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Congressional ethics complaint made over 2017 reporter attack

Press Herald Politics -

HELENA, Mont. – The head of the Montana Democratic Party on Thursday asked for a congressional ethics investigation into whether Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte lied to the police and the public when he assaulted a reporter last year.

The request by the party’s executive director, Nancy Keenan, comes exactly one year after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs said Gianforte “body slammed” him for asking a question the day before Gianforte won a special election for Montana’s only U.S. House seat.

Gianforte eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and said Jacobs did nothing wrong. But Gianforte initially told police that Jacobs instigated the attack, and his campaign spokesman at the time, Shane Scanlon, released a statement saying the same thing.

Keenan said Thursday that Gianforte has never owned up to lying to the police or the public, and he has never been held accountable for those statements.

“It’s a matter of character for me,” Keenan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “If we can’t trust him in telling the truth to the cops, then how do we trust him on health care policy, how do we trust him on public lands?”

Gianforte’s false statements are violations of House ethics rules that require him to “conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,” according to the complaints Keenan filed with the House Committee on Ethics and the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

It does not matter that the assault and the statements were made before Gianforte was elected or sworn in, Keenan said. She noted that a Senate ethics investigation was launched against U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., over sexual misconduct allegations from before he was a senator.

“A lot of things happened before people were members of Congress and they were still called to the carpet for it,” Keenan said. “This case is no different.”

Gianforte has perpetuated the lie since he’s been in office, including having his communications director, Travis Hall, give a statement to the AP last fall stating that “no one was misled” about the attack, Keenan said.

Hall declined to comment on Keenan’s complaint. He cited as the reason a cease-and-desist letter sent to Gianforte by Jacobs’ attorney last fall in response to Hall’s “no one was misled” comment.

In the letter, attorney Geoffrey Genth told the congressman and his staff that Gianforte repeatedly misled law enforcement and the public and warned them to stop making “false and defamatory statements” about Jacobs.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Erin Collins said in a statement that Keenan’s complaint is a desperate attempt by Democrats to divert attention from their “lackluster lineup” of candidates in this year’s elections.

“While the Democratic Party attempts to waste taxpayers’ money on this wild goose chase, Congressman Gianforte will continue to work tirelessly in Montanans’ best interest,” Collins said.

The committee and the independent office, which refers ethics matters to the committee, will review the request but are not obligated to launch a probe simply because the request was made.

Five Democrats are competing for the party’s nomination to challenge Gianforte in November’s election. Keenan shrugged off any suggestion that the complaints are a campaign stunt.

“He continues to not tell the truth. It’s fundamentally about honesty,” she said.

Witnesses told investigators that Gianforte threw Jacobs to the ground and punched him after complaining earlier in the day about “duplicitous” campaign coverage by the Guardian and BuzzFeed News, according to police documents.

Gianforte told investigators that Jacobs grabbed his wrist and spun, pulling Gianforte on the ground on top of him. Scanlon’s statement also said Jacobs grabbed Gianforte by the wrist.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert declined to file any additional state criminal charges related to Gianforte’s initial statements.

Gianforte paid a fine, completed 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of counseling for anger of management.

He also apologized to Jacobs and donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists under a settlement with the reporter to avoid a civil lawsuit.

Maine is edging closer to a public campaign financing crisis

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where concern is growing that the Maine Clean Election Fund won’t be able to make payments to legislative and gubernatorial candidates — or even pay the Maine Ethics Commission’s rent — after July 1, even though there is enough funding.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said Wednesday that there’s a “really serious problem” that “amounts to changing the rules of the game in the middle of an election.”

At issue is one of the dozens of bills left unfinished last month when House Republicans in the Legislature voted to adjourn instead of extend the session to complete unfinished work. The bill in question would clarify or correct a number of errors and inconsistencies in Maine’s laws, including one involving the state’s public campaign financing program that results from an amendment to last year’s state biennial budget bill.

The amendment was meant to help, by changing the schedule of payments from the state’s General Fund to the Maine Clean Election Fund so there would be enough money to cover all of the publicly financed campaigns this year. Instead, it mistakenly included language that bars the commission from paying for anything at all from the fund after July 1, including payments to candidates and overhead expenses such as rent and reimbursements for services from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

“The Legislature merely needs to authorize the commission to spend the cash that is currently in the fund,” wrote Wayne in a memo to commissioners. Wayne said the problem could be fixed by the passage of the bill or “partially addressed by a financial order signed by the governor.” Gov. Paul LePage’s office did not respond to a question from the BDN Wednesday about whether the governor intends to do that.

This issue threatens to seriously reduce how much funding clean election candidates receive for the November election. Initial general election payments are scheduled to be made next month — $5,075 for House candidates, $20,275 for Senate candidates and $600,000 for gubernatorial candidates — but those candidates are eligible for additional payments through October if they can collect enough qualifying contributions.

The biggest impacts would be in the governor’s race. Three candidates are potentially counting on the funding: Republican Garrett Mason and Democrat Betsy Sweet if they win their party’s primaries, and independent Terry Hayes. Mason and Sweet, because they receive additional money for their primary campaigns, could net up to a total of $2.7 million by October.

“To deprive them of sufficient campaign funding to deliver their campaign messages to voters would be fundamentally unfair,” said Wayne.

Candidates have been warned. The ethics commission sent a letter to all of them on Wednesday that they’d receive their initial general election funding in mid-June but that additional payments are at risk.

“The best solution for this problem is for the Legislature to hold a special session and fix this legislatively,” Wayne wrote. “If you would like to encourage a legislative fix, please feel free to contact legislative leadership or the staff of the caucuses.”

Arguments coming today in LePage Medicaid suit

Attorneys for Medicaid expansion advocates and the state will offer oral arguments today. Expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act was passed by Maine voters last year, but the Republican governor hasn’t implemented it and advocates sued him over it in April after the administration blew a deadline to get a plan to the federal government.

The LePage administration’s legal team has countered by arguing that he doesn’t have the authority to implement a law that the Legislature hasn’t funded. The two sides will argue the case before a state court judge in Portland at 10 a.m. today.

Reading list
  • Diane Russell is facing new questions about her campaign finance filings. Staff for the Maine Ethics Commission have recommended that the former state representative, who is running for governor as a Democrat, be found in violation of rules that require candidates to be specific about the reason for certain expenditures and to disclose when they make payments to people who live with them. Russell, who made more than $12,000 in payments to a campaign staffer for whom she provided a room, said the violations were oversights she is working to correct. No fine is being considered by the commission.
  • Maine Republicans argued their legal case to be left out of ranked-choice voting on Wednesday. Lawyers for the party told a judge in U.S. District Court that using the new voting method would violate their constitutional rights to free association. A decision is expected early next week.
  • Maine’s elver season ended this morning amid claims of illegal sales. The fishery was shut down two weeks early at 6 a.m. today by the Maine Department of Marine Resources because of illegal sales where buyers are paying substantially less for the tiny eels on the black market. In March, the price per pound for legal elvers was at a record high of more than $2,700 a pound. As of Wednesday, approximately 9,060 pounds of Maine’s 9,688-pound quota had already been harvested.
  • Isleboro residents are suing the state over ferry service fare hikes. The island residents are suing over a doubling of the cost ot tickets to and from the mainland. The suit filed Wednesday in Kennebec County Superior Court argues that the fee hikes mean “many long-term residents and businesses can no longer afford to live or do business on Isleboro.” Under the new rates, an adult from Isleboro who crosses with a car will see a cost increase from $13.75 to $30.
Young ears hear everything

I was driving my boys to school this week when I heard the 7-year-old in the back seat saying to himself “Yanny, Laurel. Yanny. Laurel.”

In case you’ve been under a rock, one of the internet’s recent viral sensations is that we all hear differently and that played the same sound, some of us hear one name and others hear the other, depending on your ears. It’s sort of like that dress that everyone was fighting over the color of in 2015.  

“Why are you saying that?” I asked my boy. He was stretching out the words and forcing the pronunciations.

“Because everyone says those words sound different to everyone else. I can hear both, see? Yyyyannnnny. Laaauuuurrel.”

Well, that’s settled. Here’s your soundtrack.Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at ccousins@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@bangordailynews.com.

White House adviser Jared Kushner granted security clearance

Press Herald Politics -

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been granted a security clearance after a lengthy background check, a move that ensures the key White House adviser with a broad international portfolio can have access to some of the country’s most closely held secrets.

Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser on the Middle East and other issues, was among many White House advisers who had been operating without approval for full security clearances. That led to a White House policy overhaul in February that significantly downgraded access to sensitive information for Kushner and other administration officials on interim clearances.

“With respect to the news about his permanent security clearance, as we stated before, his application was properly submitted, reviewed by career officials, and went through the normal process,” Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement.

In addition, Kushner was interviewed for a second time last month by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“In each occasion, he answered all questions asked and did whatever he could to expedite the conclusion of all the investigation,” Lowell said.

The first interview occurred last fall and the questions were limited to former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who subsequently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and began cooperating with Mueller.

The second interview occurred in April and concerned potential influence by foreign governments, including Russia, and the firing of former FBI director James Comey, among other topics, Lowell said on CNN. The interview did not deal with Kushner’s finances or his companies, Lowell said.

Kushner was with Trump in New Jersey the weekend before Comey was fired, and he was among the attendees at a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer at which the president’s oldest son was told he would negative information about Hillary Clinton.

Kushner – the point of contact for foreign officials during the campaign and transition – was also alluded to, though not by name, in Flynn’s guilty plea as a transition team official who encouraged Flynn to contact foreign government officials, about a U.N. Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements.

FBI background checks for security clearances routinely examine an applicant’s financial holdings and foreign contacts. The delay in Kushner’s case was caused by a backlog in the new administration and Kushner’s extensive financial wealth, which required lengthy review, Lowell said.

He said Kushner’s clearance was decided by career officials in the intelligence community and the FBI. “It happened the way it happens for thousands of people,” Lowell said, noting, “There was nobody in the political process that had anything to do with it.”

As the application process was pending, Kushner’s “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” access was downgraded in February when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly ordered that officials with interim clearances be cut off if they hadn’t received permanent clearances. That meant Kushner was able to see information only at the lower “secret” level, but not highly classified information.

Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who specializes in security clearances, said that though it’s hard to say with certainty whether Kushner’s clearance means he’s not facing legal jeopardy from Mueller, “At least looking at the facts as we know them today, it leads me to believe he is no longer in the crosshairs.”

Judge will rule next week on Maine Republican Party challenge to ranked-choice voting

Press Herald Politics -

A federal judge said he will decide early next week whether the Republican primary on June 12 will be held under ranked-choice or traditional, plurality voting rules.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon Levy didn’t hint Wednesday at which way he is leaning on the Maine Republican Party’s lawsuit to allow it to continue selecting its candidates by plurality – the candidate with the most votes wins even with less than 50 percent of the votes cast.

Joshua Dunlap, the party’s lawyer, told Levy during a 45-minute hearing Wednesday that using ranked-choice voting might influence who wins the party’s gubernatorial nomination. He also said delegates at the state Republican Convention this month were unanimous in their opposition to ranked-choice voting and authorized him to file suit, which has led to a request for a preliminary injunction in time for the primary.

In the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has won more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until a candidate has a clear majority – more than 50 percent – and is declared the winner.

Ranked-choice voting was adopted by state voters in 2016.

With the primary less than three weeks away, the two sides have traded legal briefs at a much faster-than-normal pace.

Dunlap said the party should be free to choose its nominees as it always has. A different method could lead to a different party standard-bearer, he said, and a different message for the party to carry into the general election campaign.

“This is about changing the party’s candidate,” he told Levy, and violates a constitutional right to freely associate.

But Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardner said conducting a primary in which voters from the two political parties operate under different sets of rules would lead to “chaos.”

She also said Levy should consider that the law was adopted by voters, although she acknowledged that laws adopted by referendum can still be judged unconstitutional.

Barring an injunction, four races on June 12 would operate under ranked-choice voting: the Democratic and Republican races for gubernatorial nominations, a Republican primary for a state House seat and the race for the Democratic congressional nomination in the 2nd Congressional District

Levy said he will issue a written ruling.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

Ethics staff: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Russell broke campaign finance rules

Press Herald Politics -

Democratic candidate for governor Diane Russell faces sanctions from the Maine Ethics Commission after its staff found she violated campaign finance reporting law by failing to explain how she spent some of her campaign funds.

The allegation marks the third time in three years the former Portland lawmaker has been charged with campaign finance violations in the course of raising money or running for state office.

In a four-page complaint dated May 18, staff found that Russell didn’t provide enough detail on many expenditures. Generally Russell just reported “travel” or “meals” for her spending, instead of providing more specific information such as “travel to campaign event,” or “food for volunteers.”

In another concern, Russell reported paying a campaign worker $12,368 and listed his address, but failed to disclose that he was living in her house. Finance law requires candidates to note if there is any payee who is a member of their household.

Russell said in an interview Wednesday that she hired a compliance team to make sure her forms were correct, so she was “surprised when (the commission) came back with so many questions.” As for the campaign worker disclosure, Russell said she didn’t realize she had to report that he was living in a spare room in her house rent-free while working on the campaign.

“At the end of the day, it’s my fault, it’s my issue and I take full responsibility for it,” said Russell.

Russell was asked to amend the January 2018 semiannual campaign finance report, and although she requested and got an extension to file the amended report, she never filed it, commission staff said in a memo to the commission for their upcoming meeting. Russell acknowledged failing to file the amended report: “Honestly, I got busy with the campaign.”

The commission will consider the Russell matter at their May 30 meeting in Augusta.

In Russell’s May 2nd filing of her 42-day pre-primary campaign finance report, the descriptions were sometimes snarky and longer – but commission staff still said many of them still failed to include an adequate description of the expense and how it related to Russell’s campaign.

For a $12.17 expense for McDonalds, for example, the description read “Food is a generous term.” A $107.20 expense at UPS said it was “for mailing things.” A $90 Time Warner Cable bill said it was for “a vast series of tubes” and $135 expense for Verizon Wireless said “Can you hear me now? Oh wait, it’s Maine.”

In their report to the commission, the staff wrote dryly: “Some of the entries contain commentary that do not describe the goods or services purchased.”

Russell said she filled the May report herself and conceded, “Yeah, I was totally sarcastic in some of it,” adding that the system is cumbersome and takes hours to fill out.

“Here’s the thing, you have to explain every single expense, every single time, when it’s the exact same thing,” she said. “We’re traveling the state and of course we stop and eat. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to understand that.”

Staff recommended that the commission find Russell violated campaign reporting law, but “we do not recommend financial penalties for these violations, because the Election Law does not prescribe financial penalties for these types of violations.”

Maine election law does not restrict how candidates spend their campaign contributions prior to an election, the staff wrote.

In 2016, Russell was fined $500 by the ethics panel, for failing to report an email list her campaign used to raise nearly $90,000 for her unsuccessful Senate bid in 2015. They rejected a second complaint that Russell used her political action committee to benefit herself.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

Twitter: noelinmaine

Beyond guns, we must look at rotten core of society to reduce violence

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

I’ve authored more than my share of columns on the issue of gun violence, usually written in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy perpetrated by a deranged individual who inflicted massive harm on a large group of people.

Obviously, America once again had to face the ugly reality of gun violence when, last Friday, Dimitrios Pagourtzis slaughtered 10 people, mostly students at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

People embrace during a prayer vigil following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18. (Stuart Villanueva The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

In this case, though, rather than talk about the wisdom or lack thereof inherent in certain gun control proposals, I wonder if it isn’t time that we backed away from that argument for just a moment (don’t worry, you can get back to arguing over it soon enough), and ask some larger questions about the state of our society, and how it has changed over time.

Let’s start out with a couple facts about this country, four or five decades ago, that are unquestionably true.

The first fact is that gun laws used to be less stringent in the United States than they are today. Significantly so.

There is also no question that bullying in school is taken far more seriously today than it was even 10 or 20 years ago. In the past, bullying was often seen as simply part of growing up, and children were advised to deal with it by “growing up” or “fighting back.”

So why, then, were there not massive, spectacular examples of execution style shootings at schools in the past at the rate we see today?

It is an important question, because it may in fact be the core issue that must be solved in this country.

Now, I don’t think there is one single answer. However, a few things seem very likely.

The first issue is, I hate to say it, technology.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but technology is destroying the very fabric of social relationships, turning them into phony, oftentimes disconnected and anonymous shells of real human interaction. Today, you can hide behind a series of screens, texting and messaging without even seeing a face or hearing a voice.

This, rather ironically, disconnects us from each other. It makes social interactions cheap and easy, taking work, effort and most importantly risk out of the equation. This social disconnect and disassociation has created people — not just kids but also adults — who lack empathy, are distant from reality, and often lack the ability to even function in face-to-face social settings.

And then there is the issue of parenting. There is little denying that the American family has changed significantly over the course of decades, and has broken down in many ways. Today, it is far more likely that kids will grow up with only one role model, often in a dysfunctional environment, with less money, and the one parent they have less available because they are supporting the child by themselves. That makes it really hard to catch signs that something is wrong, or teach critical life lessons.

And the parenting that kids do get has been an unmitigated disaster recently, as is so cliche to complain about. From everyone getting a trophy to safe spaces, parenting has increasingly created an expectation of success without merit, setting children up for misery later in life as they are unable to cope with failure and rejection.

Beyond all these more cultural issues, we also have the over saturation of mass media, which in my mind has dramatically increased the awareness of these types of violent mass killing incidents. This has set up a perverse reward in the way of coverage for these types of attacks. If you do something like this, you now know you’ll be famous.

And then there is the question of how we treat mental health services in this country. We have deinstitutionalized those with mental illness. We have handed out mind-altering psychological drugs like candy to treat everything from depression to attention issues.

In short, we keep the truly mentally ill virtually unmonitored out in the world, and we seek to dull the effects of psychological problems with pills — pills that have tremendous side effects — rather than attempting to solve the core reasons for those problems. Once again, this fails to develop coping skills, and hides major problems that seem to increasingly explode into violence.

In total, we are left with a modern society that is strung too tightly, that is repeatedly experiencing what happens when the stress becomes too great and all of these factors conspire together to create a tragedy.

So sure, we can keep debating guns. But maybe we should also ask ourselves if we are really okay with our society looking like it does today.

Hear Maine’s governor candidates talk anything but politics

Press Herald Politics -

Adam Cote: ‘I was constantly petrified that something I did or didn’t do would have somebody get killed.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, businessman Adam Cote talks about his military service and adjusting to life in Sanford after tours of duty abroad.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzCoteOfficial_mixdown_Mono.mp3 Related Hear all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

 

 

Garrett Mason: ‘The last text message my mom sent me said she was so proud of me.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, state Sen. Garrett Mason talks about his deep bond with his mother, who used to give him a hug every day they worked together in the State House.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzMason_Final-1.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Shawn Moody: ‘We had hard times financially, but it was never hurtful. There was unconditional love.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, businessman Shawn Moody talks about building his business from humble beginnings in Gorham.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzMoodyOfficial_mixdown_Mono.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Diane Russell: ‘I’m a country girl.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, former state Rep. Diane Russell talks about roots in Bryant Pond, learning to shoot guns and her tight-knit family.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzRussell_mixdown.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Ken Fredette: ‘After watching Sept. 11, I couldn’t just sit.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, state Rep. Ken Fredette talks about growing up in northern Maine and his history of public service.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzFredette_GOODmixdown.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Janet Mills, ‘I was a bit of a rebel.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, Attorney General Janet Mills talks about her well-known family and her iconoclastic spirit.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzMills_mixdown.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Betsy Sweet: ‘Starting at 13, I had to work.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, lobbyist Betsy Sweet talks about growing her summers on North Haven and her love of the state of Maine.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzSweetOfficial_mixdown_Mono.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Mark Dion: ‘There was thoughts that I would go into seminary. So I did the best I could. I became a cop instead.’

Press Herald Politics -

State Sen. Mark Dion, a Portland Democrat, is running for governor. (Photo provided)

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, former Cumberland County sheriff and current state Rep. Mark Dion talks about growing up in Lewiston and how he remembers it differently from Gov. Paul LePage.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/MarkDionNemitz_mixdown.mp3 Related Listen to all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Donna Dion: ‘I was always a fixer.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, businessman Donna Dion talks about her long history in the politics and history of Biddeford.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/OfficialNemitzDion_Mono.mp3 Related Hear all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Mark Eves: ‘My parents raised me in a way that led toward wanting to help people.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, state Rep. Mark Eves talks about growing up the son of a military chaplain.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/NemitzMarkEves_mixdown.mp3 Related Hear all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

Mary Mayhew: ‘I would fall asleep at night listening to the woolen mill right next door.’

Press Herald Politics -

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, former DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew talks about growing up in Pittsfield and her love of gardening.

https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/Mayhew_mixdown_Mono.mp3 Related Hear all of Bill Nemitz’s podcasts with the candidates for governor

How ranked-choice voting is changing Maine campaign strategy

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta. Three Democrats are openly collaborating against Attorney General Janet Mills in the seven-way race for their party’s gubernatorial nomination and a Republican in the race wants to go it alone with the new ranked-choice voting system.

These are just two of the examples of how Maine’s pioneering voting system may be leading to changes in the way that some candidates campaign. Hanging over it all — for the moment — is a lawsuit from Republicans looking to stop it, which will be argued today.

What has been clear is indeed true: Other Democrats are trying to bring Mills down. At the Maine Democratic Party’s convention in Lewiston on Saturday, former House Speaker Mark Eves, attorney Adam Cote, lobbyist Betsy Sweet and state Sen. Mark Dion never mentioned Mills’ name, but they made similar attacks on her after a Bangor Daily News poll released in early May put Mills — the only candidate who has held statewide office — well ahead.

On Tuesday, Eves spokesman Will Ikard said the Eves, Cote and Sweet campaigns “have been talking about how we can, together, get the record out there” on Mills. Cote spokeswoman Monica Castellanos said the three campaigns “were ready” to do a joint event last week, but convention preparation stopped it. Michael Ambler, Mills’ campaign manager, said Eves is embracing “same brand of divisive, negative political tactics” as Gov. Paul LePage.

One of the main attacks on Mills has been her A+ rating from the National Rifle Association as a legislator, though she has endorsed several gun control measures. The three candidates were at a weekend event hosted by an offshoot of Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun control group that approved of their stances on the issues and Mills was a topic of discussion.

Castellanos said ranked-choice voting strategy hasn’t come up between the candidates. But Eves has said that Sweet will be his second choice in the race and that Cote will be his third choice.

This coalition could be powerful. Cote led the field in fundraising as of late April. Sweet has qualified for $600,000 in Clean Election funding. Eves had only $87,000 at that point and probably less now — likely not enough for a TV blitz, but he was in second place in the BDN poll.

One Republican wants her supporters to vote for her and nobody else. Former Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew sent an email to supporters earlier this week saying they should rank her first and not rank any other candidate in an attempt to sort of hack the system that she and most high-profile Republicans oppose.

It may be more of a statement against the voting method than anything else. Mayhew spokesman Zach Lingley said the candidate is on the record against the method for “constitutional and practical reasons.”

But the Center for Election Science, a skeptic of the method, explains in a video that ranking a first-choice candidate could help your least favorite candidate in some scenarios. If that was true for Mayhew, supporters ranking her first wouldn’t have a say in later, perhaps deciding rounds. Also, Mayhew’s strategy won’t penetrate all of her voters.

Not all Republicans are buying into game theory, with Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, saying, “Just vote for me.”

“I’m not interested in telling my voters how to vote,” he said. “I think they can figure that out on their own.

Republicans will be in court today trying to toss ranked-choice voting for the June 12 primary. Attorneys for the Maine Republican Party and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap will go before a federal judge in Portland at 2 p.m. today in the party’s lawsuit against the state looking to throw out the voting method for the primary on 1st Amendment grounds. Dunlap’s attorneys have called it “disruptive.” Watch bangordailynews.com for coverage later today.

‘Senior Safe Act’ passes House and Senate

A bill to protect senior citizens from financial fraud is headed to President Donald Trump. The bill, authored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in the Senate, among others, and forwarded by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the House, passed Tuesday in the House after being previously forwarded out of the Senate in March. The bill would help financial institutions train their employees to spot and prevent financial abuse of elder Americans, which happens to the tune of nearly $3 billion annually. The bill also encourages reporting and would implement legal protections for institutions that do.

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  • A former legislative leader who sparred often with LePage thinks he could restore civility if elected as Maine’s next governor. Eves said that treating people with civility improves the likelihood that difficult negotiations can end successfully for all parties. He also argues that being a “nice guy” should not be equated with being a pushover. Eves remains embroiled in a legal battle with LePage, who threatened to withhold state funding to a public charter school in Fairfield if it did not fire Eves, the school’s newly hired leader. Unlike Mills, who has touted her spats with LePage on the campaign trail, Eves has downplayed his conflicts with the Republican governor, focusing on his ideological differences with the incumbent on issues such as gun control and Medicaid expansion.
  • It could be tough to be a doe during the next hunting season. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s advisory council is considering a plan to issue the highest number of any-deer permits in Maine history. Biologists have recommended issuing 84,745 permits — which is about 8,000 more than the current record of about 77,000 in 2002. The proposal must go through a multistep rulemaking process before being adopted.
  • There will be a new leader at the University of Maine at Farmington. Provost Eric Brown will serve as acting president on the Franklin County school’s campus during the upcoming academic year as university system trustees conduct a search for a successor to Kate Foster, who is leaving Farmington for a job in her home state of New Jersey. Brown has been a member of the university’s English Department since 2003. He became provost in 2016.
  • Art won a victory over bureaucracy in a tunnel under Route 1. The Maine Department of Transportation originally told Woolwich officials that they had to halt a Woolwich Central School art project that involved students painting over graffiti in a pedestrian tunnel under the busy highway. They said the students’ art would make it harder to gauge structural damage and see cracks in the wall of the tunnel. But on Tuesday, MDOT reversed its decision and the student artists can move forward with their mural. At present, the plan for the mural is for a tree with children’s handprints as leaves. We humbly suggest a minor variation of that theme in which trompe l’oeil images of noted Woolwich resident Christopher Cousins in Tarzan garb be inserted among the branches.
We’re going out of style

The Social Security Administration recently released its list of the most popular names for babies born in 2017. Nationally, the top names were Liam and Emma. In Maine, the most popular names were Oliver and Charlotte.

You can check out the top 100 baby names in Maine here. It’s telling that Maine had so few babies born in 2017 that the 100th most common name for girls only went to 11 babies. And it was actually a nine-way tie. The best baby name of 2017, Wilder, did not even make the list.

However, the most troubling aspect of the list for those of us at Daily Brief is the alarming absence of Robert and Christopher. Michael, which for decades ranked in the top 10 nationally, tied for the 25th spot in Maine. As if our Maine native colleague did not already have enough to lord over us.

Come on, Maine parents. You mean Jackson, Jaxon and Jaxson are all better than Robert or Chris? How are future teachers going to tell them apart?

It’s not too late in 2018 to show some imagination or respect for the classic names like Robert and Chris, although I suppose Jaxon, Jackson and Jaxson are better than George Foreman, who named all five of his sons George. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at ccousins@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@bangordailynews.com.

Women get milestone wins in Georgia, Texas Democratic primaries

Press Herald Politics -

Women recorded milestone firsts in Democratic primaries for governor in Georgia and Texas on Tuesday, as other female candidates were victorious in multiple contests to run for the U.S. House in November.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams became the first black woman to win a major party nomination for governor, running on a platform that focused on economic fairness and mobility, overhauling the criminal justice system, and LGBTQ rights.

Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams on election night after Tuesday’s primary. Associated Press/John Bazemore

Texas Democrats nominated former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez as their candidate for governor, making her the first Latina and the first openly gay candidate selected for the office by a major party in the state.

Both women face difficult general election races in November in states where Republicans dominate top offices. Abrams will face either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp who advanced to a July runoff for the Republican nomination. Valdez will be running against incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

They are among a record number of women seeking office in 2018, from governorships to the House and Senate. Almost three-fourths of the women running are Democrats, and they’re a central element of the party’s strategy for regaining control of the House. With Tuesday’s runoff in Texas, 18 of the Democratic candidates for 36 House districts are women.

Primaries also were held on Tuesday in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Abrams, the former Democratic leader in the state House, got 76 percent of the vote in her victory over Stacey Evans, also a former member of the legislature.

The Georgia governor’s race will be closely watched, both as a sign of whether a black woman can win a governorship in the Deep South, and whether Democrats can seize on changing demographics in Georgia to make the traditionally Republican-leaning state competitive.

“Tonight, communities that are so often overlooked — whose values are never voiced — stood with us to say: Ours is the Georgia of tomorrow,” Abrams said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night. “The road to November will be long and tough, but the next step is one we take together.”

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey congratulated her in a Twitter post and encouraged his four million followers to donate to her campaign.

Tharon Johnson, a Democratic political consultant based in Atlanta said the formula for an Abrams victory would be registering new voters and generating “massive turnout” from a liberal base in Atlanta as well as appealing to independent voters and women who are disillusioned with President Donald Trump.

“She’d be not only first woman, but the first black woman and the first liberal” to become governor of Georgia, Johnson said.

Reaching that goal will be a major challenge. While demographic changes have made Georgia less solidly Republican than other Southern states — Trump won there by 5 points in 2016 — the GOP still dominates in state offices.

Valdez defeated Andrew White, the son of former Texas governor Mark White.

“Together we’re going to make it happen — a stronger and fairer Texas,” Valdez said in her victory speech, broadcast by NBC 5 DFW. “A tolerant and diverse Texas. A Texas where the everyday person has a voice and a fair shot just as I did.”

Another closely watched contest was the Democratic primary in a competitive Houston-area district to take on incumbent Republican Rep. John Culberson.

In that bitterly fought race, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a lawyer, decisively defeated Laura Moser, a progressive activist, for the nomination to face Culberson in November.

The race had become a proxy war between the Democratic establishment and the party’s insurgent left. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily’s List, which aids Democratic women who support abortion rights, backed Fletcher. The DCCC in February took the unusual step of publicly releasing an anti-Moser memo that described her as a “Washington insider, who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress.”

But that galvanized liberals in the primary and Moser made the runoff. She earned the support of Our Revolution, a spinoff of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

“Lizzie won her competitive primary by talking straight to voters in Houston about the issues that actually matter to their economic security, health and children’s future. Lizzie is in a very strong position for the general election,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan said in a statement.

In another Democratic contest for a Texas House race, Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran backed by Emily’s List, defeated Rick Trevino, a teacher also aligned with the views of Sanders.

Ortiz Jones would be the first openly lesbian and Filipina-American to represent Texas. She will face Republican Representative Will Hurd in a Hispanic-majority and politically competitive district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and includes hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Kentucky, Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, won in an upset over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in a Democratic primary for a House district that includes Lexington and Frankfort. She’ll face Republican Rep. Andy Barr in November.

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