Good morning from Augusta, where nothing should surprise us anymore. But yesterday, Gov. Paul LePage surprised me in two acts and for different reasons.
In one conversation with reporters, the Republican said he’d pick a legal fight with the Kennebec County Democratic Committee — later announcing the appointment of Ken Mason as interim sheriff over the committee’s recommendation — and backed President Barack Obama’s authority to nominate a replacement for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
LePage’s position on both issues may be little more than symbolic: Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office has cited “questions about the lawfulness” of Mason’s appointment because he wasn’t recommended by the Democratic committee by state law and the governor has no involvement in Supreme Court issues.
But for two different reasons, they’re interesting.
It’s no surprise that LePage is picking fights with Democrats (it’s kind of his thing), but in this fight, he’s trying to boot interim Sheriff Ryan Reardon — the only candidate the committee forwarded to him, which he has criticized — from office.
Reardon’s a Democrat, but not one who’s terribly political. He also was the chief deputy under former Sheriff Randall Liberty, who left in September after the LePage administration named him warden of the Maine State Prison, making Reardon a logical choice to succeed Liberty through the 2016 election, politics aside.
There’s a lot to suggest that LePage’s motivation was the fight with Democrats, not the candidates’ qualifications: Mason said there “weren’t any discussions” between him and the governor about the position before LePage called his office on Thursday.
But then, LePage backed Obama in his dispute with Senate Republicans who think he should let the next president choose Scalia’s replacement, saying “If it’s in the Constitution, I think it means something.”
This shocked liberals and sparked a classic Huffington Post headline: “The Country’s Least Reasonable Governor Has A Stunningly Reasonable Stance On Supreme Court Vacancy.”
Let all of this be a lesson to Maine political observers: LePage is full of surprises, even though we know we shouldn’t let him surprise us anymore. — Michael Shepherd
King holds law enforcement roundtable in Portland
U.S. Sen. Angus King was in Portland on Thursday for a roundtable with local and federal law enforcement officials to discuss coordination around homeland security efforts.
During the closed-door session with police, King reaffirmed support for federal programs that fund local anti-terrorism efforts. Afterward, he said officials cited issues with incompatible radio systems and budgets that don’t allow positions to be filled, but he said they stressed relationship-building between agencies.
“I just fear that some future terrorist attack of some kind is inevitable,” he said. “I certainly hope it’s not in Maine, but the best way to prepare is to be sure law enforcement are talking to each other.”
He’ll hold a similar event with law enforcement officials at the Bangor fire station today at 9:30 a.m. — Michael Shepherd
- U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, has introduced a bill that would allow Federal Home Loan Banks to invest in rural electric cooperatives like those based in Calais and Swan Island, which he said in a statement would help ensure that rural Mainers “can fully depend on their electricity provider.”
- A legislative bill that would establish eight pilot law-enforcement assisted drug diversion programs in Maine got a public hearing on Thursday. It’s sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, and is supported by police, advocates and a coalition of mayors. — Michael Shepherd
- King, Collins split on Apple-FBI privacy dispute — Michael Shepherd and Nick McCrea, BDN
- Susan Collins: Those who can’t afford to retire are fueling economy — Nick McCrea, BDN
- Gun purchase background check mandate question qualifies for Maine ballot — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Online retailer Wayfair to add 950 jobs in Bangor, Brunswick — Darren Fishell and Nick McCrea, BDN
- Race in Nevada, once Clinton firewall, is now hotly contested — Amy Chozick, New York Times
- Of course Donald Trump got into a holy war with the pope — and could win — Tara Golshan, Vox
Cigar smokers back Trump
In the past week, I’ve gotten email pitches to write about an unscientific presidential poll from Cigar Aficionado magazine. I ignore most of these types of pitches, but this one’s just too good.
Republican Donald Trump had nearly a 15-point lead over primary opponents Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in the online survey of 7,500 earlier this month, while Democrat Hillary Clinton edged out rival Bernie Sanders by five points.
Half of those surveyed identified as Republicans, and the top issue of concern for cigar smokers is “the economy,” which was identified by 40 percent of those polled.
But Charles King, an Arizona reader, had another concern: “The politicization of cigar smoking?”
“No thanks,” he commented. “I really do appreciate CA, but leave our simple pleasures out of the political cat fight.”
Hear, hear. Many things are more important than politics. — Michael Shepherd