Trump hires Maine campaign director, plans Thursday visit to Portland

Good morning from August, where July, it seems like we hardly knew you.

‘Tis the season of vacations and I took mine last week. It was more of a stay-cation for me. I holed up in my hometown of South Paris, where there’s a nice in-ground pool in the family and where I was able to relax with my wife and children for most of the week. I was nearly pulled into action when Gov. Paul LePage announced he’d host a town hall meeting at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, which is my alma mater and was less than two miles away from that pool I mentioned. But I opted to skip it for the following reasons:

  1. I was on vacation and I don’t have enough of those.
  2. The best clothes I had with me were some faded olive green Cub Scout shorts and an old $3.50 cotton T-shirt from Renys that has a stain.
  3. I would’ve had to shave to be recognizable.
  4. I would’ve had to wear shoes.
  5. The pool water was 85 degrees.

There will be more opportunities to see LePage at his town halls between now and the election, but I felt sufficiently guilty that I thought I should explain myself to you, the faithful State & Capitol reader.

Anyway, on to a look at the next few days in Maine politics. Maybe you’ve heard: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is coming back to Maine on Thursday for a mid-morning town hall meeting. The location is still being worked out, according to the Maine Republican Party as of this morning.

Those details are probably being worked out by Trump’s new Maine campaign director, Christie-Lee McNally, who was hired recently among a wave of new state-level directors by Trump’s campaign. McNally is president of Raven Strategies LLC, a political lobbying and fundraising firm, who is known for her years of experience working for the state Republican party and various Republican candidates, including former congressional candidates Kevin Raye and Jon Courtney.

This is Trump’s third visit to Maine and like the last two, the Bangor Daily News will be serving up full coverage. I’ll shave and wear shoes.

As Trump takes the stage, the Senate will convene in Augusta on Thursday morning to vote on several LePage nominations to boards and commissions. It’s expected to be a largely routine proceeding, other than the fact that there are some senators who will be casting their very last votes before leaving office.

Anyway, enjoy your summer while it lasts. Before we know it the kiddos will be going back to school, the leaves will be turning and the election will be upon us. — Christopher Cousins

ICE PAC cools Dem election prospects

A new political action committee popped up last week and judging by its already $130,000 bankroll and list of rich donors, could have a chilling effect on Democrats’ chances of taking majorities in the House and Senate in the November elections.

The Augusta-based ICE PAC incorporated in mid-July with the intention of supporting candidates who are “pro-economic growth and who strive to lower the tax burden on Maine citizens,” according to its registration paperwork filed with the Maine Ethics Commission.

In addition to its fiscally conservative mission, the organization has former staffers for LePage at the helm: Holly Lusk, his former senior health policy adviser who is now a lobbyist for Preti Flaherty, and Michael Hersey, who was finance director for LePage’s 2014 re-election campaign and more recently, the director of business development and innovation for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Since July 22, the PAC has received large donations from some of Maine’s wealthy residents, which it reported on Thursday:

  • Robert and Gary Bahre — the former of whom once owned New Hampshire International Speedway, among other interests, have each given $25,000. (CORRECTION: I’m told the Bahres no longer own the speedway.)
  • Diana and Linda Bean of the L.L. Bean clan, have each given $25,000.
  • Paul Fortin of Paul Fortin & Sons, who owns a Madison-based land and timber operation, has donated $20,000.
  • Tim Varney of the Varney Agency, an insurance company, has donated $10,000.

This PAC’s spending will be interesting to watch during the next few months and for that, keep it tuned to the Bangor Daily News. This is what we’re here for. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • The Republicans aren’t the only ones stacking up cash. Smart Approaches to Marijuana announced today that it has raised more than $2 million to fight recreational marijuana legalization efforts in Maine, California, Arizona, Nevada and Massachusetts. There was no indication of how that spending would be divided.
  • Kyle Bailey of the Maine Ranked Choice Voting Campaign will host an online “Ask Me Anything” forum today beginning at 12:30 p.m. You can join the event by clicking here.

Reading list

The animal kingdom and rock ‘n roll

Among the good times I had in my hometown during my vacation was the Moore Park Art Show on Sunday in South Paris, where I spent a couple of hours with the family admiring some wonderful visual arts and being made fun of by some actors.

Among the festivities was a musical duo called Jus Tus Two — who are actually some friends of mine — who played some rock and country songs, including one from 1960s British rockers The Animals. My mother-in-law apparently wasn’t on board for the British Invasion.

“What does the House of the Rising Sun have to do with animals?” she asked after the song was announced.

Here’s her soundtrack. It’s live from 1964, when I’m pretty sure Glenn Miller was still being cranked at her house. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.