Even applying for federal financial aid is skewed. Although wealthy and upper-middle class families get subsidies by filling out their income tax forms, working-class families can’t get Pell grants unless they work through the overly complicated FAFSA application. Research suggests this discourages low-income students from applying while knowing in middle school that college costs will be covered motivates them to achieve.

All Americans believe that government should promote opportunity. And young people are a key voting bloc that helped elect Barack Obama twice.

Back in 2013, in assessing what went wrong in 2012, the Republican Party pledged to try to appeal to younger voters and immigrants.

The second part of the pledge has been an utter failure. Donald Trump, the leading GOP presidential candidate rails against immigrants, using the slur, “anchor baby.” Jeb Bush used the same term and then corrected himself in a way that didn’t help, by explaining he actually was thinking of Asian immigrants’ babies.

Republican candidates have said almost nothing about how they would deal with helping people with higher education, although Bush criticized Hillary Clinton’s plan, saying, “We don’t need any more top-down Washington solutions,” implying that the federal government should do little or nothing for college students.

Clinton’s plan would make tuition at community colleges and four-year public universities free while requiring students to work 10 hours a week and parents to pitch in. People who have already borrowed could refinance to lower interest rates with payments tied to income.

College costs and student debt matter to so many people who care about opportunity. But for students, graduates and their parents, when they vote in 2016, the personal will be political.

Democrats call LePage’s efforts to help senior citizens hypocrisy

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta. 

Two days of intense focus on fighting drug addiction kick off today when U.S. Sen. Angus King hosts a roundtable discussion at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems in Brewer. King will be joined by Michael Botticelli, who is the director of National Drug Control Policy, as well as recovering addicts, families touched by drug abuse, health care providers, law enforcement officials and others. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st Congressional District, announce Tuesday that she will also participate. 

Bringing Botticelli, who is President Obama’s point man on fighting addiction, to Maine is a bit if a coup for King, though it will be interesting to see if he’s here to help usher new ideas or just to tout a new initiative announced recently by Obama. The new initiative involves the creation of a Heroin Response Strategy among 15 states, including Maine. The feds have released $2.5 million to fund it.

King’s event, which is public, comes just one day before another summit being hosted by Gov. Paul LePage in Augusta, which is not open to the public or reporters. Though the two events are different in design and slightly different in focus — King’s event will be heavy on treatment and recovery while LePage’s will focus on law enforcement strategies — two days of prolonged discussions about drug addiction should cast light on a heroin problem that’s as bad as it’s ever been in Maine.

Hopefully, the talk will be backed with tangible new initiatives and more resources. Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins 

DHHS rerouting federal cash from young families to senior citizens; Democrats call it hypocrisy

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is touting the shift of federal welfare money from needy young families to the elderly.

According to Mayhew, Maine has saved more than $3.2 million in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program since LePage and Republicans led a successful effort to impose a five-year lifetime cap on the program, which benefits mostly single or pregnant mothers and their children.

The money is being re-routed to help predominantly senior citizens:

  • An additional $131,539 for the Meals on Wheels program statewide, which will assist local agencies in eliminating waitlists;
  • Funding is being increased for home-based care services, including about $1 million for a contract held by Alpha One; $900,000 for Seniors Plus and $1.3 million for Catholic Charities of Maine.

“For too long before this administration, able-bodied young adults were given priority in Maine’s welfare system,” said Mayhew in a written statement.

Democrats from the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee supported spending more on senior citizens but said it shouldn’t come at the cost of cutting benefits for struggling young families. They also highlighted that in the past, LePage has proposed cuts to the Medicaid Savings Program, which helps pay for doctor visits, preventative care, ambulance services and prescriptions with deductibles, and the Drugs for the Elderly program, which helps senior citizens with annual incomes of $21,774 or less, pay for medicine.

Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, said she finds it “ironic” that LePage is supporting Meals on Wheels after vetoing a bill she sponsored earlier this year to expand the program for home-bound seniors.

Gattine said senior citizens and others would have seen a range of cuts to services they need under LePage’s original biennial budget proposal, which was amended by the Legislature over the governor’s objections.

“It’s about time that the LePage administration paid attention to the needs of the state’s senior citizens and Mainers with disabilities rather than just proposing brutal cuts,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. “The Legislature stopped him, increased funding for these programs and overrode his veto to do so. The Legislature did this without taking food and shelter away from poor Maine children or pulling the rug out from underemployed Mainers getting back on their feet in Maine’s languishing economy.”

Mayhew said shifting the federal funding around is another success in the administration’s goal of repurposing existing resources in the state’s social services program.

“We are pleased to be able to announce that we are moving forward with this repurposing of federal and state funds to continue our important missions of reforming Maine’s welfare system,” said Mayhew.

Dems chose late rep’s widow to run for his seat in District 19 special election

Jean Noon, a longtime farmer, conservationist and teacher has been chosen by local Democrats in the Sanford area to run for her late husband’s House of Representatives seat. Rep. Bill Noon passed away in July, while in office, after a battle with cancer.

More than 60 Democrats caucused Monday evening at the Nasson Community Center to choose Noon, according to a press release from the Maine Democratic Party. The election for the District 19 seat, which covers Sanford and Springvale, is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Noon said she will fund her campaign as a Maine Clean Elections candidate.

The Maine Republican Party has not responded to questions from the BDN about who they will choose for the special election. — Christopher Cousins

North Berwick selectmen back Eves, call for LePage’s impeachment

The North Berwick Board of Selectmen have voted unanimously to condemn Gov. Paul LePage for blocking the hiring of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick as the president of the Good Will-Hinckley organization in Fairfield. In July, LePage threatened to withhold $500,000 in state funding to the organization, which among other things runs a charter school for at-risk kids, unless it rescinded an employment offer to Eves.

In a letter to the Bangor Daily News, the board said LePage’s actions “threaten the ability of elected representatives of the state of Maine to advocate for the interests of the voters in their districts, thereby denying the people fair and full representation and undermining the fabric of our democratic process, for fear of retribution if their position on any issue is in disagreement with the governor’s position.”

The 5-member board said that if an ongoing investigation confirms the allegations against LePage, that the Legislature begin the process of impeaching him. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Deez Nuts are is not real

A fictional (I’m pretty sure) independent presidential candidate calling himself Deez Nuts, it turns out, is fake despite winning surprising support in recent polling. According to Slate, a handful of other “candidates” have popped up with even more offensive names, but decorum prevents me from listing them here.

Aside from decorum, I have grammar to think about so I asked my editor if Deez Nuts is singular or (are) plural. Here’s how he responded:

“I would say ‘Deez Nuts isn’t real.’ It is a name, even if it is a fake one. The guide I use is ‘Chris Cousins is awesome, not Chris Cousins are awesome.’ The latter might be construed as creepy.”

I guess there’s no arguing with that. Deez Nuts isn’t real. — Christopher Cousins

Finger-pointing flourishes in Augusta after Verso layoff announcement

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where there is finger-pointing going on over the downsizing of the Verso paper mill in Jay. 

On Friday, after the announcement that the Verso mill would lay off 300 Jay-based workers, Gov. Paul LePage wrote a letter to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves and Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau, calling the layoffs “extremely troubling and disappointing, but not surprising.” 

“Every decision I make as governor attempts to make Maine more competitive,” wrote LePage. “Unfortunately too many legislators can’t say the same. Their strict adherence to the status quo will surely result in the loss of more jobs.” 

LePage criticized lawmakers for inaction on his goals of working to bring natural gas supplies to northern New England and for resisting his call to eliminate the state’s income tax. He cited three bills sponsored by his administration this year, two of which were defeated and one of which was carried over until next year when the Legislature reconvenes. One of the bills proposed refunding businesses some of the pollution funds collected under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; another would have allowed private businesses to negotiate natural gas contracts through the Public Utilities Commission; and the third would have altered the state’s renewable energy portfolio and the net energy billing program. 

Eves didn’t stand idly by, and fired off a response to LePage on Friday afternoon in which he accused the governor of being “all talk.” 

“Your rhetoric on energy, governor, is all talk. And it is talk that ignores the facts,” wrote Eves. “Legislators from both sides of the aisle realize that we need to address our current energy needs while also diversifying our sources for the future.”

Eves advocated for a continued diversification of Maine’s energy sources, including the pursuit of renewables such as biomass, solar, wind and water-based sources. 

“The states that do this will be the states that lead in sustainable low energy costs, in technological innovation and in job creation,” wrote Eves. “Doing otherwise simply leaves the status quo in place.” 

Eves wrote that the three bills referenced by LePage would have an “adverse affect” on energy policy and that LePage’s advocacy to re-open bids on two approved wind contracts, along with his opposition to a bill this year that sought sought to fix a $38 million typo by adding the word “and” to a 2013 omnibus energy bill, has created unpredictability. 

“I have spoken to many business owners who are discouraged by the lack of predictability in Maine’s energy policy, largely due to your administration’s actions,” wrote Eves. 

The stances of Eves and LePage represent two distinct directions on energy policy, one aimed at more reliance on natural gas — and perhaps, hydropower — and the other devoted to bringing more renewable energy sources like wind and biomass online to create a broader portfolio for the future. 

LePage, who in June erected a Christmas tree with lawmakers’ pictures on it and put rubber pigs under it to symbolize how he saw their action on the biennial state budget, called for an end to “theatrics.” 

“Let’s cut the theatrics and work toward addressing the energy and tax issues that are driving away our businesses,” wrote LePage. “We must act swiftly to avoid another announcement like Verso’s.” — Christopher Cousins

Reading list A sad salute to Corey Dodge

Another Mainer was lost to war Saturday when a car bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed 40-year-old Corey Dodge of Garland. Please take a moment to read the story by the BDN’s Steve Betts.

Dodge has been working as a private contractor in Afghanistan for the last nine years and was planning to return home in October to settle down with his wife, Kelli, and — here’s the real crippler for me — their four children. He was trying to land a job in law enforcement, perhaps with the Rockland Police Department.

Count your blessings; hug your loved ones. — Christopher Cousins

5 smart advocates explain what matters most for Maine women

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

BDN Photo | Michael C. York

Recently, I was given the opportunity to guest host The Pulse morning show on WZON, usually helmed by the much-funnier and more professional Don Cookson. I knew right away what I wanted to do with three hours of air time.

Too often in politics, issues are considered in their own, separate silos, and many of the broader themes are missed. That’s especially true for issues important to women, where the hot-button issue of abortion rights and reproductive freedom is often treated as separate from more holistic issues of health and economic opportunity.

So, on Wednesday, when I had the time to dig deep and make some of those connections clear, I tried to make the most of it.

Joining me on the show were five smart and passionate advocates for different aspects of what are often considered women’s issues:

Kate Brogan of Maine Family Planning joined me for a discussion of the recent legislative session in Maine and the fate of bills to curtail or expand access to reproductive health care.

Eliza Townsend of the Maine Women’s Lobby talked about some of the broader economic issues that disproportionately affect women, and policies like parental leave and earned paid sick days that could make things better.

Danielle Donnelly of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United discussed the importance of raising state and local minimum wages for women, especially the sub-minimum wage for workers who receive tips.

Meagan Gallagher of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England discussed the coordinated attacks on reproductive health care both nation-wide and here in Maine and New England and best to stand up for women’s rights.

Allison Kennedy of the national Women’s Equality Center helped put it all in perspective and outlined the principles of their Stand with Women or Stand in the Way campaign.

You can listen to all the raw interviews on The Pulse AM 620 Facebook page and edited versions will also air on the Beacon Podcast. (The conversation with Kate Brogan is included in today’s episode.)

One thing I learned from these discussions that surprised me a bit was just how well-organized the forces pushing back against women’s rights have now become and how their attacks have intensified, especially in the area of access to birth control and abortion.

According to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, states have enacted 231 new restrictions on abortion in just the last four years, far outpacing the rate of legislation of the last several decades. This anti-women’s rights movement even has its own version of ALEC to push legislation at the state level.

If you want to learn more about these issues or become more involved, now’s a good time. Women’s Equality Day is next Wednesday (August 26th). There will be an evening rally in West Market Square in Bangor to mark the occasion.

Which creates prosperity: Keeping taxes low or investment of public dollars?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta on this somber Friday, where much of the attention is on the town of Jay and 300 Verso paper mill workers from that area who will lose their jobs in the coming months. 

The job losses come less than a year after Verso cut 500 jobs and closed its paper mill in Bucksport last December. There will still be paper making in Jay, according to a detailed report by Darren Fishell of the BDN, but the workforce will be culled to about 565 people. 

Coincidentally — or not — the Bangor Daily News published another story Thursday, this one by Nick Sambides, Jr., with more bad news. The Pelletier Loggers Family Restaurant Bar and Grill, which opened in 2010 on the momentum of the Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” television series, has closed for good. Even the fame the three-season run of the show brought to the Pelletier family couldn’t sustain the restaurant. At least 15 people have lost their jobs, which will be especially difficult in an area that has the highest unemployment rate in the state and probably far beyond. 

“Just look around town,” said Eldon Pelletier to Sambides. “You go down Main Street at night and there is no one there.” 

So hats off to the people who soldiered to work every day for untold years and will lose their livelihoods nonetheless. Here’s to hoping this marks new beginnings and that y’all will be OK in the long run. — Christopher Cousins 

Discussion launches in Pittsfield about how to spend financial windfall

Yesterday I reported that the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, which manages retirement accounts for tens of thousands of Maine residents, has paid out more than $40 million to Maine towns and cities that it has been holding since retirement program mergers in the 1990s.

Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said the Town Council is considering funding some overdue projects but that the bulk of the money will be set aside to be used as a rainy day fund to stabilize the town’s tax rate. Pittsfield — which once upon a time was a town I lived in and covered — has kept municipal spending in check for at least a decade, though rises in public school and county government costs have kept upward pressure on the tax rate.

A group called “Heart of Pittsfield” responded to the BDN article with a press release calling for the money to be invested in a community development director and possibly other projects to help bring businesses to the town and expand the tax base. In addition to this lump of cash, Pittsfield has a few things going for it: a shovel-ready industrial park with open parcels and a location adjacent Interstate 95. It’s the only Maine town I know of that owns several downtown parks, a municipal movie theater, a small municipal ski slope, an airport, and a nearly new public library. What’s more, Maine Central Institute, a private academy which doubles as the area’s public high school, brings diversity and culture that is relatively rare in central Maine. And then there’s the fact that it’s the home of Cianbro Corp., a massive construction company that has operations across Maine and the U.S.

It’s a very nice place, but still a struggling one.

Last year, the UTC Fire and Security Plant closed down, wiping out 300 local jobs. Ruth said since then, about 229 of those jobs have been regained by other existing employers and six new small businesses.

Still, Heart of Pittsfield wants more for its community.

“We need to utilize these funds in a manner that catalyzes economic growth in our community,” said Vaughan Woodruff, a Heart of Pittsfield member, in a written statement. Ray Berthelette, who co-founded Heart of Pittsfield with Vaughan, agreed.

“Prolonging the inevitable by maintaining tax rates for a set period of time will only bring hardship to the town of Pittsfield and its people,” he said.

In a way, Pittsfield is a microcosm for the rest of the state and the competing theories that on one hand, keeping taxes low can spur economic activity and on the other, that governmental investments can do the same. We’ll see what happens. — Christopher Cousins

Green-Independent party gathering

The Maine Green-Independent Party state convention will be held Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church at 69 Winthrop Street in Augusta. The event begins at 8:30 a.m.

The keynote speaker will be Maria Girouard of the Penobscot Nation, who among other things is a historian, environmental activist and peace advocate. Her talk will be titled “Reconciling our History: Everything is as it should be?”

There is also an all-day schedule that includes consideration of bylaw changes, candidate introductions and a discussion about presidential candidates. For more information about the convention or the Maine Green Independent Party, click here. — Christopher Cousins

Motorcycle riders: this is for you!

The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles will hold a series of experienced motorcycle rider training courses at 12 locations across Maine, THIS WEEKEND.

Thanks to a federal grant, the courses are free of charge. The Experienced Rider Education course is for licensed riders who already have their own motorcycles who want to improve their skills and be safer on the road. It includes nine exercises, including collision avoidance, slow-speed maneuvering, maximum braking and cornering.

“With the grown prevalence of distracted driving, it’s become increasingly important for motorcyclists to improve their collision-avoidance skills,” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap in a written statement.

For more information about this weekend’s courses, including times and locations, click here and here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Cutting granite the old way

Drive around Maine and you’ll see lots of granite, as well as lots of granite foundations that date back well more than a century. Have you ever wondered how those slabs of granite were cut before the days of gigantic electric-powered masonry saws?

The BDN’s Erin Rhoda unearthed this mesmerizing and fascinating video featuring Dennis Carter, who runs the Deer Isle Hostel with his wife, splitting a 26,000-pound block using only wedges and a simple hammer.

Pretty amazing, Mr. Carter, but now let’s see you put it back together. — Christopher Cousins.

Congressman brings legal weed tips from the other Portland

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Portland, where a leading pro-legalization congressman is meeting with lawmakers and the public to preach the gospel of regulated, taxed and legal weed. 

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, has represented the other Portland in Congress for nearly two decades. In Washington, he’s proposed or supported not only legalization, but changes to federal drug laws, as well as efforts to protect medical marijuana patients, cut red tape preventing medical marijuana research and normalize taxes and banking for marijuana businesses in states where it is legal.

Blumenauer released a report arguing for legalization earlier this year, saying prohibition has failed.

“The current system is broken,” he wrote. “It wastes resources and destroys individual lives, in turn damaging families and entire communities. The progress over the last two years has been stunning, and it is essential that moving forward build on that progress to once and for all create a truly rational marijuana policy for the 21st century.”

Oregon is one of four states to have legalized recreational marijuana in the past three years (Washington, D.C., has legalized too). Maine voters are poised to vote on whether to follow suit, with two separate pro-legalization groups working to put the issue on the ballot in 2016.

Blumenauer will host a “meet and greet” with marijuana industry representatives and advocates at 5:30 p.m. today at the Urban Farm Fermentory on Anderson Street in Portland. 

David Boyer, head of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — one of the groups pushing for legalization at the ballot — said Blumenauer will also meet privately with Maine lawmakers while he’s in the Pine Tree State. 

If marijuana policy doesn’t float your boat, you have one other chance to familiarize yourself with Blumenauer today: The congressman is a champion of public media, having founded the Public Broadcasting Caucus 15 years ago. He’ll be on MPBN’s Maine Calling today at 1 p.m. to discuss the future of public radio. You can listen at mpbn.net. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

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Poliquin to attend gun show in Augusta this weekend

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin will tout his Second Amendment cred this weekend when he attends the Augusta Gun Show at the city’s Civic Center.

The gun show, at which businesses and private individuals can, buy, sell and trade firearms, takes place Aug. 22-23. Poliquin will attend, according to a release from his office, though it’s unclear which day he’ll be there, or when.

“Growing up in Central Maine, I understand the importance and tradition of fishing, camping, hunting and exercising our Second Amendment rights,” Poliquin wrote. “… In Congress, I will continue to support bills that will allow Mainers to pass along the rich tradition of exercising their Second Amendment rights from one generation to the next.”

Poliquin, a Republican, said in the release that he is a proud supporter of gun rights. He opposed President Barack Obama’s plan to ban M855 ammunition, which is commonly used in AR-15 rifles. He supports a national concealed carry reciprocity bill, and co-sponsored legislation to allow military members to carry firearms on military bases and recruitment centers, a practice currently prohibited. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

House Speaker takes ‘jobs tour’ to midcoast today

Maine House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, is headed to the Midcoast today as part of the “jobs tour” he and other top Democrats started in January.

The goal is to meet with businesses in their own communities to see what’s working in the quest to create jobs. Eves and the Democrats have made “good jobs, strong wages” their legislative mantra this session.

Eves — along with Reps. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, and Christine Burstein, D-Lincolnville — will visit AthenaHealth in Belfast, as well as Liberty Graphics and Revision Energy in Liberty. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Reading List

The Clinton boat takes on water

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Hillary Clinton answers questions from reporters following a town hall meeting with voters in North Las Vegas on Tuesday. Melina Mara | The Washington Post

I didn’t think it was possible for Hillary Clinton to run a more inept campaign than her 2008 effort, but she is quickly proving me wrong.

It is one thing for the “once in a lifetime, prohibitive, unchallenged frontrunner” to lose the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. Obama is a supreme political talent with rhetorical gifts and a mind meant to organize political movements who ran at a time that gave him a unique opportunity.

It is another thing altogether to potentially lose to Bernie Sanders.

In early April, the Real Clear Politics polling average showed that Clinton was leading Sanders 55.8 percent to 9.4 percent in New Hampshire. Today, Clinton is leading Sanders 40.7 percent to 39.7 percent.

That precipitous fall is no accident. Anyone who has been following her campaign has been stunned by its ineptitude.

To start, her time as Secretary of State, once her greatest strength, is increasingly becoming a liability, and the email scandal simply refuses to go away despite Clinton apologists’ constant assurances that there is “nothing there.”

But there’s something there, as we all learned when she rejected a government server for her emails, choosing instead to set up her own server outside the reach of those outside Clinton-world.

Was that action illegal? No, it appears not, but that doesn’t make it ethical, and it certainly isn’t keeping with a spirit of transparency that the left claims to so desperately cherish.

Think about it for a moment. If you, as a citizen, journalist, or government investigator, wanted to access her communications as Secretary of State on a specific issue (which you are entitled to do via the Freedom of Information Act), the responsibility for compliance is with Clinton herself.

If she felt like she didn’t want a certain communication — of business conducted on behalf of the people of the United States — to be seen, either because she felt it was unflattering, or it would expose criminal activity, she could simply delete it or not turn it over. With such a system, there is really no point in having transparency laws at all.

Worse, she had no real interest in security. We now know that Clinton left her email unencrypted, a reckless and foolish mistake that once again highlights why this is such a bad idea.

Obviously, she did this because she is a paranoid politician who wanted control over her own communications to keep them private and did not believe that transparency or security were all that important. The key question is why? Why, when conducting the people’s business as a high-ranking official of the United States government, would your work communications need to be private and under your control? And if that wasn’t your goal, why go through the time and cost to go around the government system and create your own email server?

But let’s bring it back to legality. Clinton’s actions drove suspicions, and she was ultimately forced to start turning over her emails (what was left of them). In March, she turned over 55,000 pages to the State Department. Unfortunately, we learned that 32,000 emails had been deleted, and Clinton’s attitude essentially boiled down to “trust me, you didn’t need to see anything in there.”

Then we find out that contrary to her absolute declaration that no classified material was on her private email account, that there was, in fact, classified material on it. A lot of it.

In July, The New York Times reported that government investigators had discovered classified information on her account, and that those investigators were “stating unequivocally that those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure government computer systems.”

Finally, Hillary Clinton was forced to turn over her server. But now we are learning that the server may have been wiped clean prior to being handed over to the FBI. When pressed on Tuesday about whether she had wiped the server, Clinton quipped, “What, like with a cloth or something?”

If this sounds Nixonian, and you are reminded of eight-and-a-half minutes of erased tape, congratulations, you see why this is a problem. Even Bob Woodward, one of the reporters responsible for exposing the Watergate scandal, commented Monday that what Clinton did “reminds me of the Nixon tapes.”

To top it off, her appearances on the trail are not going well. She refuses to engage with the media, and when she finally does, it becomes a campaign disaster, and Democrats are once again being reminded of why they didn’t like her all that much seven years ago.

Is it any wonder why she is struggling to stay afloat, against a disheveled, barely lucid avowed socialist from Vermont? Imagine if she had some real competition.

Three key reasons why Trump is actually getting more likely to win nomination

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)

Donald Trump hasn’t gotten much respect from pundits.

They said he wouldn’t run for the nomination, or wouldn’t file the financial disclosure paperwork, or wouldn’t put his money in for staff and campaign offices in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Then he did all of that.

And they said that his comments about McCain would sink him. They didn’t. The same for his comments about Megyn Kelly.

Trump is now better positioned to win the nomination than he was a month ago.

Here are three reasons why:

1. Trump has been solidly in first place for the nomination for weeks, with substantial leads over all his opponents.

In this polling compilation (source), Trump is in red.

Since entering the race, Trump has rocketed up and has been ahead of his nearest competitor in the last three individual polls by 20 percentage points or more.

 

2. More importantly, Trump is both the top first choice and second choice among Republican primary voters.

In a new CNN poll, Trump was the first choice of 24% and second choice of 14%. That gives him a base of 38%.

The closest to Trump is Jeb Bush, who was the first choice of 13% and the second choice of 10%, with a combined total of 23%. Recall that Bush was touted as the front-runner for quite awhile.

3. Of all the GOP candidates, Trump is now doing the best against Hillary Clinton.

One thing that might have held back Republicans from supporting Trump was that he was polling so far back in general election match-ups.

Among registered voters in the CNN poll:

  • Clinton leads Trump by 6 points
  • Clinton leads Bush by 9 points

This undermines any electability argument Bush and other Republican candidates might make.

Besides those three reasons, Trump has the capacity to stay in the race for awhile.

Trump can self-finance.

Plus the GOP nomination delegate allocation process is a bit more proportional this time, enabling Trump (and others) to win delegates in many states and thus stay in the race.

And, seeing his popularity, recently the other GOP candidates have been curiously loathe to attack him. Their reticence helps Trump.

Trump is dominating media coverage.

As this excellent piece of reporting shows, people like Trump’s tone and aren’t moved so much by policy.

What could hurt him?

Any honest look at the electoral college suggests Trump’s severe weakness with Hispanics and his anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies means he would lose key swing states like Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia.

Republicans lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and face serious demographic challenges as the white population decreases as a portion of the voting population.

Republican strategists know this. If Republican primary voters and caucus attendees come to realize it, that could undermine Trump’s nomination chances.

Granted, all this has a long time to play out.

If candidates start dropping out and their voters disproportionately go to one or two other candidates, Trump will hit a relatively low ceiling. What will happen right now, though, is unpredictable and Trump is in a better position than he was a month ago.

Ad blitz begins for Maine campaign finance reform in advance of November vote

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning! 

Sen. Angus King will likely be the focus of Maine political news today when he and two special guests take the stage this evening at University of Southern Maine to discuss the merits and pitfalls of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. Joining King will be former Maine Sen. George Mitchell and former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who headed U.S. negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program under President George W. Bush. 

Tonight’s forum comes less than a month before Congress is expected to vote on the agreement that was reached by the United States, its P5+1 partners, Iran and the European Union. King has already indicated that he will support the agreement and said it was one of his most difficult decisions as a U.S. senator. Mitchell, a former special envoy for Middle East peace, also supports the deal. 

Watch the Bangor Daily News for coverage. Seeing King and Mitchell on a stage together ought to be something to behold. — Christopher Cousins

Dem ‘jobs tour’ headed to Belfast

The “jobs tour” led by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, which has visited several areas of Maine this year, will head to the Belfast area on Thursday to highlight the region’s economic successes. Eves and other lawmakers are scheduled to meet with workers and business leaders at Liberty Graphics and Revision Energy in Liberty, followed by a tour of AthenaHealth in Belfast.

Eves launched the jobs tour in January to highlight the need for more jobs and better wages in the state. He will be joined by Belfast-area representatives from the Legislature.

“Our community is very proud of the work we’ve done to grow good jobs and strong wages in industries that will be reshaping our economy,” said Rep. Christine Burstein, D-Lincolnville. “From solar energy to health care and innovative manufacturing, these are the jobs of the future.”

Camp Chamberlain construction to begin Thursday in Augusta

Construction of a long-planned Joint Forces Headquarters for the Maine National Guard will kick off Thursday with a ceremony at the site, which is located near the Maine Veterans Cemetery off Civic Center Drive.

The new facility will be home to Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel who specialize in human resources, intelligence, operations, logistics and resource guidance and support to the major commands of the Maine National Guard, according to a news release.

The facility is named after former Maine governor and adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, a Civil War hero from Maine who gained his fame during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Camp Keyes, also in Augusta, will remain open after completion of the new headquarters and will continue to house veterans outreach services, ground maintenance support, National Guard print plant operations, training sites, resource management, shipping and receiving and facilities maintenance.

Clean elex group launches first web ad

Here come the political ads!

The crush of television, radio, mail and web advertisements this year won’t come close to what we saw last year in the lead-up to the election, but there will be ads nonetheless.

Mainers for Accountable Elections, which is supporting a “yes” vote on Question 1 on this November’s ballot, launched its first web advertisement today. Question 1 proposes a range of campaign finance reforms, including increasing public funding for candidates running for state offices, requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads; stiffer penalties for violating campaign finance laws, and implementing new spending and contribution limits. The referendum also calls for the Legislature to find and cut some $6 million in corporate tax breaks to help finance the new law.

“[The referendum] will ensure everyone, not just the wealthy, can have a voice in our democracy,” said Andrew Bossie of Mainers for Accountable Elections, in a written statement. “We are getting to work now, educating voters about this referendum and how it will put control of elections back in the hands of Maine voters.”

While there is concern about the elimination of corporate tax breaks and ramping up clean elections spending, there so far is no organized opposition group.

You can check out the web ad by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Rubio’s right

Political reporters in general don’t publicly voice opinions about whether politicians are right or wrong, so let me clarify here and now that “Rubio’s right” doesn’t refer to his philosophy, but rather his arm.

Marco Rubio, in case you missed it, is one of a vast field of Republican presidential candidates. The Florida senator is also a former college football player and his hand cannon is still right on the money, unfortunately for a kid at the Iowa State Fair.

 

The kiddo went long, Rubio threw, and the ball hit the kid square in the face.

Check out the video and an article about the incident by The Hill by clicking here.

There was no word about whether the football was properly inflated, though it might’ve been a little squishy judging by the fact that the kid survived the throw without a bloody nose. — Christopher Cousins

LePage drug summit invitee list stacked with law enforcement officials

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage, R-Maine. BDN file photo by Ashley Conti.

The LePage administration has released the list of participants at a drug abuse prevention summit Gov. Paul LePage will host on Aug. 26 in Augusta.

The governor has been planning the summit in response to a significant spike in heroin coming into Maine and a rash of recent overdoses. On the list are a mix of state and federal law enforcement and addiction treatment professionals.

“Heroin has hit Maine hard and now we’re starting to seen an evolution of heroin,” said Maine Public Safety Commissioner John Morris. “Initially, we are seeing heroin and fentanyl mixed together, but we are not finding many more cases of fentanyl alone. It’s a lot cheaper to produce than heroin. We must identify specific problem areas and seek solutions before we lose more lives.”

Here is the list of participants:

Governor – Paul R. LePage
U.S. Attorney – Thomas Delahanty
Chief Justice, Maine Supreme Court – Leigh Saufley
Attorney General – Janet Mills
State EMS Medical Director – Dr. Matt Shool
Commissioner Public Safety – John Morris
Commissioner DHHS – Mary Mayhew
U.S. Marshal – Noel March
DEA SAC New England – Michael Ferguson
Executive Director MCOP – Robert Swartz
President Maine Sheriffs – Sheriff Joel Merry
President Maine DA’s -Stephanie Anderson
Portland Police Chief – Michael Sauschuck
Chief Customs & Border Patrol – Daniel Hiebert
Colonel State Police – Robert Williams
Colonel Warden Service – Joel Wilkinson
Colonel Marine Patrol – Jon Cornish
Maine Drug Enforcement – Roy McKinney
Medical Examiner’s Office – Dr. Marcella Sorg
Maine National Guard – Brigadier General Gerald Bolduc
President Acadia Hospital – Daniel Coffey
Chairman Bangor Area Recovery Network – Bruce Campbell
Chief Medical Officer Maine General Hospital – Dr. Steve Diaz

While reactions to LePage holding the summit have been in general supportive, there has been concern expressed among some that the summit would be weighted too heavily toward the law enforcement side of fighting addiction with not enough emphasis on the treatment and recovery side. Some have also called for the voice of the addict to be more prevalent at events like this one.

LePage has been trying for years to hire more prosecutors, investigators and judges to fight drugs. He has said he would like to utilize the Maine National Guard to crack down on dealers but has not detailed what he would do.

“We must identify how to best utilize the scarce resources available to combat Maine’s heroin crisis,” said LePage in a written statement Tuesday morning. “I am very impressed by the group of individuals who will be at the table and I anticipate an exchange of information that will help us find solutions to improve the health and safety of all Mainers.”

 

Angus King wants to teach Maine businesses about cybersecurity

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good Tuesday morning!

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is in South Portland this morning, joined by officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Maine Chamber of Commerce. 

King et. al. are in town to offer a free cybersecurity briefing to members of Maine’s business community, “aimed at providing information and best practices to Maine businesses that can help them strengthen their cyber-resilience in the face of potential cyber-attacks,” according to a release from his office.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, King has focused on the cyber vulnerabilities of the nation’s public and private information systems. He’s supported legislation to beef up security, but in the meantime, he says, there’s more businesses could be doing to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, in Portland, former Democratic state senator Ethan Strimling will make an announcement about the upcoming mayoral race in that city. A current political commentator and the CEO of LearningWorks, Strimling is widely perceived as a potential threat to incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan, if he opts to join the fray.

That’s what’s on the horizon for this morning. Keep checking bangordailynews.com for more developments throughout the day. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

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Environmental lobby to release report on effect of climate change on waters

Later today, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the largest environmental lobbying groups in the state, will release its new report on the impact of climate change on Maine’s waters.

“We have seen significant changes in climate such as heavier and frequent rainfall, severe drought, and warming and acidifying waters,” wrote NRCM spokeswoman Judy Berk in an email Monday. “The new report examines how these dramatic changes are affecting America’s waters and we will address what will means for the waters that Maine communities, fish and wildlife depend on.”

Those latter two phenomena — warming and acidification — have become a keen subject of interest for lawmakers and Maine’s fishing industry. Increasing ocean temperatures have been blamed for the glut of lobster that sunk prices to historically low levels several summers ago. And acidification, which can harm marine organisms’ ability to develop protective calcium shells, is being studied by a task force of experts convened by the Legislature.  — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Reading list Bernie Sanders: Ron Paul redux?

Remember in 2012, when Ron Paul made some conservatives really excited, only for the mainstream of the GOP to shoot them down and silence them?

That’s how longtime Maine political consultant Vic Berardelli remembers it. Now, he says, the mainstream of the Democratic Party, determined to coalesce around Hillary Clinton, have a similar opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot by alienating Bernie Sanders’ fans.

Or, Berardelli says, they could find another way.

“The question is whether Hillary Clinton’s organization will be as clueless as Romney’s was four years ago,” he writes in a column for the BDN. “The Democratic Party regulars can seize the opportunity to harness the enthusiasm of these Sanders acolytes and welcome them into the fold or they face the schism plaguing the GOP due to its arrogant hubris.”

Read Berardelli’s column, here. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Arcade bar owner, MECA student join Portland mayoral race

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Ben Culver, 33, co-owner at Arcadia National Bar, is running to be Portland’s next mayor. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

As the deadline for ballot qualification nears, three more residents have taken out nomination papers to join Portland’s mayoral contest, bringing the total number of contenders to eight.

The latest crop of candidates includes Benjamin Culver, 33, co-owner of Arcadia National Bar, and Brendan Glass, a 21-year-old junior at Maine College of Art. Karl Nordli, a resident of the Deering Center neighborhood, has also taken out nomination papers.

Culver, an East Bayside resident and member of the WMPG board of directors, said in an interview Monday that his No. 1 priority is an increased emphasis on community policing, what he called “police on feet.” He also said he was running because the city needs more young people in leadership.

“It’s a young person’s job,” he said of the mayor’s chair. “We need younger people involved throughout the city, and in politics in general.”

Glass, who is studying metalsmithing and jewelry making, said he is most concerned with sustainability and green energy. He said he felt compelled to run for mayor “to give people a new option.”

“I’ve always been interested in local politics, but I was reading an article about the current candidates, and about how nobody is really interested in them,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday. “I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Nordli did not list an email address in his application for nomination papers, and the phone number he listed is no longer in service. Efforts to reach Nordli via Facebook were unsuccessful on Monday.

To qualify for the ballot in November, candidates must return at least 300 certifiable signatures from Portland residents to City Hall by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24.

The other five candidates to have taken out nomination papers include incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan; Portland Green Independent Party chairman Tom MacMillan; City Councilor Ed Suslovic; Portland firefighter and Washington Avenue resident Chris Vail; and Zouhair Bouzara, who lives in the city’s Parkside neighborhood.

Brennan, a former state senator, is widely perceived as the front-runner in the race, but observers have mused about a how potential run by LearningWorks CEO Ethan Strimling, also a former lawmaker, could affect the race.

Brennan and Strimling both led a crowded field of candidates in 2011, with Brennan winning with about 55 percent of the vote after an instant run-off election that saw Strimling finish in second place.

Strimling has not ruled out a second run for mayor, and has said he’ll make an announcement about the race on Tuesday.

Fortune’s ‘most powerful businesswoman’ headlining Maine conservative group’s event

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where here and across Maine we’re having what has been billed as the hottest day of this summer. Robert Palmer, that’s your cue

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, ground-level ozone will be climbing throughout the day to unhealthy levels that could continue through Wednesday. The DEP’s advice for everyone is to basically take it easy and keep the water flowing, especially this afternoon. 

Not that you’ve never endured a hot day before and don’t know what to do, but here are some tips from the Maine Center for Disease Control. They might be worth a read because not only could it help you keep yourself safe, you might learn something that could save someone else’s life. 

What do you do, for example, if you see someone whose skin has become red and they aren’t sweating? This could be heat stroke; call 911. 

OK, there’s your State & Capitol Daily Brief health tip for the day. Now back to politics. — Christopher Cousins 

Chellie Pingree goes on tick safari

If you know anything about Lyme disease, you know it’s no joke. Ticks that carry it are increasing in numbers in Maine. There are more than 1,300 new cases of it per year.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has long been a proponent for increased funding to research and treat tick-borne diseases. But now, she’s also working at the ground level of the problem, no pun intended.

Today, Pingree will help researchers from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory survey for ticks on a popular trail at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth. The survey involves dragging fabric across areas that are likely to be infested with ticks.

At the very least, this ought to raise awareness of a terrible disease that has also been in focus at the State House. — Christopher Cousins

Former HP CEO headed to MHPC

Here’s the translation for that alphabet soup of a headline: Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina has agreed to be the guest speaker at the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s Freedom & Opportunity Luncheon on Sept. 3 in South Portland.

Fiorina, a Republican candidate for president, started her career as a secretary in a real estate business and worked her way to being named Hewlett-Packard’s chief in 1999, becoming the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 business. She was later named the most powerful businesswoman in the U.S. by Fortune Magazine. Fiorina is currently chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation.

Also scheduled to be honored at the luncheon if Richard E. Dyke, chairman and CEO of Windham Weaponry, who will be honored with MHPC’s 2015 Freedom and Opportunity Award.

If you’re interested, tickets are limited but have your credit card ready. The lunch is $150 and if you want to meet Fiorina, it’s $250.  — Christopher Cousins

Reading list How’s your reputation?

Do people roll their eyes when you walk into a room? Do they snicker when you walk out? You could have a problem with your reputation, but the Bangor Daily News is here to help. According to this article by Lisa Miller, all you need to do to improve your reputation is be on time, responsive, calm, kind, consistent, patient, gracious, sincere, responsible, respectful, thankful, dependable, ethical and grateful.

Sounds like a lot of work, though according to Miller, first thing’s first: Google yourself and delete the nasty stuff. I just did and I don’t know if this connection I have to methamphetamines will help or hurt. — Christopher Cousins

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