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Maine Democrats apologize for doctored photo of Air Force veteran in attack mailer

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine Democratic Party is apologizing to a Republican House candidate for a mailer in which “U.S. Air Force Veteran” was removed from the candidate’s hat with photo editing tools.

First-term Republican Rep. Brian Hobart of Bowdoinham is running for re-election against Democrat Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, who formerly held the seat before being term-limited out of office in 2014.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett apologized for the mailer Wednesday in a tweet that responded to the Maine College Republicans, who called the photoshopped mailer “absolutely despicable.”

“We were unaware that image was photoshopped,” tweeted Bartlett. “I apologize and agree this is unacceptable.”

Here’s the tweet exchange, which includes before and after photos of the altered hat:

#mepolitics https://t.co/3CWQNYETc8

— Maine GOP (@mainegop) October 20, 2016

Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Katie Baker said that though the mailer, prepared by a vendor, was approved by party officials, they hadn’t seen the original photo.

“The editing of the photo was disrespectful and we apologize to Mr. Hobart and all Maine veterans,” she wrote in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News.

The only independent expenditure against Hobart was about $1,200 on Oct. 9 by the Maine Democratic Party, according to Maine Ethics Commission campaign finance data.

“Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for airbrushing out the Air Force Veteran logo on Rep. Brian Hobart’s hat,” said Maine Republican Party spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin. “The simple fact that they gave no thought to this in their attack on Rep. Hobart exposes a disturbing lack of respect for his service and the service of tens of thousands of Maine people.”

Hobart said the mailer was first shown to him Wednesday afternoon by a neighbor.

“I saw it right away because I recognized the picture. They must have taken it off my Facebook,” said Hobart, a non-combat veteran who served for four years as a crash rescue fireman during the Vietnam War era. “It really hurt. I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t believe they had done that.”

Hobart said Bartlett called him this morning to apologize, which Hobart said he accepted.

“It makes a big difference that they manned up and called me,” said Hobart. “I take my veteran’s status very seriously.”

Here’s Brian’s soundtrack.

According to campaign finance reports, the vendor in question is CD2 Consulting.  — Christopher Cousins

Who won the presidential debate? It depends on who you ask.

A CNN/ORC poll of of 547 registered voters after last night’s final presidential debate found that voters reacted more favorably to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s performance over Republican Donald Trump by a 13-point margin.

The same poll found Clinton victorious in the previous two debates as well, though Wednesday’s was closer. Clinton garnered 52 percent of the respondents’ votes last night, compared with 62 percent after the first debate and 57 percent after the second.

An AOL News flash poll released at 1 a.m. today showed the opposite result. Approximately 57 percent of participants in that poll chose Trump. The tracking poll found Clinton leading early in the debate but favorability for Trump surged as he began to unload barbs at Clinton.

What’s the moral of this story? Watch the debate instead of reading the polls and decide for yourself. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • New ad blitz: The Stand Up For Students campaign, which is advocating in favor of Question 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot, has released a new television ad statewide that focuses on what it called the unfairness of Maine’s income tax code. You can view the ad by clicking here. Question 2 seeks to place a 3 percent surtax on income above $200,000 and earmark the revenue — estimated to be some $157 million a year — for public schools. Opponents have argued that the higher tax rate would drive entrepreneurs and physicians away from the state. They also say that state government’s fiscal management system would make it impossible to guarantee that the added revenue would make it to classrooms.
  • Examining out-of-state money in campaign: The Maine Ethics Commission is convening today in Augusta with a single item on its agenda: A request by the Maine Republican Party that the commission investigate a California-based organization that has funnelled $50,000 to the Maine-based Progressive Maine PAC in favor of Democratic Maine Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford. The PAC intends the money to be used to organize canvassers for Fulford and two of Maine’s 2016 ballot initiatives.
  • Trump’s autograph: The Maine Republican Party is raffling off 5 campaign signs signed by Donald Trump and two signed copies of the book “The Conservative Case for Trump.” You can enter the raffle for $3 a ticket with a 25-ticket-per-person limit. If you want to do that, click here.
Reading list One last follow-up on potatoes

If you’re a regular reader of the Daily Brief you’ve read about how confusing it can be for a western Maine boy to purchase 10 pounds of new potatoes in Aroostook County.

On Tuesday I complained here in the Daily Brief that after making an agonizing choice to buy some new russets, I got home and noticed the bag said they were packaged in Avon, Mass. That triggered another response from a Maine Potato Board representative, with whom I am becoming a pen pal. He had good news: The potatoes I bought and ate with my family (they were delicious) were indeed harvested in The County.

Northeast Packaging in Presque Isle prints potato bags for farms all over the northeast. Maine farmers, mostly the small-scale ones, buy some of the bags that were misprinted or surplus.

“You definitely purchased 10 pounds of new russets grown and packaged in Aroostook, not hauled to Avon, Mass., to be hauled back to the county for sale.”

Now there’s some good news. — Christopher Cousins

How a lesson on supply and demand for pizza led to a cesspool of awfulness

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

I must say, I’ll be glad when this election is over.

Has the election — and politics in general — infected your daily life to such a degree that you feel like giving up? Have you lost friends? Has your annual spending on antacids tripled? Have you found yourself unable to even watch the evening news? Does politics engulf you, like some kind of trauma victim experiencing PTSD, in a profound sense of dread?

The answer for a lot of us is yes.

Let me tell you a little story to demonstrate just how insane politics has made people this year.

Last Friday, my nine-year-old son’s school held an “activity night,” sponsored by the soccer team, to give kids a chance to get together and hang out with their friends, and give their parents a chance to have a couple hours to themselves. A genuinely nice concept, and so off to the activity night my son went.

As I dropped him off, I gave him a $10 bill, and told him he could use it to buy slices of pizza for dinner, which were being sold for a dollar a piece. I assumed he would spend three or four dollars and I’d get the remaining cash back.

When I arrived to pick him up, I learned something interesting about my son.

Jim Young | Reuters

There he was, laughing with some friends like any kid his age, having a good time. Yet I noticed he was holding an empty pizza box.

“Wow, did you buy an entire pizza?” I asked.

“Yes I did,” he replied.

“So I guess I’m not getting my cash back, then?” I shot back, giving him a hard time.

“No, you are. I actually have $15.50 now.”

Puzzled, I asked him how that was possible. The whole pizza cost him $8, and I had given him $10, so there should be no universe in which he has that much money.

And so he described to me what happened. Apparently, he bought one of the last pizzas available, then consumed three of the eight slices. Soon, it became apparent that the people running the activity night were out of pizza, and other kids were hungry.

My son, apparently, recognized the market demand for pizza. Hungry kids started coming to him, and he started selling them slices.

Realizing the relative value of his product, he upped the price and sold the remaining five slices for a profit, eventually pulling in more than $13 for what he had left.

Now, my son is one of the nicest, friendliest, least greedy kids you will ever meet. If anyone had walked up to him and said, “I’m very hungry, but I don’t have any money,” he would have almost certainly given them a slice. But as it happens, everyone he talked to made a determination of what the relative value of pizza was, and a transaction was made.

And so I felt a great swell of pride that my son, even at a basic level, understood economics. As we drove home, he and I talked about the supply and demand of pizza, and why prices change as each fluctuates. He was genuinely interested, and learned a lot that night.

So, at home, I posted about the experience on social media. I thought it was a neat story to relay about how a kid could learn without any prompting about macroeconomic concepts from something as silly as pizza at a school function.

And that’s when it happened.

The comment section of my post, while mostly positive, got darkly political, and fast. One commenter accused my son — entirely seriously — of price gouging, and chastised me for “celebrating it.”

There was a crack about the minimum wage, and how he didn’t earn it despite his hard work.

And to top it off, in a comment I have since deleted, one person accused my son of being a “greedy little kid” who lacked compassion and was willing to rip off people and take their money. He also launched into a diatribe about how I should punish him for not giving his pizza away.

I realize that comment sections on the internet are a cesspool of awfulness, but enough already.

If we are so political, and the other side makes us so angry and full of vitriol that we find it appropriate to behave like this, then something is fundamentally broken in our culture.

Where the Maine race stands ahead of Trump and Clinton’s last debate

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re preparing for the third and final presidential debate tonight between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

It’s being seen as a crucial moment for Trump, who has fallen nearly seven points behind Clinton in the latest Real Clear Politics polling average amid a rash of sexual misconduct allegations that he said at a Bangor rally on Saturday were part of a “rigged system” against him.

What’s remarkable about this is that it’s far from an ideal time for Clinton, who is dealing with WikiLeaks’ disclosures of purportedly hacked emails detailing Wall Street speeches and internal anxiety about her campaign, a sore subject for a candidate for whom secrecy has long been a major problem.

We just don’t know how this will play out Maine, which has garnered swing-state status in 2016, with Trump visiting the state four times since March in a bid to pick off one of our four Electoral College votes by winning the rural, relatively conservative 2nd Congressional District.

That looked likely through September, when he held a double-digit polling lead in the 2nd District. But that’s up in the air, with the latest poll from the progressive Maine People’s Resource Center finding the 2nd District tied and Clinton up by 8 percentage points statewide buoyed by a large lead in the 1st District.

Their second debate was a nasty one, with Trump vowing to jail Clinton over her email practices as secretary of state. In the third debate, Trump is expected to escalate “attacks on Mrs. Clinton’s character and a focus on her health,” according to The New York Times. So, we’re expecting fireworks.

The BDN will be running a live blog during the debate, and I’ll be watching from the Bangor Daily News’ debate party in Portland, which is now sold out because of the brilliant addition of therapy kittens from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

They will be a reminder that everything will be all right and that there’s less than three weeks until Election Day. — Michael Shepherd

Cushing plans to pay back $3,100 in legislative reimbursements originally paid by PAC

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Newport, said Wednesday that he plans to pay back more than $3,100 in legislative reimbursements for expenses originally paid by his political action committee.

Issues were flagged by the Bangor Daily News last week after a review of legislative travel reimbursements and spending records for Respect Maine, the PAC run by Cushing, who is one of the top Republican fundraisers in Maine and one of the party’s most influential legislators.

The expenses related to Cushing’s 2014 and 2015 trips to Seattle and Minneapolis for meetings of the National Conference of State Legislatures, for which Cushing personally was approved for more than $3,100 in legislative reimbursements.

The problem was that these expenses were paid by Respect Maine, with individual transactions reimbursed to Cushing showing up in the PAC’s records, including hotel, airfare and credit card charges.

Cushing attributed it to a bookkeeper’s error and said his PAC owes him a larger amount of money for mileage to political events. On the recommendation of the Maine Ethics Commission, he said he plans to reconcile the accounts by moving money between his personal account and the PAC.

However, his PAC may come under more scrutiny.

A civil lawsuit filed earlier this month by Cushing’s sister alleged that he misused more than $1 million in family business funds, putting at least $20,000 toward campaigns and an unspecified amount into his PAC. Cushing said the allegations are “without merit.” — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • Do you want dumpster food at your next barbecue? Then invite this “Canadian traveler” who “dumpster dived well over 50 pound of meat, chocolate, fruit, bread and anything you can think of,” but doesn’t have enough friends in Portland to share it with.
  • A signature kind of lust: A petitioner got a signature from a “beautiful redhead teacher” on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. “I was the guy in the leather jacket” he says, “but if you agreed to go out for a coffee or a dinner I’d clean up my look.” Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

After winning two elections, LePage said voting system in Maine is illegitimate

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage has joined Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in calling elections in Maine and the United States illegitimate.

During his weekly Tuesday morning phone chat on WVOM radio, LePage said that as long as Maine doesn’t require voters to provide identification, the system cannot be trusted.

“I am not confident that we are going to have a clean election in Maine,” said LePage in response to a question from the hosts, who introduced it by noting that LePage has won two statewide elections under the same system he now questions. “The Democratic Party insists on not having IDs. Will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes, all around the country. The media and the Democratic Party want everyone to vote, whether they’re citizens or not.”

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap wrote Tuesday morning in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News that voter identification is a “political issue.” In Maine, voters must show identification to register but not to obtain a ballot.

“I can enumerate safeguards that govern the process of conducting elections,” he wrote.

Trump’s claims that the United States election system is flawed or “rigged” against him have been escalating as the candidate’s support in the polls has eroded in recent weeks. Trump addressed the issue Saturday during his visit to Bangor but focused on the media’s coverage of his comments.

“The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president,” said Trump, who was also caught on tape during a private Q&A with Mainers saying the women accusing him of sexual misconduct are liars.   

Republicans in the Maine Legislature have tried several times in recent years, including in 2015, to require voters to provide identification at the polls but those efforts have failed. At least 31 states require some form of photo identification to be presented at the polls, although federal courts have recently issued several rulings against states’ efforts to toughen voter identification rules.

In those cases, judges found no credible evidence of voter fraud. In a ruling that struck down a North Dakota law designed to create new barriers at polling places, a federal judge wrote: “The undisputed evidence before the Court reveals that voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent.”

Past claims by Maine Republicans, notably former party chairman Charlie Webster’s 2012 assertion that “dozens of black people” who were unfamiliar to local election clerks had cast ballots in Maine, have yielded no convictions. A commission impaneled by former Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and led by retired judge John Atwood found no evidence of voter fraud and recommended against stricter voter ID laws in 2012.

As recently as Monday, Dunlap explained why voter fraud on the scale that LePage and Trump suggest would be highly improbable, given the prevalence of paper ballots in Maine and the scrutiny that local officials who are familiar with their localities apply to the process.

But Dunlap is a Democrat, which apparently makes him suspect in LePage’s perception of the electoral process. As he has on other issues, LePage apparently based his suspicions about the integrity of a statewide system that has elected him twice on anecdotes and a guiding but generally unfounded principle that Democrats are “crooked.”

“Maine has a proud history of full access for voters to participate in our elections,” Dunlap wrote Tuesday. “It’s curious that the governor would question the integrity of a system under which he was elected twice.”

Democrats have continued to make the case that voter ID laws provide a solution to problems that don’t exist.

“The majority of us didn’t feel it would be appropriate to place a hurdle in front of someone’s fundamental and constitutional right to vote,” argued Democratic Rep. Louis Luchini of Ellsworth during floor debate in 2015.

Noting that polls increasingly show that Trump support has leveled out at far below 50 percent, some political observers assert that his new emphasis on unproven election fraud constitutes an effort to suppress the vote, creating a path to Electoral College victory.

On a separate topic, LePage trashed the Maine media for what he said was a refusal to cover a story about the Ahram Halal Market in Portland, which is under investigation for welfare fraud that allegedly involved the conversion of food stamp benefits into cash.

“We’ve been trying to work with the Maine media to get it out to the people but they have just refused to do it,” said LePage. “If I didn’t know better I’d say they’re complicit in this fraud.”

LePage said his communications staff have been talking to “reporters in Augusta … for months” about the issue.

To set the record straight: No one has ever approached the Bangor Daily News about this story and my colleague at the Portland Press Herald, Scott Thistle, said the same when we spoke this morning.

More setting the record straight: LePage also complained that he had received no coverage for being named among the most fiscally responsible governors in the country by the Libertarian Cato institute and suggested that it’s because of a media conspiracy against him. Readers of the Daily Brief might remember when we reported that on Oct. 6. A BDN blogger also wrote about it just yesterday. We also reported on Cato’s rankings in 2014, when LePage was ranked third most fiscally responsible governor.

There are more examples — fire up Google if you have doubts — but I think you get the picture. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Money pours into CD2 race: The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is dedicated to protecting the Republican majority in Congress, announced Monday that it is increasing its spending in the 2nd Congressional District by $500,000. That means the group’s total spending in the race between Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain will reach some $1.1 million in the final two weeks of the campaign.
  • Service members’ degrees for free: Earlier this year, the Legislature and Gov. LePage enacted a bill that provided tuition waivers for members of the Maine National Guard at Maine’s public higher-education institutions. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, and Rep. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock — both of whom have served in the National Guard — co-sponsored the bill. According to Fredette’s office 134 Guard member are taking advantage of the program just six months after its creation. The students are spread across Maine’s universities and community college system with the highest number, 54, taking classes at University of Maine at Orono.
  • George Mitchell for Hillary: Former Democratic U.S. Sen. George Mitchell of Maine will stump for Hillary Clinton for president today in Lewiston. Mitchell will appear at 2:30 p.m. at the Franco American Heritage Center at 46 Cedar St. and will work with volunteers at a phone bank beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Democratic Coordinated Campaign Office at 124 Lisbon St.
  • Cluster of senators: Is a group of senators called a flock, or a pride, or a school? I don’t know. Anyway, Maine’s five most recent U.S. senators — William Cohen, George Mitchell, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Angus King — will gather for a discussion of their careers at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on Oct. 28 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The discussion will be moderated by CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood.
Reading list My potato knowledge has improved

On Friday I discussed here in the Daily Brief how terrifying it was trying to buy “new potatoes” during a trip to The County last week.

First, a follow-up on my own idiocy: When I got home with my bag of new russets, I noticed something troubling: They’d been bagged in Avon, Mass., which was supremely disappointing after having spent three days in Maine’s potato country. I will say they were tasty, though. My family and I had them mashed — though in this house we called the Massed Potatoes — with pot roast on Sunday and again last night. That goes against the advice of one Daily Brief reader who insists russets are best baked with “lots of butter and sour cream and sprinkle a little chive or onion bits just for added flavor.”

This tip is appreciated. We saved some spuds to bake later this week.

In one of my prouder moments as a journalist, I also heard from the Maine Potato Board, which among other things cleared up the mystery of what a “new potato” is:

“‘New’ potatoes are available throughout Aroostook County during mid-July through mid-October, with really small ones (1 1/2 inch) being the earliest. People will pay any price for that first five pound bag of new potatoes!  They are available at roadside stands and farmers’ markets.”

The Maine Potato Board, apparently in cahoots with the green bean lobby, suggests cooking the two vegetables together and serving them with cream and butter, which sounds delicious. The board also sent descriptions of Norlands potatoes, russets, Yukon golds and fingerlings. On my next trip to The County, I’ll be prepared. Here’s my soundtrack.

The board said it is mailing me a sample of some Caribou Russets, a new variety of Maine potato that will debut next month at the Maine Harvest Festival in Bangor. I didn’t ask for them but I’ll enjoy them and report back here after I do. — Christopher Cousins



Bashful Republicans like Poliquin should speak out on Trump

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

This year authoritarianism and the future of American politics are on the ballot.

As he proclaims his political opponent would be imprisoned if he were elected, Donald Trump promotes ideas dangerous to democracy. Rally-goers have pushed and punched nonviolent protesters. They chant “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton, journalists and women who report Trump groped them. Trump brushes aside our constitutional commitments to due process.

Linked to these dictatorial desires is the perspective that anyone not supporting one’s candidate is an enemy. Trump has entered into this territory with his claims that Clinton is aligned with forces that wish to destroy the United States.

The Trumpian authoritarian tendency should be appalling to Republicans, who used to declare that their party was defined by a commitment to individual liberty.

Sen. Susan Collins and Gov. Paul LePage come down on different sides but are similar in that neither has been timid about where they stand on Trump.

LePage supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie early on, but then moved to Trump after Christie’s defeat in the Republican primary. Recently, LePage touted Trump’s “authoritative persona,” which would fight the chaos that doesn’t really exist. Ramping up fear is an element of populist authoritarianism.

LePage took a position on political discourse antithetical to our fundamental precepts and laws and in line with Trump’s view of state power and punishment when he stated that several leaders of the Maine People’s Alliance should be imprisoned because they have been working to raise the minimum wage.

Collins spoke out against Trump this summer and announced she will not vote for him. Collins cited Trump’s insults toward a reporter with a disability,  women, and the Khans, a Gold Star family. Trump went after the Khans because Mr. Khan had the temerity to criticize his position on immigration during a speech at the Democratic National Convention and to ask Trump if he had read the U.S. Constitution.

After the release of the 2005 tape in which Trump bragged about his history of sexually assaulting women, Collins reiterated her unwillingness to vote for Trump and responded to LePage’s criticism of her by stating that she will continue to work with him. The tape led other prominent Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to withdraw their support for Trump.

Unlike Collins and LePage, Rep. Bruce Poliquin has been publicly shy to say whether he wants a President Trump. While Poliquin has been supportive of Trump behind closed doors, the congressman will not say whether he will vote for him.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Gabor Degre | BDN

Instead, Poliquin has engaged in a sort of political tap dance by not answering reporters who ask him if he supports Trump or changing the subject. After news broke of Trump’s 2005 tape, Poliquin issued a statement that criticized both Trump and Clinton.

Last week Poliquin refused to say whether he thought Trump “should drop out of the race.” Reporter Mal Leary of Maine Public pressed him, saying, “Congressman, you can’t hide,” but Poliquin simply wouldn’t give his view.

Poliquin said that he’s “not getting involved in any of this media circus.” One citizen remarked, “He’s supposed to answer our questions. . . He didn’t really take it seriously, I guess.”

Our representatives are elected, in part, to exert their judgment. Those assessments don’t just involve legislation and public policy. By openly stating whom they want to hold the highest office in the land candidates disclose values, policy positions and leadership.

In terms of politics, one can appreciate the fine line Poliquin is dancing. He does not want to offend either Trump supporters or Trump opponents.

But Trump is not an ordinary candidate. He tried to delegitimize President Obama and, by claiming the election will be rigged, is attempting to do the same to Hillary Clinton. While over 60 percent of Americans see Trump as unqualified and temperamentally unsuited for the presidency, Trump isn’t going away.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has taken steps to start a Trump television network after the election, suggesting Trump wants to reshape the Republican Party. If these plans get off the ground, Americans will see the advance of an authoritarian, conspiracy-minded, anti-Semitic white supremacist party faction, moving our nation in a dangerous direction.

All Republicans will have to face the Trumpist party bloc eventually. Before voters cast their ballots this November, all candidates should say where they stand on this perilous transformation of American politics.

Poliquin agrees to debate Cain today, but you won’t see it until tomorrow

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Democrat Emily Cain and Republican Bruce Poliquin debate in 2014. (Troy R. Bennett – BDN)

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District has agreed to a third debate in his re-election race with Democrat Emily Cain to be taped on Monday and aired Tuesday on Maine Public.

It was one of the debates that the Republican originally declined when he set his debate schedule in September. Cain, a former state senator from Orono, said then that Poliquin was dodging questions on his record in the nationally targeted race that has seen $11 million in campaign fundraising and outside spending.

But Poliquin spokesman Michael Byerly, said Monday that “we felt it was the right thing to do” to have a debate aired statewide on both TV and radio. The other two debates will be Wednesday on WAGM, a Presque Isle CBS affiliate, and Oct. 26 on WCSH and WLBZ, the Portland and Bangor NBC affiliates.

Today’s debate from Maine Public — the new name of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network — is being taped on Monday. Keith Shortall, Maine Public’s news director, said the current plan is to air it on Tuesday night.

Cain narrows fundraising gap with Poliquin in high-dollar 2nd District race

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where we saw massive, new fundraising figures in the nationally targeted race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District over the weekend. Nearly $11 million has been spent on the rematch between U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, and Democrat Emily Cain.

Cain, a former state senator from Orono, came through with her strongest performance to date, raising $1.1 million between July and September’s end in what her campaign called the highest quarterly total ever for a Maine congressional candidate for a total haul of $2.8 million so far.

Poliquin raised just over $500,000, but he has held a money lead all along and still did as of Sept. 30, raising nearly $3.2 million campaign-long with $638,000 more left in the bank.

But Cain is benefiting from most of the $5 million in outside money in the race so far, with $3 million of that being spent against Poliquin by Democratic groups including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC.

To put things in perspective, only $6.7 million was spent on the Cain-Poliquin race in 2014, which was a record. With more than three weeks to go, this $11 million figure will balloon.

Maine’s other congressional race isn’t moving any cash dials: U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, is coasting toward a virtually certain re-election with $563,000 raised as of September’s end and $544,000 in the bank. Her Republican opponent, Mark Holbrook, raised $84,000 with just $28,238 left. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • You have until 5 p.m. to sign up for our interactive project on ranked-choice voting. Do that and read the fine print here. It’s a rerun of Maine’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races, only this time, you can vote the way you would if Question 5 passes in November. Once you sign up, you’ll get an email with the voting form.
  • Travel guru Rick Steves will be campaigning Monday in support of the marijuana legalization proposal in Question 1 on the November ballot. The PBS host is a donor to legalization efforts in Maine and other states. He’ll have a media availability in Portland from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a 6:30 p.m. lecture at the University of New England’s Portland campus.
  • Solar advocates are set to rally on Monday before a hearing on new rules proposed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The proposal would lower credits for homeowners and small solar generators who sell power to the grid. Opponents of the policy will hold a noon rally and press conference outside the commission’s offices in Hallowell.
  • The LePage administration says it’s cracking down on illegally placed political signs. The governor’s office said the Maine Department of Transportation “will increase enforcement and removal of political signs that do not meet the law” after a rash of complaints.
  • Former Maine gubernatorial candidate Pat Lamarche will be back in Bangor to raise money for Green presidential nominee Jill Stein. The former Bangor radio broadcaster who is now a homeless services advocate in Pennsylvania will headline a potluck and fundraiser on Oct. 25 at the Bangor Grange Hall, according to Stein’s campaign. Lamarche was the party’s gubernatorial candidate in 1998 and 2006 and the vice presidential nominee in 2004.
  • The Libertarian Party of Maine’s chairman called a Republican office’s firebombing in North Carolina “merely an opportunity for smores,” but he said he was “wrong.” Chris Lyons’ Facebook comment was quickly condemned by Republicans and he later made a mea culpa, saying his intent was “never to minimize or down play the true wrong of the lawless actions of one against another.” — Michael Shepherd
Reading list An Internet person thinks I spray-painted the cars at the Trump rally

As you probably know, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s Saturday rally in Bangor was marred by vandalism when approximately 20 cars were sprayed with white paint.

The story is really taking off: My Facebook live video where I talk to victims of the vandalism now has more than 37,000 views alone after circulating in pro-Trump circles after his rally, where he blamed a “rigged system” of media and government officials working against his campaign.

So, the increase in traffic to my Facebook page meant that I took a bit of abuse. If you watch the video all the way through, there are some funny moments, where people are joking with me about the damage. I joke back with them.

Some Trump supporters, however, are not happy. One calls my laughing “quite annoying.” Another says, “Mike Shepard! This is not a laughing matter!” Another says, “Funny to you? Sick media!” One guy says laughing is “a sign of being nervous” and calls me a “loser!”

One person says, “I think the reporter did it. Why was he just walking up the street? Hmmm…” But my alibi is pretty solid, since I was in the rally and went to the area after I was alerted to the damage by a woman who drove by me as I walked back to my car.

I do have a supporter or two, however, with one person saying, “Lay off the news guy he is cool.” Thanks, Daniel. My girlfriend especially appreciated your comment. — Michael Shepherd

Watching the sinking of Maine politics through a Periscope

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Michael Shepherd | BDN

Last week I watched Representative Bruce Poliquin sprint from the media, refusing to answer questions about his support for Donald Trump as Maine Public’s Mal Leary shouted “Congressman, you can’t hide!”

I watched Governor Paul LePage’s impromptu press conference where he called President Obama a dictator and showed off his Russian nesting dolls with the visages of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

The next day, I watched the governor say my colleague Ben Chin and I should be thrown in prison for advocating for a minimum wage increase, and I watched as the Chamber of Commerce audience politely applauded his remarks.

I was able to watch all of these events live, unfiltered and in their full context because so many of Maine’s political reporters are now using live-streaming video apps like Facebook’s Live Video and Twitter’s Periscope as part of their daily newsgathering.

Journalists like Steve Mistler at Maine Public, Scott Thistle at the Portland Press Herald and Michael Shepherd here at the BDN have led the charge and now it’s rare that a political event in Maine goes unbroadcast on social media. (You should follow all of them and watch for streams.)

I’ve been a big fan of this technology for a while now because it provides an opportunity for those of us who weren’t there to understand the totality of an interview or an event in a way that a newspaper article or nightly news clip will never quite be able to.

For one example, I was confident in noting in a recent blog post that House Republican Leader Ken Fredette had never actually repudiated Governor LePage’s  racist comments because I was able to go back and watch every one of the several media availabilities he held on the issue from beginning to end.

I especially enjoy being able to download clips of these events and watch or listen to them later at double speed (something I bet some of the reporters in these rooms wish they had the ability to do).

As politics in our state continues to slide down a greasy gutter, we can at least take some solace in the fact that we can watch and understand that descent in a way we never could before.

LePage calls Maine’s student laptop program a ‘massive failure’

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage has reinforced previous statements that a focus in the final two years of his tenure will be K-12 education.

During an appearance Thursday at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, LePage highlighted improvements that have been made under his administration in the state’s education system, ranging from high school students having expanded ability to earn college credits to new credit-transfer pathways between the community college and university systems.

“I’m extremely proud of the work [Maine Community College System President Derek Langhauser] is doing and the work of the community college system,” said LePage to applause from the audience of entrepreneurs.

However, there is more work to be done, said LePage, including improving the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, which since 2002 has provided laptop computers or computer tablets to every seventh- and eighth-grade student in Maine. It was implemented by former independent Gov. Angus King and currently equips about 66,000 students and teachers in Maine with devices at a cost of about $11.5 million a year.

The Maine Department of Education renewed its contract with Apple Corp. earlier this year after an internal discussion about whether to continue the program at all. Along with the new contract was a call by LePage to inspect the program with an eye toward improving it. Whether that could lead to a curtailment of the program or ending it remains to be seen, but LePage was clear Thursday that he won’t support it without changes.

“It has been a massive failure,” said LePage. “It’s been a failure and we all know it but we keep doing it because we’re used to doing it.”

LePage said the reason he judges the program a failure is because there is not enough training for students and teachers about how to maximize the educational benefits of the technology.

“We don’t provide the expertise to teach the kids how to use it properly and our teachers aren’t properly trained in it,” said LePage, who added that the new contract with Apple includes new training opportunities.

“We should have been doing that 15 years ago,” he said, in another of his many recent digs at King, who made the program a centerpiece of his legacy as governor.

Department of Education officials have said that major changes to the program are likely in the next two years.

“We’ve got to stand back and have a broad discussion among educators, not to give up on MLTI at all but to shift resources,” said Bill Beardsley, deputy education commissioner, to the BDN in August. “We’re going to spend a year really trying to see what’s next.” -- Christopher Cousins

GOP files ethics complaint in Thibodeau re-election bid

The Maine Republican Party on Thursday asked the Maine Ethics Commission to investigate the activities of the California-based Progressive Kick Political Action Committee to determine whether it is illegally coordinating with Democratic Maine Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford, who is trying to unseat Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau in Senate District 10 in Waldo County.

In September, as reported here at State & Capitol, Progressive Kick formed a PAC in Maine called Progressive Maine with the stated purposes of helping Fulford win the seat and backing all five referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot. The California Super-PAC plunked down $50,000 to be spent on local organizers to lead canvassing efforts.

Fulford, a publicly financed candidate, told the Bangor Daily News that he has had no contact with the California organization — which is in step with campaign finance laws — and denounced the organization pouring money into his race.

Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage, citing a Facebook post by Fulford, said in a letter to the ethics commission that he doesn’t know all the facts in the matter but requested a “thorough investigation.”

Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said Friday morning that he has received the complaint and is in the process of scheduling a commission meeting to address it.

The Thibodeau/Fulford race is among the most-watched campaigns for the Maine Legislature. Thibodeau defeated Fulford by just 135 votes in 2014. – Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • A win for paper: The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced it will back away from a new provision that would have eliminated paper in the delivery of mutual fund shareholder reports. It’s an issue that Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, have been pushing against on the grounds that the new rule would have been bad for Maine’s paper industry and senior citizens and rural residents without reliable internet access. The president of Twin Rivers Paper in Madawaska, which produces the paper used in the reports, applauded the SEC’s decision on Thursday.
  • New Cain ad: Democrat Emily Cain has launched a new television ad touting her jobs record when she served in the Maine Legislature. Among others, the ad features Duane Lugdon of Bradley, a union representative for the United Steelworkers Union who registered as a Democratic candidate for the Maine House in the district represented by Republican Rep. Larry Lockman before dropping out. Watch the ad by clicking here.
  • Medicaid expansion fight, take 6: The Maine Department of Health and Human Services under the LePage administration began its opposition fight to another attempt to expand Medicaid in Maine as the Maine Women’s Lobby and Maine Equal Justice Partners announced Thursday it is launching a citizen petition drive to put the question on a statewide ballot as soon as next year. “A bloated Medicaid system means fewer resources for Maine’s neediest citizens,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew in a news release on Thursday.
  • Collins at Harvard: Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Thursday participated in a forum on partisanship and civility in national politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Collins, who was the featured guest at the event, said she viewed partisanship as something that swings back and forth like a pendulum and predicted the parties will shift back toward the center, according to a news release. Watch the wide-ranging discussion for yourself by clicking here.
Reading list Buying potatoes is hard, I’ve learned

As you read here in the Daily Brief on Wednesday, I’ve been on a rather epic tour of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District this week, the results of which you can read about soon at bangordailynews.com. I’ve made it back home now after some 970 miles on the odometer and I must say I’ve come away with new love for northern Maine. I’ve lived in Maine all my life but never ventured to Aroostook County until five years ago when I was hired by the Bangor Daily News. It’s a beautiful and welcoming place, but it is a different world from most of Maine in many ways.

My western Maine roots showed painfully in one way: buying potatoes. The harvest is on in potato country and every few miles up Routes 1 and 161 are stands advertising “new potatoes.” I asked someone who has lived in The County all her life what a new potato is and boy, did I feel stupid. To my surprise, she ducked into her pantry to show me one but was unable to really define it. It’s a recently picked potato, she said, but then again they are sold at all times of the year.

“I don’t really know,” she said.

On the way home I stopped at one of the stands to buy some but it was self-serve and much more confusing than I thought. There were at least a half dozen potato varieties to choose from and I felt like I feel at the grocery story when I’m trying pick a nice wine for Thanksgiving.

I ended up buying 10 pounds of something labeled “new russets” for only $3 but I have no idea if I’m made a terrible mistake. 

Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

How LePage and Obama contrast on executive power

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Gardiner. We heard so much from Gov. Paul LePage at his Wednesday news conference that it was hard to put it all in one story.

He called it to say that he meant to call Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “authoritative” instead of “authoritarian” in a Tuesday radio interview. But he then called President Barack Obama “a dictator,” said the U.S. is so weak it may not survive and criticized Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and John McCain.

But there was more in LePage’s first press conference in 42 days since swearing off talking to the media amid another controversy, and it showed us a lot about his political worldview, especially when it relates to Obama.

The Republican governor has a long history with Obama, going back to the 2010 campaign, when he said as governor, people would see a lot of him on front pages telling the president to “go to hell.” He reportedly told Republicans in 2013 that Obama “hates white people,” but he denied it.

On Wednesday, it was Obama’s executive actions that were drawing LePage’s ire. The governor said Obama is “ignoring” Congress in favor of his “legacy,” zeroing in on the “insane” Clean Power Plan, a set of rules aimed to reduce power plant emissions that Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, is helping defend in a court challenge from Republicans.

Conservatives have hammered Obama on his use of executive power in a time when Congress is controlled by Republicans. On a yearly average, Obama has issued executive orders less than any president since the 1800s, but he has aggressively promoted progressive causes, including LGBT rights and immigration reform that was blocked this year in a U.S. Supreme Court tie.

And this year, Obama established the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument under the Antiquities Act, a move that LePage fought and denounced as “unilateral action against the will of the people.”

But LePage has been criticized for wielding his executive authority in ways that other governors haven’t. He has vetoed record numbers of bills and held up voter-approved bonds, including $15 million for senior housing approved by 69 percent of Maine voters in 2015.

When questioned on that, LePage asked, “Did the people know what they were voting on?” and said he hasn’t violated the process under the law. That’s true: Governors have five years to issue bonds, and he’s pushing the Legislature to change the approved package.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, a proponent of the housing bond, said in a statement that LePage should respect voters’ will and “stop playing games with the well-being of seniors.”

But LePage drew a contrast between himself and the president he calls heavy-handed.

“I guess the difference between Barack Obama and myself is when I use the executive privilege, we spend a lot of time making sure it’s going to help the Maine people,” he said. “Barack Obama, when he does an executive order, he spends very little time helping the American people and a whole lot of time helping his legacy.” — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Democratic 2nd Congressional District hopeful Emily Cain had a record-setting fundraising quarter, according to the Sun JournalCain’s campaign said she raised $1.1 million between July and September, more than $400,000 more than any other House candidate in Maine history for a campaign-long total of $2.9 million, while Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s campaign hasn’t disclosed his figures, but says he’ll retain the fundraising lead he’s had all along. This puts candidate fundraising at more than $2 million over Cain and Poliquin’s race in 2014. Outside spending is exploding at $4.7 million already compared to $4 million in 2014, with 60 percent of that against Poliquin.
  • Poliquin is not happy that reporters keep asking him about Trump. Since Trump clinched the nomination, the congressman has refused to say if he supports Trump. So, naturally, reporters who are paid to get answers to questions keep asking him. On Tuesday, those questions came from Maine Public’s Mal Leary and the Morning Sentinel’s Rachel Ohm at Poliquin’s stop at New Balance in Skowhegan. He responded to their Trump questions with answer about New Balance and ended up walking away. Yesterday, he took to Facebook blasting them for “trying to pit conservatives against each other.”
  • Help us test ranked-choice voting’s impact on LePage’s two elections. We at the Bangor Daily News are running a neat interactive project where we’re re-running the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections as ranked-choice races, in light of the proposal in Question 5 on this year’s ballot. You must sign up ahead of time and voting will take place Oct. 17 through Oct. 20, to be followed by analysis and stories on how it worked out.
  • Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is sending her daughter, Chelsea, to Orono this morning. She’ll be appearing with former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center at 10:45 a.m. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list You can own LePage’s Russian nesting dolls for less than $45

One of the most striking parts of LePage’s Wednesday press conference was his visual prop: The set of Russian nesting dolls focused on Bill Clinton sex scandals, depicting Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Hillary Clinton.

LePage said he got them on a trip to Russia in 2008 and used them to make a point that the U.S. isn’t respected by many around the world.

We found them on eBay for the low price of $44.49 with free shipping. The seller told me there was no marking indicating where they were made, but a Twitter user tells me they’re likely from Russia, with similar items often found in tourist shops.

I contemplated buying them for our State House office, but didn’t pull the trigger because I didn’t think the expense report would go through. Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

Question 2 is a tool of the special interests

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Last week I may have undersold the biggest reason why the referendum process has become such a train wreck.

It is a tool of special interests.

A look at recent ballot initiatives shows that they are always engineered by large, well funded special interest groups intent on using Maine as an experimental playground for extremist policy.

It is easy to create simple, emotional arguments for really bad policy. Easier than passing a law the old-fashioned way.

Take, for instance, question two on the ballot this year. “Do you want to take some of that money that those evil, greedy rich people don’t need and give it to kids?”

That soundbite, in effect, is being used by the Maine Education Association — the ultimate special interest in Maine — hoping the average voter emotionally responds to it without thinking.

In reality, this question is a cynical attempt to dump millions of dollars into the hands of administrators and bureaucrats while crushing the Maine economy.

Any sober analysis of the question shows it to be complete and total insanity.

If passed, Maine would suddenly have the second-highest top marginal income tax rate in the United States, and the highest income tax rate in Maine history.

The increase in taxes would directly impact approximately 16,840 tax filers in Maine. But contrary to Scrooge McDuck diving into a money bin, these “high income” earners are frequently not very wealthy at all.

A majority of businesses in the state of Maine are not subject to the corporate income tax. Instead, profits pass through the owners’ individual income tax.

That profit is not a giant paycheck to the owner. It is business profit used to re-invest in the company to grow it, pay debt, hire new people, or develop products. The owner often takes very little of the profit, actually.

Pass-through entities in Maine accounted for more than 60 percent of private-sector employment in 2012. Tax hikes on these filers are a tremendous tax burden shoveled onto Maine’s small business community.

An analysis by the organization I lead, the Maine Heritage Policy Center, shows that such an irresponsible tax hike would lead to a decline of 4,050 jobs by 2021.

And that may be optimistic. When faced with the twin problems of income tax-free New Hampshire and Florida, the risk of “wealth flight” becomes significant.

Maine needs more high-earning individuals, not fewer. They pay income taxes to the state, property taxes to towns, invest in businesses that create jobs, and fund charitable non-profits. When they leave, they pay nothing.

And they will leave. More importantly, they will never come here in the first place.

It is clear the additional tax would be destructive. But remember, the MEA also tried to sell this to you by telling you it was good for kids. But this isn’t about kids.

Even if it did what proponents said it would, the money wouldn’t help those who need it most. The funds would heavily favor wealthy school districts, with 14 towns that have an annual median household income in excess of $70,000 — like Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, and Yarmouth — slated to receive $22 million.

Meanwhile, many of the state’s poorest towns, largely in rural Maine, get nothing.

And what money does trickle down to those wealthy towns won’t actually go into the classroom anyway. It would actually fund administration and salaries. And you wonder why the MEA came up with this idea?

And that doesn’t even deal with a more fundamental problem: money and educational results are not, and never have been, correlated.

Student enrollment in Maine peaked at about 250,000 students in the 1970s. Since then, we’ve seen a decline of more than 60,000 students, yet budgets have exploded. Federal, state and local contributions have risen by well over a billion dollars in that time. Since the early 2000s, Maine’s per-pupil spending has risen by roughly $4,000.

And what has happened to educational results in Maine? They’ve declined.

Money isn’t the problem. The problem is a system that sucks the money we spend into a black hole of administration, while teaching a substandard, bar-lowering curriculum, monitored by armies of bureaucrats who turn teachers into data collectors and test facilitators.

I should know, my wife is an elementary school teacher.

If you really want to “Stand up for Students,” deal with that broken education system. Stop using the referendum system to destroy the Maine economy to give favors to special interests.

New poll shows Clinton widening Maine lead but 2nd District still up for grabs

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Fort Kent (more on that later), where a new poll shows Democrat Hillary Clinton with an expanded 11-point statewide lead over Republican Donald Trump, 44 percent to 36 percent, in a four-way race.

According to the new poll by the progressive Maine People’s Resource Center, an affiliate of the Maine People’s Alliance, Clinton is also within two percentage points of Trump in the crucial 2nd Congressional District, 39 percent to 40 percent, in a four-way race.

Those totals, which result from phone and online surveys of 892 voters Oct. 7 through 9, reflect a significantly improved standing for Clinton compared with a September poll from the same organization. That poll had Clinton virtually tied statewide and 11 points down in the 2nd Congressional District. Her commanding lead in the 1st District remains commanding.

Hanging in the balance is one of Maine’s four electoral votes, which the Trump camp has been pursuing aggressively with three trips to Maine for the candidate so far and another scheduled for Saturday.

Clinton has countered with a Bangor rally led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last Friday and a scheduled Orono campaign stop Thursday by Chelsea Clinton, the candidate’s daughter.

According to the center, the latest poll does not account for the full impact of the release last week of the 2005 tape of Trump making lewd comments about sexual assault because some of the polling was done prior to that release. It also doesn’t reflect Sunday’s presidential debate and comes just after the release of new documents released in the Clinton email scandal that could damage Clinton moving forward.

The poll suggests that in Maine, preference is shifting slightly to Clinton from two third-party candidates in the race. The latest survey also indicates a decreasing number of undecided voters in the race. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein garnered 8.8 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, and 8.2 percent were undecided. All three of those numbers were down by approximately 2 points.

Clinton’s increased lead and Trump’s static support suggest that his base is solid but perhaps at or near its ceiling.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.3 percent.

The poll in Maine echoes what has happened nationally in recent days: Clinton increasing her lead. However, the bombshells in this race keep dropping and there are still nearly four weeks left before Nov. 8. – Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Gabby Giffords visit: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona and co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, will visit Portland on Wednesday as part of her six-week bus tour across America to raise awareness against gun violence. In Maine, Giffords will advocate in favor of Question 3 on the November ballot, which seeks to require background checks for all private gun sales. Giffords will appear at Congress Square Park at noon.
  • The Amazing Mal: Mal Leary of MPBN, who is considered by both reporters and politicos as the dean of Maine political journalism, will continue his service to the National Freedom of Information Coalition as its president. Leary, who is also vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, is a rugged advocate for transparency at both the governmental and individual levels. On Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin felt the Leary bite during a media event in Skowhegan. After Poliquin refused to answer questions about his support or opposition to Donald Trump — about whom Poliquin has been largely mum — Leary said “Congressman, you cannot hide.”
  • Question 4 ad debut: Mainers for Fair Wages, which supports raising the minimum wage in Maine through Question 4 on the November ballot, is scheduled to release its first television ad today during an 11:30 a.m. news conference at the Bangor Public Library. The group will also discuss a new report about Maine’s working seniors.
  • New Riverview facility approved: A new forensic facility to be built next to the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta was approved Tuesday by the Augusta Planning Board by a 5-0 vote, according to Keith Edwards of the Kennebec Journal. The 21-bed facility is designed to serve patients who have committed crimes but were deemed mentally unfit for trial or conviction. This debate isn’t over, though. Some lawmakers have criticized the LePage administration for moving forward with the project without sharing enough information about it, including how it will be funded.
Reading list Just about as ‘northern Maine’ as possible

This wasn’t my idea. My editors have dispatched me on a tour of the 2nd Congressional District. First stop: 300 miles from home in Fort Kent. It was a stellar drive and the people here, including my BDN colleague and host Julia Bayly at Rusty Metal Farm, are welcoming and cordial.

The trip hasn’t been without its hiccups. I was somewhere near Pittsfield when I realized that in the scramble to leave and get the kids ready for school Tuesday morning, I forgot three dress shirts I had prepared to take with me. That leaves me with a pile of undershirts from Renys. The dressiest shirt I have with me, other than the one I wore Tuesday, has a picture of John Lennon wearing a “New York City” T-shirt on it. I’m thinking that might be one of the worst clothing choices there is for northern Aroostook County. I’m eyeing a light fleece as my outer shell for the next couple of days.

Also left behind is my iPod because I couldn’t find one of the wires I need to connect it to my car. That led to a lot of scanning on the radio and about 100 miles listening to the God’s Country radio station, which I think has a policy that they don’t play any music that doesn’t mention Jesus. There was some great music, including one song which is now today’s Daily Brief soundtrack.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for more notes from my trip. This will end by week’s end somewhere in Oxford County. — Christopher Cousins

Chelsea Clinton to make Orono campaign stop on Thursday

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Chelsea Clinton with her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. (Reuters photo)

Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, will be in Orono on Thursday for a campaign event as her mother looks to fight Republican Donald Trump’s polling lead in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

The Clinton campaign billed it as an “organizing event” with former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell in the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center at 10:45 a.m. The public can RSVP online.

It’s another example of the massive attention being given Maine’s rural, more conservative 2nd District, which is worth one of Maine’s four Electoral College votes. Clinton sent former primary challenger Bernie Sanders to Bangor last week and Trump will rally there on Saturday.

Maine hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988, but Trump held a double-digit polling lead in the 2nd District through September, even though Clinton held a larger lead in the liberal 1st District.

However, Trump’s standing has fallen since Friday, when his campaign ran into its biggest controversy yet with the release of a 2005 tape in which he said “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women, including grabbing them by the genitals.

Now, he’s down by six points, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average. The gap was less than three points 10 days before. Clinton’s campaign may be betting that things have also changed in Maine since we’ve last seen polling.

As white working women voters go, so goes Maine’s Second Congressional district?

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

If Trump loses Maine’s Second Congressional District, the key bloc will be white women without college degrees.

Maine and national politics watchers have wondered if Donald Trump can win this district and force a split in Maine’s electoral votes. Trump has come to the district and plans on another visit. Bernie Sanders recently visited Bangor for Hillary Clinton.

Maine-2 is a district with a lot of white voters without college degrees. As paper mills and other manufacturing facilities have closed, it’s suffered a loss of good paying union jobs. Those conditions in other places in the country characterize good locales for Trump.

Polls for ME-2 have been sparse in October, but September polls favored Trump.

While no ME-2 polls have been released since an October 2-3 Democratic poll of likely voters by Normington, Petts & Associates showed Clinton 4 points ahead, national trends show Trump falling and Clinton surging.

National data suggest white working class women are moving to Clinton from Trump

There has always been a gender gap in this election. That’s nothing unusual, but the gap between women’s and men’s preferences is larger than typically found.

Commentators have pointed to how college educated white women support Clinton more than previous Democratic candidates. That’s important for states like Pennsylvania, where those voters in its suburbs push the state’s electoral votes toward Clinton.

But now we see shifts among working class white women.

According to a new PPRI/The Atlantic poll:

Trump’s support has collapsed among white women without college degrees. Until recently, they formed Trump’s largest bloc of support. In 2004, they voted for George W. Bush by 19 points; in 2008, they backed John McCain by 17 points; and in 2012, they went with Mitt Romney by 20 points. This poll finds them evenly split between Clinton and Trump, with each drawing 40 percent support. [source]

Why the shift?

Since the start of October, Clinton and Trump have held two presidential debates. All systematic scientific polling showed that Clinton won those polls. And last week a tape of Trump was released with him bragging about assaulting women by grabbing their genitals and kissing them, saying that he could do such odious things because he was famous.

Those developments are likely the reason why changes have occurred.

Regarding Trump’s remarks, like other women, many white working class women have faced situations where they’ve experienced harassment and assault from men in their lives, whether on dates or in the workplace, or at other times and places.

Donald Trump’s dismissive attitude toward Hillary Clinton, despite her being far more experienced and prepared for the job as president, along with his history of nasty comments about women during the campaign probably also had an effect.

When Trump’s campaign brings up what Bill Clinton actually and purportedly did, it likely offends these women. After all, if these women have been with men who did the wrong thing when it came to harassment or assault, they know that they are not to blame. The same goes for their women friends and relatives who had men in their lives who did such things.

The debates have been a way for these voters to hear more about where Clinton stands, and to see her talk without a media filter about ideas, her family, and her long experience working to improve the lives of women and children.

Clinton’s positions on education, health care, childcare, wages, Social Security and other issues likely appeal to these women.

Without some new public opinion data, we don’t know how ME-2 stands. But if Trump loses the district after being ahead, Clinton’s win likely will be attributable to movement toward her among white working class women. The same will be true for states like Ohio, Iowa and Florida.

In defending Trump, LePage says he is ‘no Susan Collins fan’

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage doubled, tripled and quadrupled down on his support for embattled Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in his regular Tuesday appearance on WVOM.

On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told fellow Republican House members he wouldn’t campaign with or defend Trump after Friday’s release of a 2005 tape in which the New York billionaire said “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women, including grabbing them by the genitals.

Amid a sort of exodus among Republican leaders, Trump has fired back with criticism of former President Bill Clinton, the husband of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton was impeached after an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Trump brought other women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to Sunday’s debate.

LePage endorsed Trump in February and his daughter, Lauren LePage, works for the campaign.

On Tuesday, he praised Trump’s family and called the candidate “a breath of fresh air” compared to Hillary Clinton, whom he said “lies, takes money from foreign countries and gets a free pass” in apparent references to revelations around the Clinton Foundation and her emails as secretary of state.

“I would rather have him stick his foot in his mouth than Hillary having her hand in my pocket,” LePage said of Trump.

However, after Trump’s controversy was brought up, LePage also rhetorically asked WVOM hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler if Trump is a “slimeball,” conceded that he’s “not (the) ideal guy I’d want my daughter going after.”

“But I will tell you one thing,” LePage said. “As head of state, is he going to protect our nation and fight the debt, or is he going to go after interns?”

The governor also levied rare criticism for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the moderate Republican who polls as Maine’s most popular politician. He said he’s “no Susan Collins fan” after the August op-ed in The Washington Post in which she announced that she wouldn’t support Trump.

“I am from the Grand Old Party and I am from the party of Ronald Reagan,” LePage said. “That is different than the people who claim to be Republicans that are out there shooting their mouths off.”

He also segued from a discussion of attack ads against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, to say this about Trump as he compares to President Barack Obama:

“Sometimes I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president — he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we’re slipping into anarchy. I just think that four more years of a similar mentality is going to destroy this nation.”

One of the dictionary definitions of “autocrat” is “a person who behaves in an authoritarian manner. But anyway, here’s your soundtrack.

And LePage said he’ll likely join Trump at a Bangor rally on Saturday. He’s introduced Trump each of the past three times he’s been in Maine this year. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Poliquin wasn’t on the conference call with Ryan and other Republican House members about Trump on Monday. Brent Littlefield, a political adviser for Poliquin, said it conflicted with a press conference with veterans in Hermon. Poliquin hasn’t publicly endorsed Trump and Littlefield said a Saturday statement in which he criticized both Trump and Clinton was still current.
  • And Poliquin went on defense — and offense — against Democratic challenger Emily Cain on Monday. His new TV ad claims he paid “all taxes, in full, all the time” as he looks to push back against Democrats’ hammering on his use of a tax credit meant to encourage commercial logging. He also paints Cain as a tax-raiser, citing her legislative support of a 2009 bill to broaden Maine’s sales tax base that was defeated by a people’s veto in 2010. A spokesperson from House Democrats’ campaign arm said “it’s clear” that Poliquin “is feeling the heat from Maine voters” on tax issues.
  • The Maine Warden Service said it has “serious concerns” over Question 3 on the November ballot, which would expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers. It comes after LePage has allied with the National Rifle Association to advocate against the proposal from a group linked to Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It contains some exceptions, including allowing transfer between some family members and hunters, but warden said it “would be difficult for a law enforcement officer to prove actual ownership and where the transfer occurred unless the transfer was actually observed by the officer.” — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • This man is just buying alcohol: “Wanna get lit?” asks a man who’s buying “Whiskey…Gin…Coffee Brandy…Jack Daniels… Weed….abs…name your pleasure” and wants “the right, friendly guy” to come drink it with him. Here’s your bonus soundtrack.
  • Heckler wanted: It’s amazing, but a man with “red hair and a ponytail” who “heckled the hell out of” San Francisco Giants prospect Mitch Delfino at Hadlock Field earlier this year may have won over a woman, who “just moved to Portland” and wants to “be friends.” Delfino is now in Triple-A now and the Red Sox are out of the playoffs. Sad! — Michael Shepherd

Polls: Clinton won debate but Trump exceeded expectations

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta and the political world where, wow, that was quite a weekend. Bangor received a visit from Bernie Sanders on Friday, followed by Libertarian vice presidential candidate Bill Weld on Saturday. There was the seismic release of the 2005 Donald Trump tape and finally, last night’s presidential debate.

You can read about all of that in what is an exceptionally beefy Daily Brief reading list for a Monday (below), and it’s a holiday at that. If you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t have to work today, I hope you’ve donned a fleece and headed out into this glorious crisp day. If you’re at work and wishing you weren’t, maybe the presidential debate is still on your mind? If you can’t take a stroll outside, take a scroll through the BDN’s live blog from last night.

Today will be replete with analysis of last night’s debate and what it means. I’ve been through some of it already and the prevailing consensus is that Trump delivered a few major gaffes — such as disagreeing with his running mate on Syria — but managed to perform well enough to exceed some of the lowest expectations we could imagine for a presidential candidate entering a debate a month before the general election.

In a CNN snap poll conducted following the debate Sunday, 63 percent of respondents said Trump exceeded expectations, but 57 percent of voters surveyed in the same poll said Clinton won the debate. A YouGov poll of 812 registered voters who watched the debate produced a similar result: 47 percent of respondents said Clinton won, compared with 42 percent who picked Trump as the winner.

One tactic used by the Republican nominee was trying to make it appear as if the very structure of the debate was rigged against him and that the moderators were treating him unfairly. However, analysis of that point by Politico showed that the two candidates had equal amounts of speaking time even though Trump interrupted Clinton and the moderators far more than vice versa.

This campaign has really reached a boil and the heat is being felt here in Maine, too. Trump is scheduled for another visit to Bangor on Saturday and the final presidential debate is scheduled for next week in Las Vegas. Hold onto your hats and pray that this isn’t our soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

85 legislative candidates sign open government pledge

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition reports that 85 candidates for the Legislature have pledges to support openness in state government if elected. That seems at a glance like a healthy number until you consider that the coalition sent the pledge to all 365 legislative candidates on the November ballot.

Candidates who sign the pledge agree to adhere to the Maine Freedom of Access Act and oppose attempts to exclude the public from legislative matters contrary to the law. It comes at a time in state government when the LePage administration has just been fined for holding a public meeting in private and as the administration makes it a more-often-than-not practice to ignore questions from reporters and the public. Lawmakers from both parties have also taken heat in the past couple of years for closed-door negotiations on budget bills that amounted to compromises struck by legislative leaders that were then thrust upon the Legislature to approve.

Read the full list of lawmakers who signed the pledge by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Can’t vote for Clinton or Trump? Tom Brady for president

Let’s not ignore Sunday’s triumphant return to the field of the greatest quarterback of all time. That’s Tom Brady, for those of you who aren’t into sportsball.

He’s so good that support for his presidential campaign is growing. You can have your Brady for President T-shirt shipped to you right away for $20 and your name won’t even end up on a campaign donor list. We haven’t found Brady yard signs yet but we’re looking. In the process, we found some other memorabilia in case you want a view of the complete ticket before deciding.

There’s the Belichick/Brady ticket, the Brady/Gronkowski ticket and if science fiction is more your thing than sports, buy your Solo/Chewbacca T-shirt for just $16.

Be warned, though. Questions are arising about whether Chewbacca meets citizenship requirements to run for president, and he does have a sort of Howard Dean scream. — Christopher Cousins

Marijuana legalization forum marked by division in medical marijuana community

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Gardiner. I spent last night at the forum on Question 1 organized by CBS 13 and the Bangor Daily News, which was marked by division among medical marijuana activists on the benefits of legalizing recreational use of the drug.

The panel was traditionally divided: Representing legalization proponents were Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, and Alysia Melnick, while Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson and prevention specialist Scott Gagnon, the chairman of Smart Approaches To Marijuana, represented the opposition.

Question 1 would allow Mainers to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, while giving the state regulatory power over cultivation and retail stores and assessing a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana products.

If it passes, Maine would join four other states that have already legalized marijuana. But Maine is among the half of states with systems that allow patients to use medical marijuana bought from state-licensed dispensaries or caregivers — those who can grow it at home — for certain conditions.

Though the bill makes no formal changes to that system, some caregivers think legalization would erode their program, and members of that community caused a stir at Thursday’s forum, which featured a live audience.

It made for a strange dynamic: Milo caregiver Dennis Hammac, whose illicit facility treating people addicted to opiates was just featured by Vice, and conservative activist Penny Morrell of the Concerned Women of America in Maine wore “No on 1″ stickers.

Melnick said the referendum would lower costs and open the market to some people who could use medical marijuana, but haven’t been able to a get a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana. Some doctors are prohibited from recommending it because of federal rules.

“In one vote on Nov. 8, we can change that,” she said.

But it was Gagnon who got applause from caregivers and traditional opponents with a retort: “The idea that we need to pass Question 1 to grant greater access to medical marijuana, well, let’s work on the medical marijuana law because that’s what it’s there for.”

The hour-long debate is worth a watch, and it shows that this issue is more complicated than the legalization debates that we’re used to. — Michael Shepherd

Bangor: Maine’s political capital (for eight days)

Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is gaining attention in presidential politics as Republican nominee Donald Trump opened up a wide polling lead there in September, threatening to be the first member of his party to win Maine since 1988.

Bangor, the second-biggest city in the district, will see visits from each campaign over the next eight days.

Quick hits
  • The Bangor Daily News endorsed Clinton over Trump on Friday. Our editorial board calls the election a choice “between voting for someone committed to a life of public service who has the experience, the intelligence and the temperament to lead the nation versus someone who is committed only to himself, who lies constantly and who regularly displays a lack of self-control.” The Portland Press Herald has also endorsed Clinton. No major newspaper has endorsed Trump, which is unprecedented, according to Yahoo. But does it matter? Political science research shows that newspaper endorsements can be effective when they’re surprising — if an editorial board breaks with its normal party to support another candidate. Many of these endorsements aren’t surprising, as Trump is breaking political norms.
  • The BDN and AARP are bringing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. George Mitchell to Bangor this month, too. They’ll be part of the Dirigo Speaks series, with Collins, a Maine Republican, speaking on Tuesday at Husson University. Mitchell will follow on Oct. 20. The events are free and you can register now— Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • Are you a beautiful white woman? Prove it, difficultly: A man wants “a pretty white female to talk to” platonically and “you must provide proof you are beautiful” by making “a video showing you juggling 4 red balls, one green ball, while wearing a party hat, standing on one high heel and the other in the air, wearing a t-shirt saying TRUMP SUCKS.”
  • Do you want a past-prime salad? Someone is giving away a salad allegedly from an Ellsworth restaurant, saying “I’ll be more than happy to keep it in the back of my fridge just like (the restaurant) did for me.” Elvis also once addressed salad. Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

Eves’ lawyer renews LePage ‘blackmail’ charge in appeals court

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where just for a minute, we’re going to talk about something other than the election. Well actually, this is sort of about the election, too.

The court battle between Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves advanced Wednesday with oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston. This comes after a federal judge dismissed Eves’ lawsuit against LePage in May on the grounds that as an elected official, LePage is essentially immune from Eves’ charges.

At issue is how LePage forced Good Will-Hinckley, an organization that among other things runs a public charter school in Fairfield, to rescind an employment contract with Eves or face the loss of some $500,000 in annual state funding.

Despite his past losses in this case, Eves’ attorney David Webbert said there were indications from the panel of three appeals court judges that there is some merit in Eves’ arguments, particularly on whether LePage had the right to use public funds as a threat and whether LePage discriminated against all Democratic lawmakers, and particularly Eves.

“This case is about one thing: protecting Maine citizens and private organizations from being blackmailed, threatened and intimidated by a politician willing to abuse government power for partisan reasons,” said Webbert in a written statement.

Is Webbert overly optimistic? Maybe. A decision from the court could take weeks or months and could potentially come after Eves leaves office. At this point, an Eves victory would put a ding in LePage’s armor and reverse a precedent that has been set in this affair regarding the use of public funding threats by a sitting politician.

Meanwhile, Eves has rebounded on the employment front. He announced in August that he has taken a job as the executive director of Woodfords Family Services, a nonprofit organization that serves Mainers with special needs and their families. Eves’ new job started this week. — Christopher Cousins

Anything to ad in CD2?

The 2nd Congressional District race between Democrat Emily Cain and incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has become, in recent weeks, a running spat over television advertisements — most of which come from outside groups looking to affect the balance of power in Congress. On Wednesday, Cain released a new, personal ad that calls a recent ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which highlighted an anti-obesity bill Cain supported years ago in the Legislature, “a new low.” This morning, the Poliquin campaign shot back against a new advertisement by VoteVets.org calling it “another false attack” on Poliquin’s record supporting veterans.

Cain’s ad drew national and international attention within the context of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recent controversial comments about women’s weight. While her campaign claims the race is essentially a dead heat, most public polling shows the incumbent with a lead. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Housing bond promises: A coalition of senior citizen, housing and construction sector leaders announced today that it has secured promises from 168 candidates for the Maine Legislature to support legislation next year that would force Gov. Paul LePage to release $15 million in bond money that was approved last year by voters on a more than 2-to-1 margin. That money would leverage another $22 million from other sources. LePage has refused to release the bonds for a variety of reasons ranging from their impact on Maine’s credit rating to his concerns about how the money would be spent. A full list of the candidates, the majority of whom are Democrats, can be seen by clicking here.
  • Fiscal prowess: Gov. Paul LePage has been ranked among the best governors in the country on fiscal responsibility by the Libertarian Cato Institute. The organization gave LePage and four other governors — all Republicans — an “A” ranking for their work toward reducing taxes and spending. Joining LePage at the head of Cato’s class is Mike Pence, the Indiana governor who is Trump’s running mate. LePage has been a constant proponent of cutting the state’s income and estate taxes, among others, and the state workforce has declined by 9 percent since he took office. But while LePage has succeeded in cutting some tax rates and reducing the size of the state workforce, those efforts have not translated to the prosperity to which he aspires. Federal data show Maine’s gross domestic product grew at the slowest rate in New England and one of the slowest rates nationally in 2015, contributing to the state’s sluggish recovery from the most recent global economic recession.
  • Let’s talk about pot: CBS 13, Fox 23 and the Bangor Daily News are teaming up tonight to host a forum on Question 1, which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana. A studio audience will roll out questions to a panel that includes Alysia Melnick of the Yes on 1 campaign; Democratic state Rep. Mark Dion of Portland, a “yes” supporter who is also a former sheriff; No on 1’s Scott Gagnon; and Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, who opposes legalization. The forum, which begins at 7 p.m., will be streamed by CBS 13, Fox 23 and the Bangor Daily News. Watch for probing questions and deep insights from the BDN’s own Michael Shepherd!
  • Casino revival: A group that favors creating a casino in York County has reset an effort to force a casino question onto the Maine ballot — in 2017. Kevin Miller of the Portland Press Herald reports that a pro-casino interest has plunked down $300,000 to Horseracing Jobs Fairness revive the citizen initiative process in Maine. This comes after Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap invalidated more than half of approximately 91,000 signatures submitted by casino backers earlier this year. Here’s a loud casino soundtrack for your Thursday morning. From past experience I know there are a lot of Wilco fans among the legions of Daily Brief readers.
Reading list Making the White Stripes great again

One of Donald Trump’s greatest accomplishments so far as a presidential candidate, in my opinion, came yesterday when the two members of the White Stripes reunited to tell Donald Trump and his campaign to stop using their Seven Nation Army anthem.

The Stripes, which broke up in 2011 to my extreme chagrin, are hardly the first band to object to politicians using their music. The Rolling Stones, R.E.M., Aerosmith and Adele have all lashed out against Trump in particular. However, if you’ve been paying attention to the Daily Brief you know that we are big Jack White fans and will use any excuse to make his music today’s official soundtrack.

Besides, I’m still smarting from all the criticism I took for omitting a soundtrack in Tuesday’s Daily Brief. If you’ve been counting you know that there are three soundtracks today. Forgive me? — Christopher Cousins


We’re at the start of a referendum arms race

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

I heard this recently during a panel discussion in which I participated regarding one of the five initiatives on the ballot this fall: “Sure, I think there are a lot of flaws in the question. But we need to pass it, then the Legislature can come back into session and fix the problems with it.”

If that doesn’t tell you why referendums are a tremendously awful way to make law, I don’t know what will. Vote to approve a bad law. We’ll just fix it later.

Saying you don’t like the referendum process is not a popular position, yet most people in Maine government agree with the general sentiment. Ask most lawmakers of both parties whether they think passing large, sweeping bills via the referendum process is either smart or helpful and you are likely to get a firm “no.”

Our entire government is organized around the idea that it is a representative republic, not a direct democracy. We elect lawmakers to represent us as citizens in the lawmaking process.

The theory here is that government is most effective and efficient when a small number of people are involved in the complexities of making law.

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN

These elected representatives have the time and ability to devote to policymaking that the average citizen simply cannot.

Through the legislative process, important, sweeping bills are proposed, go through the committee process where the issue is investigated fully, the bill is marked up, subjected to negotiation, amendment, and compromise, and finally put on the floor of two legislative houses.

That difficult process allows major flaws to be found and dealt with, and opposing opinions to still influence the final bill.

If you are an everyday voter who works 70 hours a week, volunteers for your church and coaches your kid’s Little League team, your ability to do any of that — just based on lack of time — is non-existent. Ergo the benefit of a representative system.

The alternative, direct democracy, is basically rule by the mob, where the rights and opinions of the minority are constantly overruled by the majority, even if the majority is wrong.

Ask yourself, for instance, if the 1968 Civil Rights Act would have passed if it were put up for a national vote in 1960s America. Would schools have been integrated? Would women have achieved the right to vote?

There is nothing inherently more noble about popular ideas than unpopular ones.

In 1908, Maine became the first state east of the Mississippi to create an initiative and referendum process, which was the 29th amendment to the Maine Constitution. This was our attempt at giving ourselves the power of direct democracy.

At first, we used it responsibly. In the first 60 years of its existence, the initiative process was only used seven times, and no initiatives appeared on the ballot in the 50s and 60s. Most of these early initiatives failed.

As time has gone by, though, opportunistic political organizations have begun to look at the referendum process as an easy and effective way to make law that sounds good in a 30-second soundbite, but is bad policy that never would have made it through a representative system.

This year, Mainers will be asked whether they want to legalize marijuana, dramatically raise taxes, institute so-called universal background checks on firearms, approve a massive minimum wage increase, and fundamentally alter how we elect our government representatives.

How many of those of us voting have read the full, legal text of the bills we are being asked to approve? Interviewed experts on both sides of each question? Skeptically examined the proposals, even if we like the general premise? Debated and negotiated with those who favor and oppose the idea to come up with the best possible compromise?

Even the best, smartest, and most informed among us have not done those things. Yet this is an appropriate way to make law?

This year, all five questions are liberal in nature, and the left is already organizing their campaign for ballot initiatives to put up next year. The response to this on the right will be to up the ante and attempt to legislate by referendum, too.

We are looking at the beginning of a referendum arms race, driven by ideological extremes and meant to enact extremist policy — on the right and the left — that is easily sold to the everyday voter.

This is an insane way to make law, and it’s not how Maine should be doing it.

In Sanders, Clinton finds a surrogate more popular than her in Maine

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta. But political eyes aren’t on the state capital this week, they’re 60 miles northeast in Bangor, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will stump for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Friday.

Clinton’s former primary rival has become one of her biggest-name surrogates on the campaign trail against Republican Donald Trump, assuaging his progressive followers wary of Clinton’s sometimes-centrist tendencies in her 30 years in the political spotlight.

Sanders is headed to the heart of Maine’s rural, working-class and somewhat conservative 2nd Congressional District, where Trump has opened a lead on Clinton that was measured at 10 points or more in September polling.

If any surrogate can win over undecided progressive voters for Clinton, it’s Sanders. He won a commanding victory in the Maine Democratic caucuses in March and later that month, a poll from Critical Insights said Mainers backed Sanders over Trump by a 26-point margin, while Clinton only had a nine-point advantage.

Much of this is likely due to Sanders’ working-class credibility that Trump himself tried to exploit at a June rally in Bangor, hammering Clinton on trade, which was a key wedge between Clinton and Sanders during their primary campaign.

Opposition to trade agreements is common in Maine politics and the 2nd District, which is worth one electoral vote, is now one of Trump’s best chances to win territory controlled by President Barack Obama in 2012.

That’s why Clinton needs Sanders, and that’s why he’ll be in Bangor and not Portland. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Twelve Maine sheriffs came out against Question 3 on Maine’s 2016 ballot. The question would expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers, but sheriffs from Androscoggin, Aroostook, Hancock, Knox, Franklin, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo, Washington and York counties said in a news release that it “will do nothing to stop evil people from getting their hands on guns.”
  • A Portland lawmaker wants the LePage administration to cancel a contract with a company doing bridge work in Portland after testing showed elevated lead levels, according to the Portland Press Herald. Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, said the Maine Department of Transportation should end a $1.9 million contract with Florida-based Southern Road & Bridge to paint four bridges in Portland after he helped commission soil tests around the Deering Avenue bridge across Interstate 95. A MaineDOT spokesman said soil will be tested after the job is done, the company has met state standards and would have to pay for cleanup.
  • Voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District are seeing two new ads in support of Democrat Emily Cain. One from Cain’s campaign highlights a woman helped by a bill that the former Orono state senator sponsored in the Maine Legislature requiring insurers to cover oral chemotherapy. Another ad from the House Majority PAC, which has ties to Democratic leaders, continues the well-documented attack on Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s use of a property tax break program intended for commercial logging.
  • Maine’s own Hannibal Hamlin ranked 37th on Buzzfeed’s list of vice presidents ranked by “hotness.” Abraham Lincoln’s first VP and a longtime abolitionist Maine senator was dinged for his “neck spikes” — a well-maintained neck goatee of sorts. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • Dine with an exclusive pasta club member: A Maine woman is one of 21,000 people to get a $100 pass entitling her to free Never Ending Pasta Bowls at Olive Garden between Oct. 3 and Nov. 20. “My friends and family are going to get sick of me asking them if they want to go to Olive Garden,” she says, wondering if you want to go with her.
  • Moxie for manure?: Someone in Searsmont is offering “almost free” horse manure, saying, “Bring me cider, a six pack, a case of moxie or a bag of chips (no doritos), and you can load all the manure you please.”
  • I will rap in a club; I will rap in a tub: A Portland rapper is seeking $50 to “rap anywhere,” including “your club, house, barn, bathtub, ect.” Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd


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