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6 days that made Donald Trump the GOP nominee

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 will go down in history as the day that, officially, Donald Trump finally vanquished the last of his rivals and became the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

But Wednesday wasn’t the day that truly made Donald Trump. Along the way — and much to my chagrin as a vociferous critic of his — there have been six key moments, turning points if you will, that have truly made Donald Trump the nominee.

Donald Trump celebrates his Indiana primary win Tuesday night in New York. Carolyn Cole | Los Angeles Times | TNS

Moment 1: June 16, 2015 – Trump Roars Into the Race

Trump has been flirting with a run for president since at least 1988. He was always treated as a perennial joke with no punchline. He’d never run. If he did, he’d never win.

But on June 16, 2015, he smacked the country with a dose of reality and declared he was in it for real. In that moment, in one statement, he gave a purpose to his campaign and told us all what it would be about. “We are going to make our country great again,” Trump said.

Sounds simple, but successful campaigns have to be about something.

This also became his first opportunity to talk about immigration, the wall he wants to build, and it happened to be the day he uttered his now famous quip, “I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

Moment 2: July 18, 2015 – Trump Says John McCain Isn’t a Hero

Most people assumed that Trump’s attack on Sen. John McCain would backfire. It didn’t. His comments, which suggested that McCain was not a war hero because he was captured, may have horrified many, but it was specifically because the target of his comment was McCain that it didn’t hurt him. It actually helped him.

McCain has come to represent everything many Republicans hate about politics. Moderate, uninspiring, career politicians we are told we have to vote for, but we don’t want to. To many, he betrayed the base on campaign finance, immigration, the environment and many other issues.

That festering resentment for what McCain represented meant that Trump’s comments about him actually helped rather than hurt him.

Moment 3: Sept. 16, 2015 – Fiorina Dominates the Debate Stage

The debate in Simi Valley, California, was a bloodbath for Donald, and the one dishing out the pain was Carly Fiorina.

So why did this moment help Trump become the nominee? Because Fiorina was never a real threat to win the nomination, and she represented more interest in “outsider” candidates. Her momentum was never going to hold, and when it evaporated, it naturally drifted over to the other outsider candidates, eventually consolidating around Trump.

By thoroughly destroying everyone on the stage and making them look like unqualified, small, helpless career politicians, she did Donald a favor, particularly once she faded away.

Moment 4: Feb. 6, 2016 – Marco Rubio’s Debate Disaster

Ted Cruz may have won Iowa, but he wasn’t the real threat to Donald Trump’s eventual coronation. Marco Rubio was. Rubio had finished a very strong third place – much stronger than polling had indicated – and the momentum from Iowa was translating to New Hampshire.

Before the Saturday debate, Rubio had nearly eclipsed Trump in the internal RNC tracking poll.

Then, Chris Christie ripped Rubio’s face off on national TV. Rubio’s repetitive, robotic statements that “Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing” made him look like a malfunctioning android. Rubio imploded, Bush and Kasich rebounded, and the opportunity for a clear establishment candidate evaporated.

If Rubio could have consolidated his hold on the establishment wing with a win in New Hampshire, Donald would have been denied the Granite State, and the race would have been entirely different.

Moment 5: March 6, 2016 – Romney Goes Nuclear

Mitt Romney’s incomprehensible decision to attack Donald Trump in a major national speech did more for Trump than just about anything in this race. It signaled that the moderate establishment was on one side, and Trump was on the other, and after decades of frustration within the GOP, that only drove more people to Trump.

Moment 6: April 27, 2016 – Ted Cruz Picks A Vice President

This is the moment the race ended. It signaled the moment when Cruz’s campaign went from a tactical, grassroots-oriented machine to a desperate, last-ditch, try-anything-to-win farce.

Cruz had already been mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination outright before he announced Fiorina as his running mate. The move smacked of desperation and, coupled with “the deal” made with Kasich around the same time, made Cruz’s campaign look like a pathetic joke.

And that was the moment — the final moment — that put to rest any hope that a contested convention could stop Trump.

Part of Maine’s legal pot proposal is unconstitutional

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

An attendee holds out several marijuana buds at a 2013 High Times event in Seattle. (Jason Redmond – Reuters)

It may seem counterintuitive, but the marijuana legalization question headed to Maine’s 2016 ballot contains an almost certainly unconstitutional restriction on some of the plant’s biggest boosters — magazines like High Times.

The conflict with First Amendment guarantees to free speech and a free press only affects a small portion of the law and predates the October campaign merger of two groups that were dueling to send different legalization questions to voters.

In that deal, groups united around the proposal from Legalize Maine, a group of small medical marijuana growers. Now, the campaign is being run by the other group, led by the national Marijuana Policy Project.

Buried deep within the law is one paragraph that says a magazine “whose primary focus” is marijuana can be sold “only in a retail marijuana store or behind the counter in an establishment where persons under 21 years of age are present,” similar to how pornography is sold.

That would be a new restriction under Maine law, throwing a small bone to legalization opponents and aiming to reduce children’s exposure to pro-marijuana messaging.

But a similar provision was lifted from a rule adopted by Colorado lawmakers. In 2013, the state faced two lawsuits over it and state’s attorney general said he wouldn’t defend it in court. A federal judge later overturned the rule.

Sigmund Schutz, a Portland media attorney who has represented the Portland Press Herald and other Maine outlets, agreed that the Maine proposal poses constitutional problems, calling it “unenforceable.”

In Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project fought that rule, with a spokesman telling Reuters that it was “absolutely absurd” and lawmakers must “get over their reefer madness.”

But as a necessity of the compromise deal with Legalize Maine, the campaign group led by the Marijuana Policy Project is defending it here, with David Boyer, the legalization campaign manager, saying it “attempts to strike a balance” between freedom, safety, individual liberties and community standards.

“The community has the opportunity to approve it, and if members of the community wish to challenge a particular provision within it, they will have that right, just as they would with any other law,” Boyer said.

Poliquin invades Cain’s home turf to share his fix for student debt

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta.

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves against Republican Gov. Paul LePage, prompting the speaker’s immediate vow to appeal the decision

Ever since July of 2015, Eves’ suit against the governor has hung over the State House like a dark cloud with promises of thunder and lightning after the 127th Legislature finished its work. While that’s still possible, Tuesday’s court decision signaled clear skies ahead, at least for now. Eves is term-limited out of office, erasing the prospect of him having to recuse himself from debates and votes — which he did during a failed bid earlier this year to impeach LePage.

In addition to the court, LePage has already been cleared of legal wrongdoing by the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability and Government Oversight Committee.

What does this mean for LePage’s ability to use his influence against people he doesn’t approve of? It will continue if people cross LePage. After all, Eves is just one name on LePage’s hit list. Let’s not forget that LePage also sent packing Maine National Guard Adjutant General James Campbell and Maine Community College System President John Fitzpatrick. — Christopher Cousins

Poliquin treads into Cain territory with college savings proposal

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin visited the University of Maine at Orono on Monday to introduce a new bill designed to help families save money for college. Poliquin’s proposal would make changes to what are called 529 college savings plans by increasing tax deductions for money deposited in savings plans, allowing employers to match contributions tax-free and implementing incentives for employers to administer the program for employees.

The fate of Poliquin’s proposal, titled the Help All Americans Save for College Act of 2016, remains to be seen, but it is a clear shot across the bow of Democrat Emily Cain’s campaign against him. Cain is a UMaine graduate and former employee with deep ties to the university. She represented Orono for 10 years in the Maine Legislature, and support for her is as strong there as it is anywhere in the 2nd Congressional District.

Poliquin’s bill will undoubtedly become campaign fodder, with the congressman touting its merits and the challenger arguing that with single-digit participation rates in 529 plans, the proposal only nibbles at the edges of the monumental student debt load in this country. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Sen. Susan Collins, both Republicans, hosted a visit to Maine on Tuesday by Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin. Shulkin announced during his visit to Cary Medical Center in Aroostook County and its Community-Based Outpatient Clinic that the VA plans to extend the pilot Access to Rural Health Care program, which helps veterans access services without traveling to the Togus VA medical center, which for many in northern Maine is hundreds of miles away.
  • As Mainers prepare to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana this November, the concept is having trouble elsewhere. The Vermont House of Representatives resoundingly defeated legalization in a 121-28 vote on Tuesday. To date, no state has legalized marijuana through its Legislature. Maine legislatures have consistently rejected similar measures during the past decade. Check out an analysis of Maine’s ballot question by the BDN’s Michael Shepherd by clicking here.
  • Cain, who as I’ve just mentioned is challenging Poliquin for the 2nd Congressional District seat, has hired Daniel Gleik as her new communications director. According to his LinkedIn page, Gleik has spent the past four years working for Washington, D.C.-based Hilltop Public Solutions, which has had him working on numerous political campaigns. At the top of his list of clients is former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell in Bell’s failed campaign to be the mayor of Houston, Texas.
  • Gov. Paul LePage will host a public town hall meeting tonight in Lewiston. The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Lewiston Ramada and Conference Center at 490 Pleasant Street.
Reading list

It’s time for Poliquin, Collins to say if they support Trump

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump – REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

Now that Donald Trump is officially the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, it becomes nearly impossible for Maine Senator Susan Collins and Representative Bruce Poliquin to avoid the question of whether they’ll support the racist reality show star for president. Gov. LePage, Maine’s other major Republican officeholder, has already declared his full-throated support.

Collins has implied that she will support Trump, but she hasn’t quite said it yet.

Poliquin is in a much more difficult position, having to run a race for a vulnerable seat with Trump at the top of the ticket. He has dodged the question so far, refusing to even say which candidate he caucused for and leading to at least one awkward wait for an elevator with a reporter. I doubt he’ll be able to maintain that silence for long.

In the last few hours, several high-profile Republicans have refused to endorse Trump, including some who are backing Hillary Clinton instead. Poliquin and Collins’ colleague, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, reiterated his pledge to support a third-party candidate.

It’s time for Maine’s top Republicans to make it clear where they stand.

LePage’s new pet Veto is a rescue dog from New Orleans

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

There’s a new resident of the Blaine House from Louisiana and, no, it isn’t former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The LePage family has adopted a new Jack Russell terrier in the wake of the death of the former first dog, Baxter. Baxter, also a Jack Russell, died in March at age 12.

According to Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, the new dog is named Veto and was a 2-year-old stray in New Orleans before the LePages adopted him through the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society.

Steele never strays far from his messaging:

“The governor named him Veto because he is the mascot of good public policy, defender of the Maine people and protector of hard-working taxpayers from bad legislation,” wrote Steele in an email to the Bangor Daily News. “We expect he will have a more prominent role in the administration than Baxter, perhaps even delivering vetoes to the second floor.”

That’ll take some training, but repetition will help.

LePage answers question about Maine energy prices by blasting Cianbro’s Peter Vigue

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta (as far as you know). Sometimes, we write the Daily Brief from our living rooms but open with greetings from the capital as a signal to you, our loyal readers, that we’re going to tell what’s going on in Maine politics.

We hope you don’t mind. “Good morning from Augusta” seems like a better lead-in than “good morning from my couch, where I’m still wearing Bruins pajama pants, where my cat is snuggled up and where I haven’t brushed my hair.”

I do have a radio, however, and as has become a Tuesday tradition for me, I listened to Gov. Paul LePage’s mostly-weekly radio appearance on WVOM (you can listen to the whole thing yourself by clicking here), since it represents a somewhat rare chance to hear LePage speak to the public. Requests for interviews with LePage by newspaper reporters are flatly denied and have been for years.

LePage was fairly relaxed this morning as the radio hosts led him through a review of veto day last Friday in Augusta, when 20 of LePage’s last round of vetoes for the year were rejected. Lawmakers sustained 12 vetoes and let one bill die in a procedural maneuver. LePage criticized lawmakers for passing bills without funding them — even though that happens every session in Augusta.

“They just deceive the Maine people,” said LePage. “The Legislature will come out and pass all these bills and it sounds like really good legislation. The problem is they never fund it.”

LePage’s comments are based in truth, though they leave out some context. It’s true that numerous bills are “passed” in Augusta but don’t take effect because of a lack of funding. The reality is that any bill that has an impact on the state’s General Fund is set aside until the end of the legislative session, when it is clear how much of a revenue surplus is available — if any — and when all the bills and their price tags can be prioritized as a group. This year, LePage and House Republicans stonewalled almost any new spending from the General Fund, forcing the demise of dozens of bills in the name of fiscal conservatism.

LePage also used the radio appearance to push back against recent comments made by Cianbro Chairman Peter Vigue to the Bangor Daily News. Vigue, a Republican, said LePage’s frequent comments about Maine’s high energy costs misrepresent the facts because Maine’s energy rates compare favorably to other New England states. Worse, said Vigue, such comments from the state’s top elected official “affects the economy of the state and the perception that people have of our state.”

LePage shot back at Vigue in response to questions from the radio hosts about his successful veto of a new solar energy policy, which LePage contends would have moved energy prices in Maine in the wrong direction.

“This is the problem with Peter Vigue’s comments,” said LePage. “They were self-serving because he was going to be a beneficiary of the solar industry.”

LePage said higher energy prices would hasten the exodus of Maine’s paper mills.

“They’re leaving because our energy is not competitive,” said LePage.

Vigue’s comments — which did not directly address the solar bill — have been used to add to the backlash of the failure of the solar bill. As you read Monday in the Daily Brief, some are criticizing arguments by LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette about the bill, including one who said they’re “disingenuous as shit.”

The governor also addressed the Legislature’s override of a bill that would make Narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, more available to the public, including a crass comment that will feed controversy around his stance on the issue.

He called Narcan “false security” for addicts and that forcing them into a rehabilitation program is a better solution. LePage led the passage of a $150 million bond to make improvements at Windham Correctional Facility, including a drug abuse treatment facility.

“The first time you catch [addicts] is the time you put them into rehab and you keep putting them in rehab,” said LePage. “I’m not advocating putting them into jail but I don’t advocate giving them a shot of Narcan, get up off the floor of the bathroom and go back to class at Deering High School.” — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Republican Ande Smith has released his first campaign ad against Democratic 1st U.S. House District Rep. Chellie Pingree. The animated commercial criticizes Pingree for a recent trip she took to Cuba to study the benefits of that country’s organic farming. Smith, an attorney and small business owner, has posted the commercial on his website and promised a sequel. The ad, titled “out of touch,” called for this high-quality soundtrack.
  • Gov. Paul LePage will host his next town hall meeting beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Lewiston Ramada and Conference Center at 490 Pleasant St. in Lewiston. LePage said on WVOM today that this town hall would be particularly important because he will talk about an issue specific to Lewiston, though he didn’t provide any other details. In the past, LePage has advocated for a merger of Lewiston and Auburn into a single city. — Christopher Cousins
Reading list Even a free-range parent has to draw the line somewhere

My wife and I keep our children on a loose leash and whenever possible, let them make their own decisions.

We let them play in the mud. We let them run and scream, outside at least. This pains me, but we let our older boy put gel in his hair for school. And we let him follow various superstitions when it comes to sports.

Last year, he wouldn’t let us wash his baseball socks for the entire season. Disgusting, I know, but we let it go. We did have a rule that he would be the only human to be in physical contact with the socks.

We were doing laundry recently and put his jock strap in with the load.

“You are NOT washing that until the end of the season,” he said, drawing an instant veto from his mother and me.

“Well,” I said. “I guess you’re going to lose some games this year.”

I’m not a follower of superstitions, but I admit I was secretely relieved when his team won their first game. — Christopher Cousins

5 lessons for Democrats from the Clinton vs. Sanders fight

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee for president.

Before the Indiana primary, for Bernie Sanders to tie among pledged delegates awarded from primaries and caucuses, he has to win everywhere by an average of 30 percentage points. Every time Sanders underperforms, he needs even bigger wins to get most pledged delegates.

That’s because at the Democratic National Convention, the autonomous unpledged delegates known as superdelegates vote on the first ballot with pledged delegates. And if unpledged delegates had to vote with their states, Clinton would win.

Carucha L. Meuse | The Journal News | USA TODAY NETWORK

Meanwhile, there are five broader lessons for Democrats from the nomination contest.

  1. A race to the end helps the party.

Sanders says he will run through the last contest, and that’s a good thing. Although his fundraising plunged 40 percent in a month and he’s had to lay off hundreds of staff members, staying in helps Sanders promote his issues. It’s also consistent with his long-ago past as captain of his high school cross-country team, a sport in which not running through the finish line hurts the squad’s score.

Clinton stayed in through the last primary in 2008 and then endorsed and worked hard for Barack Obama. While some supporters’ feelings were frayed, the alliance maintained media attention on the issues and sharpened campaign operations. Now Sanders declares he will “work seven days a week” for the Democratic nominee, whether it’s him or Clinton. Issue-oriented primaries are good for Democrats.

  1. The impatience of youth is a good thing.

Although Sanders has supporters from every age group, his strongest support is from younger voters. American social movements of the left have always involved youth, since they come to politics with a sense that big change is achievable.

Energy and passion and a commitment to change bring young people into political action. Research shows that once people start voting, work on campaigns and get involved in party politics, they’re more likely to do it in the future.

  1. Constituencies want candidates to show their receipts.

When candidates run, they not only have to say what they will do but have to establish they’ve paid their dues and produced real results.

Clinton has been supported by majorities of female, black, Latino, gay and lesbian, and Jewish voters, constituencies with whom she has long-lasting relationships — constituencies that saw her championing them and delivering for them. For instance, as secretary of state and as a senator from New York, Clinton worked to expand health services for women and gay and lesbian people, spoke about LGBT and women’s rights publicly and with foreign leaders, and made it easier to get asylum based on persecution based on gender and LGBT status.

For Sanders backers, his receipts are his long history of speaking out on issues relating to income inequality and the power of wealthy interests. While not a legislator in the league of the very accomplished former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Sanders was successful in expanding funding for federal health clinics.

  1. Telling people they don’t know better is counterproductive.

Sometimes people strongly committed to their candidate or party are so vocal about why others should agree with them that they put down people with other preferences. We’ve seen this with claims that working-class people are voting against their interests if they vote Republican, a view that ignores that these voters may be making their decisions on non-economic issues or just see their interests differently than most Democrats.

In the nomination contest, black voters overwhelmingly voted for Clinton while some Sanders supporters argued that black people who support her are uninformed. Even as Clinton has won most of women’s votes, some of her backers implied that all women should help elect the first woman president of the United States. When trying to persuade voters, it’s always best to focus on issues. Telling voters they don’t know what they’re doing is patronizing and just boomerangs.

  1. Voters want positive messages.

Clinton’s positive vision has focused on bringing kindness, opportunity for all, and a commitment to the public good back to our civic life. Sanders has emphasized reducing the power of powerful interests.

While there are plenty of problems that cry out for attention, winning candidates and parties also know voters want to be lifted up, to hear what might be.

 

Whatever Sanders says, there can’t be a contested Democratic National Convention

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland in July. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Political pundits and junkies alike thrill to the prospect of contested conventions, with multiple votes needed to pick a nominee.

And, while Senator Bernie Sanders says this is going to happen at the Democratic National Convention, there’s no way it can.

Sanders hangs his claim on defining “contested convention” in a way it never has been before and ignoring the way voting takes place at the convention.

On Sunday, May 2 Sanders said, “[Clinton] will need super delegates to take her over the top of the convention in Philadelphia. In other words, the convention will be a contested contest.”

But needing superdelegates to get a majority of all delegates is exactly what happened in 2008. No one called that a contested convention.

There was one vote for the nomination, won by then Senator Barack Obama. Contested conventions have multiple ballots.

There were two key things in 2008 that are also true in 2016.

1. Pledged delegates, the ones won from primaries and caucuses, and unpledged delegates, also known as superdelegates, all vote on the first ballot, taken state by state.

2. With two candidates, mathematically one must receives a majority of the delegates’ votes. The candidate who gets a majority is the nominee.

This is pretty basic stuff.

Why is Sanders saying there could be a contested convention?

Sanders, who became a member of the Democratic Party rather recently, has likely never gone to the party’s national convention, so perhaps he is confused about how voting takes place.

Some have suggested this claim is being made to keep fundraising going and volunteers engaged so that Sanders can keep his campaign viable through the end of the primaries. Sanders would like to stay in the race to spread his message and in case there is a massive change in voter preferences.

Last month’s fundraising report showed a 40% drop in donations to the Sanders campaign, which has had to lay off hundreds of staffers.

That big decline is likely a result of many Sanders supporters realizing that he has virtually no chance of winning a majority of pledged delegates. To do so, right now Sanders would have to win all remaining contests by an average of 30 percentage points — 65% to 35%. Doing worse than that in any primary or caucus would require Sanders to win even bigger in primaries and caucuses after that.

Whatever Sanders’ reason, there can’t be a contested convention when all delegates vote together and there are only two candidates.

 

Solar contractor: LePage, Fredette ‘disingenuous as s–t’ on industry bill

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

It’s a quiet morning in Augusta after the Maine Legislature wrapped up work last week by overriding 20 of Gov. Paul LePage’s 33 session-ending vetoes.

But with help from House Republicans, the governor’s veto pen won one key battle, killing a solar reform bill that was heavily lobbied by the industry and environmental groups.

They’re not happy: In a Facebook post, Vaughan Woodruff, the owner of Insource Renewables in Pittsfield, called LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, “disingenuous as s–t” for their opposition to the bill, saying they must be “bounced from leadership and extracted from Augusta.”

The bill would have changed how solar producers are paid by auctioning 20-year contracts to producers. It was billed as a way to save and grow industry jobs. But the governor assailed it for “above market” rates and his negotiations with Democrats broke down over his demand for a price cap.

As many energy debates are, it was alway a debate between short-term and long-term costs: Public Advocate Tim Schneider said while ratepayers would bear a cost of $6.9 million in the most expensive year, long-term revenues would “significantly exceed the prices paid” and drive down costs in the end.

But it’s a debate that’s not going away if Woodruff’s post is any sign. We’ll hear more about this going into the 2016 legislative campaigns. — Michael Shepherd

Bid to create Libertarian party continues in extended court bid

A bid to create an official Libertarian Party in Maine isn’t dead yet, even after a judge rejected the party’s suit against the state last month. That reminds me of an old Monty Python scene.

Anyway, the Libertarian Party of Maine, Inc., has filed a motion for reconsideration of U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock’s decision in a case that sought to reverse Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s ruling against the party’s 2015 voter registration effort. The Libertarians, through their attorney, John Branson, argued in a court filing on Friday that Woodcock mistakenly made his decision based on this year’s primary election date of June 14 when he ruled that giving the fledgling party until the end of May to complete its enrollment drive would be too burdensome for the state.

The Libertarians say they hope to nominate state-level candidates at their May 15 convention, which won’t interfere with the primary date. Branson said paper volleys over the next couple of weeks will culminate in a May 16 hearing in Portland, which obviously is after the convention and the nomination of state-level candidates. Presidential candidates from the Libertarian Party can put themselves on Maine’s ballots whether there is an official party here or not.

Even with the court victory and a restoration of more than 5,000 voter registrations that were thrown out last December, the Libertarians would have to attract 10,000 registered Libertarians to the polls this November.– Christopher Cousins

Quick hits Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • This week, the “Missed Connections” headline “dam ur beautiful and sexy omg” caught my attention. A man saw a woman at the Westbrook Hannaford and thought to himself, “dam god got be missing a angel cause u definitely got it going on dam u carry it well wow.” Here’s her soundtrack.
  • Do you need a $1,250 life-sized pirate statue? (You don’t, but a Portland marine salvage store calls it great for a “nautical man cave.”)
  • Is your McDonald’s Monopoly board missing a few key pieces? This Bangor person has Park Place, States Avenue, Illinois Avenue, St. James Place and the B. & O. Railroad. But hurry — “must PICK UP asap.” — Michael Shepherd

NOTE TO READERS: With the 127th Legislature and veto day behind us, the Daily Brief email newsletter will resume its off-season schedule of being sent at 10 a.m. every weekday. That’ll give us a little more time every morning to dazzle you with the latest developments in what is sure to be a busy and interesting campaign season. Sign up here.

Progressives demand Gov. LePage challenge King for U.S. Senate

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Maine Governor Paul LePage – Reuters | Jonathan Ernst

Governor Paul LePage has been suggesting that he will run for U.S. Senate against Angus King in 2018 for months, and has been roundly mocked for just as long.

His latest statement that he is giving the idea “very serious thought,” however, has prompted a new response. More than a hundred Maine progressives have signed a MoveOn.org petition asking LePage to make the race, not because they want to see him representing Maine in Washington, but because they think it would be hilarious to see him lose to the popular, independent incumbent.

“Your opponents deserve the delicious schadenfreude of watching the Hindenberg-level disaster that a LePage Senate campaign will deliver,” reads the petition. “I would like to see Paul LePage fail himself as opposed to repeatedly failing the citizens of Maine.”

Given their respective approval ratings, a LePage challenge to King seems destined to be unsuccessful, but at least one political observer isn’t so sure. In his syndicated column this week, Al Diamon notes that LePage has already begun spreading lies about King’s record, to which the senator doesn’t deem it necessary to respond.

“The guv is already in full campaign mode. Unless King makes a similar shift, it’s not that farfetched to imagine LePage taking his seat on the Senate floor in 2018,” writes Diamon.

I guess we should be careful what we petition for.

Sen. Collins will back Donald Trump

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Senator Susan Collins – Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

A common question lately for Senator Susan Collins, one of the most moderate Republicans remaining in Congress (and the country’s second-most-popular senator), has been whether she will back Donald Trump for president.

Collins came close to answering in an interview with Politico yesterday.

“He’s very close to wrapping it up… I think it is likely that he is going to be the nominee,” she said. “I’ve always supported the Republican nominee, and I don’t think this year will be different. But I’m going to wait and see what happens at the convention.”

That seems pretty clear-cut. But I’m actually not sure why this is much of a question in the first place. Collins has consistently backed other Republicans just as odious, or even more so, than Trump.

In addition to supporting and fundraising for Governor Paul LePage, she has explicitly and repeatedly backed extreme figures like State Representative Larry Lockman. Even after his long history of tax evasion and incendiary comments on women, rape, AIDS and gays and lesbians came to light, she gave a maximum contribution to his campaign and announced he would serve as a town chair for her re-election.

She even provided a photo and endorsement for him to send to voters:

That’s because Collins is, much more than Olympia Snowe was, a Republican team player. She may hold different opinions from the majority of her party on a subset of issues, but she is still dedicated to party building. This is clear from her votes, which rarely deviate from the party line at the most crucial points, and from her campaign activities for Republicans up and down the ticket.

Rep. Jeffrey K. Pierce with Gov. Paul LePage and Sen. Susan Collins in a photo from his campaign.

That’s not to say that she’s always proud of these associations. Last December, when I wrote about how Republicans were standing by Rep. Jeff Pierce, the latest in a string of Maine GOP state legislators to make bigoted and racist comments on social media, I used a photo of Pierce standing with Collins and LePage to illustrate the post. A member of Collins’ staff called the Bangor Daily News to complain and the newspaper asked me to remove the photo. We eventually came to a compromise where it was replaced as the featured image but remained on the page.

From these past practices, we can likely assume both that Senator Collins will back Trump and that she will continue to downplay her support in public and with the media. If you’re a swing voter in the Second District though, don’t be surprised if you receive a mailer this November with a Trump logo and a smiling photo of Maine’s senior senator.

Will LePage’s drug antidote and solar bill vetoes stand?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where lawmakers will return on Friday to handle a parade of vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage. It’ll be a long day at the State House, with 33 vetoes up for consideration in the House of Representatives and Senate.

We had a full rundown on them yesterday, but the highest-profile bills at stake are proposals to expand access to an opiate overdose antidote and reform Maine’s solar industry.

LePage got national attention for his veto of the bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone, a drug that can reverse potentially fatal opiate overdoses. In a veto letter, he said it “doesn’t truly save lives,” but “it merely extends them until the next overdose” and normalizes drug use.

But research doesn’t bear that out and the governor was criticized by many, including Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel, who said LePage was “disingenuous” and “doing a disservice” to those who have administered the drug.

The bill only just passed by a two-thirds majority in the House earlier this month, with 48 Republicans and one unenrolled conservative opposing it.

But the bill’s sponsor, Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, told the Portland Press Herald she has enough votes to override it. Top party members are reconsidering opposition, including Rep. Jeff Timberlake of Turner, a LePage ally who said on Facebook that he’ll vote to override.

Less likely for an override is the solar bill, which is aimed at modernizing Maine’s solar policy to retain and grow hundreds of jobs. It fell short of a two-thirds majority in the House.

LePage has assailed it, saying in a veto letter that “ever-increasing solar mandates in this bill would be borne by ratepayers with no price cap.” Earlier this week, Gideon said she was nearing a compromise with LePage over the bill, but the deal broke down over the governor’s price cap demand.

On Thursday, a letter from LePage’s former energy director, Kenneth Fletcher, to Senate Republican was circulating, asking Republicans to sustain the governor’s veto.

However, data attached to the letter — provided to the BDN by Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, which supports the bill — indicates that it was drafted by lobbyist Steven Hudson, who represents Solar City, a solar lease company that opposes the bill. Public Advocate Tim Schneider criticized the letter for “fundamental errors.”

So, the lobbying will be heavy for this one. We’ll keep you updated on the vetoes all day on our live blog. — Michael Shepherd

Yes, Maine’s senators are still popular

Maine likes its U.S. senators enough to put their approval ratings in the top four nationally, according to a national poll from Morning Consult released on Thursday.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, was the second most popular senator in the country, with 79 percent approving of her in the poll. Independent Sen. Angus King wasn’t far behind in fourth place, registering an approval rating of 74 percent.

Collins was just behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had 80 percent and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. It updated a similar poll released in November that pegged Collins again in second place. King was 10th in that iteration of the poll.

This version surveyed 62,000 registered voters in every state from January to April, with a margin of error in Maine of 5 percent. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist

With Trump closing in on GOP nod, will Collins back him?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, which is in a lull until Friday, when lawmakers will return to handle vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage.

But we’ll start with Donald Trump, the governor’s preferred Republican presidential nominee: He swept primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware on Tuesday.

Trump’s two opponents, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are staking their hopes on winning the nomination in a contested convention in July. But now, Trump is nearly on target to lock up the nomination before then.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, endorsed Jeb Bush early in the race. But she has stayed out of the divisive race since Bush dropped out in February, saying she won’t back another candidate until the convention.

However, she seemed somewhat resigned to the prospect of Trump’s nomination in an interview with POLITICO, saying he’s “very close to wrapping it up” and “I think it is likely that he is going to be the nominee.”

“I’ve always supported the Republican nominee, and I don’t think this year will be different,” she said. “But I’m going to wait and see what happens at the convention.”

It’s not much different than what Collins said at this weekend’s Republican state convention: She ignored the presidential race in a speech, but reiterated to reporters that she wouldn’t back anyone until the convention.

In Bangor, Cruz supporters stormed the Maine convention to take at least 19 delegates in the event that the national convention is contested. The real question now is if that will even matter. — Michael Shepherd

 

LePage: Cut 1,500 state workers; eliminate 2,500 unfilled positions

The governor said Wednesday that he’d like to trim 1,500 employees from the state workforce and eliminate another 2,500 positions that are currently unfilled.

“The current budget that we’re operating under has got 13,500 positions in the state,” LePage said at a town hall meeting in Damariscotta. “Every two weeks we make payroll and I keep track of it. We’re under 11,000 paychecks every two weeks. My goal is to 9,500 but I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

It wasn’t the first time the governor has complained that the state budget funds unfilled positions. He has tried to eliminate some of them but has been stopped by the Legislature on the grounds that they are needed but haven’t been filled for various reasons, including the inability to find qualified applicants.

The unfilled positions lead to year-end revenue surpluses, which led LePage to another familiar argument: Every penny of year-end surplus should be deposited into the state’s rainy day fund, instead of funding programs at year’s end through what is known as the “cascade.”

LePage said that if all surplus funding since he’s been governor had been put in the rainy day fund, it would have more than $500 million in it and the state’s credit rating would be better.

“On June 30 you’ve got a surplus,” he said. “By July first by dinner time, it’s all gone. No more money.”

The Damariscotta event was calm and devoid of any of the fiery rhetoric LePage is sometimes known for. Well, unless you live in certain cities that LePage took a shot at while talking about where Maine cash benefits cards are being used.

“I do understand Disney World and I do understand Las Vegas,” he said. “But who would ever go on vacation in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Philadelphia?”

Their tourism associations would disagree and BDN colleague Seth Koenig apparently does, too: His kids loved the Bronx Zoo. Here’s your soundtrack, even though it’s not autumn. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, is one of 53 House members being bolstered by a $2.6 million print, mail and digital ad campaign from the American Action Network, a 501(c)4 group that doesn’t have to disclose donors, for their opposition to government drug price negotiation under Medicare. Poliquin’s 2016 opponent, Democrat Emily Cain, hit him in a statement, saying price negotiation is a “no-brainer” that will save seniors money.
  • LePage issued nine new vetoes on Wednesday, including a solar energy reform bill. As of Wednesday, he’s up to 33 vetoes since the Legislature adjourned earlier this month, but more could come today ahead of override day. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • A woman is kicking herself after a man overheard in the Saco Hannaford that she wanted Doritos as a snack. “Good choice,” he said. “You’re a good choice,” she replied. She didn’t get his number, so she’s looking for her “knight in shining Dorito armor” who she thinks is “cool….ranch.”
  • A Family Dollar employee in Belfast said “the most beautiful girl ive ever seen” walked in to ask about a tablet charger. He’d “love to get together, maybe smoke a bowl and get a little tipsy.” I’d suggest coffee first.
  • Look at this dumb, fat rabbit named Rex. He’s a cute bun who gets excited when you feed or hold him and he’s free to a good home. — Michael Shepherd

The increasingly disgusting debate over Narcan

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Does anyone out there truly believe that Gov. Paul LePage wants people to die?

The unfortunate truth is that yes, a lot of people do. So deeply held is the hatred for LePage by some, that many are not only saying that the governor is a hateful, spiteful person who wants people to die, they actually believe it.

At issue is the governor’s veto of a bill that would increase the availability of the drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, for addicts who are at risk of an overdose.

A Bangor Daily News editorial this week suggested that LePage had intentionally “devalued” the lives of addicted Mainers. He is apparently prepared to let them die, because he doesn’t care about them. Columnist David Farmer believes LePage looks at a dead junkie and thinks to himself, “good riddance.”

People who make these types of assumptive arguments about how much value LePage places on any life should be ashamed of themselves.

Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr.

Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids, and essentially “reverses” their effect, allowing someone who has experienced an overdose to stop their impending death.

The bill in question that LePage vetoed would expand access to it by allowing a pharmacist to dispense the drug to an addict, turning it into an overdose EpiPen that drug users could carry with them.

“Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction,” wrote LePage in his veto message.

The governor’s critics howled, calling LePage an unconcerned monster, cold and indifferent to the death of Mainers facing addiction.

But that is tremendously unfair and does the debate about this very important issue a disservice.

Honestly, if you think the governor doesn’t care about Mainers facing addiction, and wants them to die, then honestly you need to take some real stock in just how polluted your mind has grown from politics.

I have listened to the governor, dozens of times, in public and in private, talk about drug abuse and addiction. There are few issues that make him as passionate and animate his desire to do something positive as this one does.

It is a very complicated issue that deserves to be fully debated and considered, not treated to soundbites and emotional ivory tower lectures.

Yes, Narcan, in the immediate moment, can save somebody’s life. If a person is experiencing an overdose and receives the drug, he or she will be saved. There is no one, including the governor, who disputes that.

Were the drug not to exist at all, addicts would know there is a risk of a deadly overdose, and while that may not stop them from doing it, the possibility will enter into their brains and it will, even if only subtly, influence their decision making.

Addiction specialists often dismiss that logic, saying “that isn’t how addiction works” — and to some degree they are right. Addicts aren’t as cognizant of consequences, ergo they don’t let those types of thoughts enter into their mind.

But to suggest it has no impact is nonsense. Even if the threat of consequence isn’t a primary driving factor, it is absolutely a consideration and something that can change behavior. If you have spent any time around drug addicts — and I certainly have — you’ve likely heard the rationalizations.

With a Narcan “EpiPen” in their pocket, a safety net is created, and if you think that won’t be in the back of an addict’s mind as well, you’re kidding yourselves. Hospitals often see the same emergency patient who has received Narcan five, six, eight, 10 or 12 times.

The question is, what does that do to addiction broadly? Does it normalize it? Does it make it worse? Does it remove the threat of dangerous consequences and make a user feel more invincible? Does it make people who don’t use harder drugs more likely to try them because they now feel like there is an “antidote” available if they make a mistake?

The governor believes the answer to those questions is yes. Critics of his veto believe no. There is believable research on both sides of the debate.

Were I the governor, I would think as LePage does, that the answer is yes, but I would probably still allow access, believing that the benefits outweighed the harm.

But at the end of the day, the real point is that this is a topic that deserves real discussion, and the seriousness that befits the subject. What it doesn’t deserve is demagoguery and hatred, and the assumption of the worst motivations in our public servants. That benefits no one.

Why Maine Democrats can’t change who superdelegates choose

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Democrats are again discussing the rules for choosing delegates to their national party convention. It used to be that primaries and caucuses didn’t choose many delegates but that changed for the 1972 nomination. Starting then, the vast majority of delegates came from the decisions of caucus goers and primary voters.

Lots of other things changed in 1972, including striving for greater demographic representation and doing away with proxy voting. Democrats prohibited the unit rule, a winner-take-all approach used by some states.

Later Democrats reserved a set of delegates, the superdelegates, who could decide for themselves which candidate they would vote for at the convention, and tweaked the delegate system many times. Superdelegates have never overturned majorities of pledged delegates but rather have magnified those majorities.

Right now it’s hard to imagine any set of remaining state primaries and caucuses preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nominee.

Clinton has won nearly 3.2 million more votes than Sanders and has a very significant lead in pledged delegates, the ones won from people participating in caucuses and primaries. Sanders would have to get nearly twice as many delegates as Clinton in the coming contests for him to win a majority of pledged delegates. Clinton also has the bulk of superdelegates.

Diane M. Russell (D-Portland)

In Maine, Rep. Diane Russell and superdelegate Troy Jackson, both of whom are Sanders backers, have criticized the superdelegate system and said they want changes for future presidential elections.

According to the Washington Post:

Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D) is introducing a resolution at her party’s state convention in May to strongly urge that the votes of Maine’s superdelegates reflect the state’s popular vote in 2016, and in 2020 require them to vote as their state did.

Currently, of the 5 Maine superdelegates, 1 supports Sanders, 3 support Clinton and 1 has not stated a preference.

A country Maine Democratic Party resolution I’ve seen asks that the national convention delegate breakdown be 64.3% for Sanders, mirroring the statewide convention delegate count of 2,231 delegates for Sanders out of 3,470 delegates. (See note at the end regarding the formula for awarding these delegates.) Since there are 5 superdelegates for Maine, 3 would be required to vote for Sanders.

While there certainly could be rule changes in future contests, this year’s delegate system can’t be changed, including superdelegates.

1. The key reason is that this would go against the national Democratic party’s rules and Maine’s Democratic Party has agreed to follow those rules. 

You can see Maine’s promise in a provision on p. 21 of the Maine Democratic Party’s delegate selection plan. It’s in a section laying out what “Maine undertakes to ensure.”

One element is:

In addition to setting out superdelegates as part of its rules, the national Democratic Party expressly prohibits mandating that any delegate vote against her or his beliefs.

This can be found in Article 9, Section 10 of the national party charter.

Thus the Maine Democratic Party can’t require superdelegates to vote for anyone in particular. A resolution urging superdelegates to act in a particular way, of the sort Russell has discussed, does not set a requirement and so does not contradict that rule.

2. Moreover, it’s very hard to argue that it’s fair to change the rules in the middle of the nomination contest.

Typically when any competition begins, whether in sports, politics or any other field, participants know what the rules are and they compete to win according to those.

3. However, the Maine Democratic Party could encourage the national Democratic Party to create a commission to study the system and suggest future reforms.

One might think the Democratic National Convention would be the place where rule changes for future conventions are made. But that’s not how the process has worked.

As Professor Josh Putnam, probably the top scholar of American political parties’ delegate rules, notes:

Unlike their Republican counterparts, there is no baseline set of rules that emerges from one convention to guide the process (with some tweaks thereafter during the last two cycles) for the next cycle.

Instead, the Democratic National Committee through its Rules and Bylaws Committee has traditionally empowered a commission to reexamine the nomination rules and recommend changes to them in the time after the presidential election of one cycle. Those recommendations are then handed off to the Rules and Bylaws Committee to vote on and pass usually during the summer of the midterm election year between cycles.

Nothing, then, really happens rules-wise at the Democratic National Convention. Sure, there is a report on rules from the Rules and Bylaws Committee to the convention, and said Committee meets immediately after the convention, but any rules tinkering takes place well after the convention (or it traditionally has in the post-reform era). [source]

This approach allows for careful consideration of rules changes.

Frankly, it would be surprising if there weren’t some changes made for future years.

Whatever happens with superdelegates and with policies expressed in the national Democratic platform, it will led by people who involve themselves in the process. Maine’s Democrats can certainly play a part.

_______________________

* A kind of technical note about state-level delegate selection:

Delegates to the Maine state Democratic convention, who participate in selecting delegates to the national convention, are allocated by the proportions won by candidates within municipalities.

But the number of delegates in each municipality isn’t just based on the town’s population or even the number of registered voters or caucus voters.

How does it work? Well, here’s the rule from page 6 of Maine’s Democratic party delegate selection plan.

As you can see above, municipalities get a certain number of delegates to the state convention based on the municipality’s vote for the Democratic candidate candidate for governor. The number of delegates thus is a function both of population and that gubernatorial vote.

Here are few odd ways this can work out:

1. There can be two towns with the same exact population or caucus goers or registered Democrats but if Town A voted for the Democratic candidate for governor and Town B for the Republican or independent candidate, Town A will have more delegates.

2. At the same time, a very small town in a very Republican area with very few Democratic caucus goers would still get one delegate and one alternate.

As these two examples show, the number of delegates per candidate don’t directly mirror the proportions of caucus goers for each candidate statewide.

Has LePage really given up on setting Maine’s education agenda?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where some eyes will be cast toward Auburn and William Beardsley’s talk on the state of education in Maine.

The conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center is hosting Beardsley today for the first of two planned addresses titled “Maine Education at the Crossroads.” Today’s event is booked solid; the second is scheduled for noontime Thursday at DiMillo’s on the Water in Portland.

Beardsley’s speech comes on the heels of a tumultuous couple of days that started Monday morning when he and LePage hosted a private meeting at the Blaine House of a blue-ribbon commission tasked with studying Maine’s education funding formula and school performance.

(I know, I know, this is all review but we’ve got to accommodate people who haven’t been tuned in. For their sakes, I hope there are many.)

Complaints about the private meeting angered LePage, who said later in the day and again Tuesday morning that he was pulling the executive branch out of the project, including the Department of Education, even though the commission was LePage’s idea in the first place. Just hours later on Tuesday, Beardsley and the Department of Education were telling reporters that he will continue to chair the commission.

It’s been a whiplash week in the political world and it’s only Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see what Beardsley has to say. LePage has made it clear that education reform will be a focus of his remaining years in office and that Beardsley will lead the effort, acting as Maine’s de facto education commissioner even though LePage has pulled Beardsley out of the legislative confirmation process that would make him a commissioner.

According to people who were at Monday’s meeting, two documents will loom large in the commission’s work: the $400,000 so-called Picus report from 2013, which studied Maine’s school funding formula, and the landmark Education Evolving plan developed and implemented by Steve Bowen, who was LePage’s first commissioner of education. The Education Evolving plan is broad, but has individualized instruction for students, allowing them to learn at their own pace, at its core.

People, I have just stumbled on the PERFECT soundtrack for today. Enjoy! — Christopher Cousins

Solar bill action still pending

A lot of people have been wondering what will become of LD 1649, the bill that if enacted would revamp Maine’s solar energy policy. The bill, which was worked for months by the Legislature and representatives from the energy sector, had an easy go in the Senate but passed through the House of Representatives with a 91-56 vote — which is short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

That’s significant, since the bill is currently on LePage’s desk. The governor said Tuesday that he is working with legislative leaders to find a compromise that would avoid a veto, but that he wasn’t hopeful.

“I think the veto is due today,” said LePage during a radio interview on WVOM. “I’ll see what we can do but it doesn’t look very good. … I think I’m going to be forced to veto it.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has been in negotiations with LePage about the bill for at least a week, according to Ann Kim, her spokeswoman. The negotiations have at times neared a compromise but have then fallen apart again.

Kim and Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, said LePage’s decision on the bill — whether to veto it, sign it or let it go into law without his signature — is due by Thursday evening. The Legislature returns on Friday to consider all of the bills LePage has vetoed in the past couple of weeks.

Stay tuned to bangordailynews.com and we’ll keep you posted. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list It was so snowy that…
  • Hitchhikers were holding up pictures of thumbs.
  • Richard Simmons started wearing pants.
  • Dunkin Donuts was serving coffee on a stick.
  • We had to chop up the piano for firewood (but we got only two chords).

Because this is our last chance for months to tell snow jokes. Right? RIGHT!? — Christopher Cousins

Report: LePage walks out of UMF ceremony in response to protesters

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage reportedly walked out of a building dedication ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the University of Maine at Farmington in response to protesters, according to the Waterville Morning Sentinel.

The newspaper reported that LePage had just started his address when some members of the audience held up some signs, one of which read “LePage Maine’s Shame.”

“Thank you, you idiots out back there with the signs,” LePage reportedly said as he walked out of the event, which celebrated the opening of the university’s new Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center.

LePage has encountered small numbers of protesters on a regular basis during the series of mostly weekly town hall meetings he is conducting across Maine. In a couple of instances, such as during a February appearance in Waldoboro, he has verbally threatened to end a meeting, but hasn’t. For the most part the governor’s staff asks the protesters to leave if they become too disruptive and LePage usually responds to their protests about a given topic by explaining his views.

LePage’s next town hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Great Salt Bay Community School on Main Street in Damariscotta.

LePage blames media for his decision to pull out of education commission

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN file photo by Ashley L. Conti.

Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that he will withdraw the executive branch completely from participating in a commission aimed at reforming Maine’s public schools funding formula because he is “fed up” with media coverage of his statements and actions as governor.

“As of yesterday afternoon I have withdrawn the executive branch from that group,” LePage said Tuesday morning during his weekly appearance on WVOM radio. “We’ll provide them whatever data they need but the executive branch will no longer be participating, period.”

The commission, which was created in a bill that resulted from negotiations between the Legislature and the LePage administration, met for the first time Monday in an invite-only affair at the Blaine House. The closed-door meeting garnered widespread media coverage because Maine’s open meeting laws state clearly the commission meetings of any sort are supposed to be open to the public. The attorney general and Maine’s public access ombudsman, Brenda Kielty, agreed that Monday’s gathering violated the state’s open meeting law.

On Monday, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said in a written statement that LePage had “offered to step back from the process.” She did not respond to a request from the BDN for clarification about what that statement meant. LePage said Tuesday that he has withdrawn himself and the Department of Education from any further work by the commission because he is treated unfairly.

“The press takes seven seconds of what I say and they make a shit show out of it,” said LePage. “I’m tired of it and I’m not going to participate. … I’m not going to be involved in an organization or any committee that by throwing ideas around, is going to be politically sensitive and on the front page of every newspaper. I am best to withdraw and let those people do their work so they don’t get the criticism that I get when I do anything.”

LePage denied any responsibility for setting up the blue ribbon commission and said if he’d done it, it would have been a private process.

“I would have set it up by executive order and it would have been executive meetings,” he said.

According to Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, through his spokesman this morning, the idea for the Blue Ribbon Commission was LePage’s.

“The blue ribbon commission was something LePage brought to the table during those negotiations,” said Alfond spokesman Mario Moretto (who is a former BDN reporter). “Its mandate and membership composition came from him.”

It’s worth noting here that the media could not quote LePage or his education chief, William Beardsley, saying anything at all at the commission meeting on Monday because reporters were not let in. We reported on a violation of Maine’s open meeting law because it’s our responsibility to do so and when we don’t, we are failing our readers and the concept of open government that is supposed to be ensured by the Maine Constitution and the U.S. Constitution that elected officials swear to uphold.

However, we’re also very interested in education policy. After Alfond told me that Beardsley and LePage stated a goal of ensuring all students are reading at grade level by third grade, I sent the following questions to Bennett and LePage Communications Director Peter Steele:

Good afternoon,

I have already queried Anne in DOE but does the governor have a statement about the discussion at today’s meeting, any progress he thinks was made and the path forward? I have heard that the administration has a goal of having every third grader be proficient in reading. Can you provide any detail about that, such as a timeline for the goal or how it would be accomplished? Thanks, Chris Here is Bennett’s response, in its entirety:

Hi Chris,

MEA for years has obstructed educational reform in our state, fighting viciously to maintain the status quo of stagnant student performance and ever-increasing budgets. These are the sort of tactics the MEA engages in to distract from any serious efforts to offer meaningful educational reform that would benefit Maine students and teachers.

This morning’s meeting was an informal, get-to-know-you gathering in a relaxed setting before the commission starts its work at a later date. There is much work to do to improve scholastic performance, lower educational costs and make our school system more efficient and effective for our teachers and especially our students. All documents and recommendations will be included in a report to the Legislature and available for public viewing.

The Governor, at this time, has offered to step back from the process to save the MEA and the media from wasting their time attacking him instead of focusing on real education reform. Now the public will see if the MEA, legislators and the media are truly dedicated to doing what’s best for our students or if they will continue their election-year antics that have nothing to do with improving Maine’s educational system.

That obviously didn’t answer my questions, so I replied:

Clarification, please: What does “offered to step back from the process” mean?

And, what about the questions I asked about policy, reform and reading proficiency for third graders? Bennett’s final response: Chris, I admire the optimism, but the 2-hour meeting did not offer any policy decisions or reform regarding reading proficiency. Again, let me emphasize that the commission’s work will take time and the goal is to report recommendations at a later date so as there can be public discussion regarding upcoming proposed policy.

One of the WVOM radio hosts asked LePage about his treatment by the press.

“There’s always a headline or two, governor,” said host George Hale. “We like to give you a chance to respond. Sometimes you don’t get fair treatment, sometimes you do…”

“What are you talking about ‘sometimes I don’t get,'” said LePage. “You give me a day I ever did in this state.”

Well, one example was yesterday.

Cruz, Kasich may be teaming up to stop Trump. That didn’t happen in Maine

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Monday’s news of Gov. Paul LePage’s private school reform commission meeting (which violated open-meeting law, according to Attorney General Janet Mills) conjured a soundtrack that definitely doesn’t reflect what happened at the Blaine House.

But first, we’ll turn our attention to the presidential politics that the governor was heavily involved in over the weekend at the Maine Republican Party’s convention.

Monday began with The New York Times reporting a deal between Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich aimed at stopping billionaire Donald Trump, whom both are trailing in the race, from getting the party’s nomination before the national convention in July.

Kasich would stop campaigning in Indiana ahead of the May 3 primary and head to New Mexico and Oregon in a bid to give each candidate head-to-head races with Trump. However, the deal frayed just hours after it was announced, with Kasich saying Indiana voters should still vote for him.

But the interesting piece of the deal is that it was directly opposed to what happened at Maine’s convention, where supporters of Cruz lined up against Trump and Kasich.

Cruz supporters ended up getting 19 of Maine’s 23 delegate slots to the national convention by electing a campaign-approved slate except for one notable exception, Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump supporter.

This was a loss for Trump and Kasich, who aligned behind LePage’s “unity ticket” proposal that would have proportioned delegates according to Maine’s March caucus results, where Cruz won 12 delegates to Trump’s nine and Kasich’s two.

Those delegates will have to vote that way on a first ballot at the national convention, but if Trump doesn’t have the delegates needed to get the nomination after that, they could vote for any candidate on a second ballot.

Now, Trump’s just off-track for having the nomination wrapped up by then. But tonight, we’ll know a lot more about whether this wrangling will have an effect. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all hold primaries today and Trump could widen his lead. — Michael Shepherd

LePage vetoes Clean Elections funding advance

A funding advance to Maine’s taxpayer-funded election system for the 2016 elections is in a tenuous spot after being vetoed by LePage on Monday.

The Maine Clean Election Fund was strengthened by voters in November and is being used by 70 percent of legislative candidates, up from 53 percent in 2014. That includes more than half of Republican candidates in 2016.

But it’s maligned by many Republicans: The governor called 2015’s referendum “a scam,” has long called the program “welfare for politicians” and once tried to defund it, while state Republicans adopted an anti-Clean Election platform plank on Friday.

Now, there’s $4.1 million in the fund, which Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said may not be enough to make payments to all of this year’s legislative candidates. If the fund runs out mid-election, candidates could raise private money.

To fix that, the Legislature approved a six-month advance of $500,000 to the fund, scheduling that payment for June instead of January 2017. But LePage took a dim view of it in a veto letter, calling it “robbing future funding to pay for current costs.”

The Legislature will vote to override a host of LePage vetoes on Friday. Democrats may not have the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to do so — it only passed the House with two Republicans supporting it. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, will be a delegate to the Republican National Convention after the state party found a vote tabulation error from Saturday’s convention.. It won’t change much: She’s a Cruz supporter replacing another Cruz supporter who was the announced winner.
  • LePage will hold a town hall meeting in Damariscotta on Wednesday. It’ll be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Great Salt Bay Community School on Main Street.
Reading list

LePage’s task force to fix Maine schools starts in secret

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage’s blue ribbon commission to study education funding and performance in Maine is gathered for its inaugural meeting at the Blaine House.

The meeting kicked off at 8:30 a.m. at the Blaine House, but the public was not invited and reporters weren’t allowed in. I received no official notification of this morning’s meeting. LePage Communications Director Peter Steele said Monday morning’s meeting, which will include remarks by the governor, is closed to the media because it is “just an informal, get-to-know-you gathering in a relaxed setting before the commission starts its work at a later date.”

The meeting is to include presentations by Mike Allen, a tax expert for Maine Revenue Services and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, State Economist Amanda Rector and others, including Deputy Education Commissioner Bill Beardsley.

As we discussed Friday in the Daily Brief, details about LePage’s education agenda over the next couple of years are likely to come into focus through this commission. It was created earlier this year as a compromise in a bill that sent $15 million in new education money to public schools to fill part of a gap created by lower property values across Maine.

The agenda refers to the presentation or discussion of a “grand bargain” but the details around that are unclear at the moment. Just a guess here, but I’m thinking it might have to do with the creation of a statewide labor contract for teachers and education administrators, which LePage has repeatedly said is a top-shelf goal on his education reform wish-list.

School districts in Maine negotiate their teacher contracts at the local level. That means there are differences from town to town in pay and benefits. Though there are arguments to be made about the merits of a single contract that covers all Maine educators — similar to widespread contracts that cover state workers — it would be difficult to implement. Local communities have long sparred with state government over the erosion of local contract and implementing a statewide contract would presumably adjust some teachers’ pay up and down.

Whatever path forward is forged by the commission will require input from legislative leaders of both political parties, teachers, municipal managers and representatives from the State Board of Education and Maine Charter School Commission. Also on the 15-member commission are James H. Page, chancellor of the University of Maine system, and Derek P. Langhauser, president of the Maine Community College system.

Democratic Sen. Justin Alfond, a former Education Committee member and current Senate minority leader, is on the commission. He said this morning that the LePage administration has been firm about the privacy of today’s meeting.

“I’ve been communicating almost daily with the LePage administration about the blue ribbon commission and the public’s access and it’s very concerning where they’re landing,” said Alfond. “Right now, from what I understand, the public will not be allowed in nor will elected members of the Legislature or the media.”

Alfond said he is hopeful that given the caliber and breadth of the commission members, that meaningful and data-based negotiations can take place that result in a strong package of legislation for the 127th Legislature to consider when it convenes next year.

“I’m sure the governor will bring up a lot of the ideas that he’s brought up in the past,” said Alfond. “I’m willing to listen but I’m always going to go back to ensuring that we have good data, good examples from other states and that we are ensuring the continuation of local control for the education of our students.”

The commission is scheduled to produce a preliminary report by late July of this year. — Christopher Cousins 

Bruce Poliquin and others join congressional heroin task force

Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin has announced that he will join a bipartisan task force to curtail the raging heroin epidemic, which kicked off this morning in Manchester, New Hampshire

The hearing, titled “Investigating the Heroin Epidemic and Its Impacts on the Northeast,” will focus on lawn enforcement and treatment strategies, according to a written statement from Poliquin. Among the task force’s intentions is to present a package of 15 bills they deem most likely to gather enough support in Congress to be enacted.

Among today’s presenters is Michael Crabtree, chief deputy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, and Pat Kimball, executive director of Wellspring, an organization that helps addicts and people with co-occurring mental health disorders in Bangor. — Christopher Cousins

Police chief to LePage: Narcan veto ‘only shows how uninformed you are’

Milo police Chief Damien Pickel is putting public pressure on Gov. Paul LePage regarding the governor’s veto of LD 1547, a bill that would allow over-the-counter access to Naloxone Hydrochloride, an opioid overdose antidote known as Narcan. LePage made national headlines by stating in his veto letter that Narcan “does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Pickel posted on the department’s Facebook page that the veto “only shows how uninformed you are.”

“It does save lives,” wrote Pickel. “It’s not a safety net for the addict that will ‘perpetuate the use of heroin.’ When an addict is overdosing, they lack the skills to administer it themselves. In fact, an addict hates Narcan because it reverses the effects of the opioid and they immediately go into withdrawal. You should listen to your police, fire, EMS and medical professionals before you make any further uninformed statements. We’re getting it done on a daily basis. We save lives, whether you’re rich or poor, black, white, green or purple, addict or sober.”

The Legislature will consider LePage’s veto of LD 1547, which was sponsored by Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport, on Friday. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • A firefighter was in line at the Westbrook Hannaford when he saw a “cute runner” ahead of him. “U had blue and green spandex on and hot as hell,” he says. “U bought a Pepsi and some carrots.” That narrows it down.
  • Somebody is no fan of Maine’s state-regulated medical marijuana system. He “can’t understand how people are still such b—–s about weed and isn’t not interested in a medical card. “F–k the card…I don’t need permission to smoke weed.” He would like an ounce, though.
  • A Missed Connections post is headlined “shep.” I thought they were talking to me! “I don’t want a world without you in it,” it reads, “there’s no unicorn glittering magic.” Alas, I have none of that. — Michael Shepherd

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