Collins to announce decision on 2018 gubernatorial race next week

Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is expected to decide next week whether or not she’ll join the 2018 gubernatorial race and some of the moderate Maine Republican’s fellow senators don’t want her to go.

Her announcement is planned for the Senate’s Columbus Day recess. Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said in an email that her decision will come during the senator’s state work period around the holiday, which goes from Oct. 9 to Oct. 13. Collins has said for months that she’s conflicted between her senior post in the Senate and her desire to work on state-level economic development.

Some of her colleagues don’t want her to run, including Angus King. Politico reported today that other senators are urging Collins not to return home to run to replace Republican Gov. Paul LePage next year, saying she’s too valuable as a check on her fellow Republicans. But they believe that she’s seriously weighing it. King, an independent from Maine, is “begging” her not to run. Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota texted her recently to say, “Don’t do it,” and Claire McCaskill of Missouri said, “We don’t have enough folks like her.”

If she does, can she win a primary? Collins has polled as Maine’s most widely popular politician, but she didn’t support President Donald Trump last year when he became the party’s presumptive nominee and has twice opposed Republican bids to repeal the Affordable Care Act. LePage told supporters in July that Collins would “back down” from a run if his base rejected her and a shadowy poll from a Democratic firm just afterward said more than six in 10 likely Republican primary voters disapprove of her.

Fallout around the York County casino referendum continues

A Republican lawmaker is calling for an investigation. Rep. Jeff Pierce of Dresden, who is the ranking Republican on the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, has asked the nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to launch an investigation into whether Maine’s citizen-initiated referendum process is being abused. The committee already voted unanimously to have OPEGA explore possible campaign finance violations by a group working to site a new casino in York County.

In a letter, Pierce requested answers to a number of questions about how the process has been used over its 100-year history. The letter’s questions include how much money has been spent by special interest groups from inside and outside Maine. The full committee will have to consider Pierce’s request as it decides on the parameters of the probe.

Lawmakers attempted to make the process of gathering signatures more difficult this year but made little progress. At least one bill seeking to do so was carried over for consideration when the Legislature returns in January.

Reading list

  • The list of Democrats vying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has grown to six. Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated land in the Katahdin region to the federal government for the creation of a national monument, announced his candidacy on Monday in Millinocket and Bangor. He or whoever wins the June 2018 primary faces an uphill battle. Poliquin’s support increased in his 2016 re-election bid and no one has beaten an incumbent in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in decades.
  • Maine newlyweds were at the scene of the deadly shooting Sunday in Las Vegas, but were unharmed. Kristin and Dustin Damboise of Caribou, married two weeks ago, didn’t want to discuss what they saw but told the Bangor Daily News “we are just glad we are safe.”
  • Maine’s newest Nobel Prize winner thought the award was a prank. Retired University of Maine professor Jeffrey Hall, who was notified Monday that he and two former Brandeis University colleagues won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Psychology or Medicine, said the honor was “unexpected and much appreciated.” Hall’s research into the lowly fruit fly centered around how it adapts to daily and even hour-by-hour changes in its environment. Hall and his colleagues discovered a gene that accumulates and degrades protein during the day, which opened up research avenues into numerous other species.

I am lots of things, but not a murderer

Person-on-the-street interviews, for most reporters, are not fun. Approaching strangers and asking them questions for quotes in newspaper stories guarantees being denied — sometimes rudely — a relatively high percentage of the time.

We understand. It’s a scary world out there, but not as scary as some people thing. We hope.

I was a couple of questions into just such an interview recently in Fort Kent, where a middle-aged couple were out for a walk.

“Have you got any ID?” asked the woman suddenly. “Should we be just standing here flapping off with you? I don’t want somebody coming after us with a machete or something.”

A machete? Alarmed, I surveyed my surroundings but realized she was talking about me.

“Well, we don’t live around here,” said the husband, apparently attempting some sort of explanation.

“That’s not going to happen,” I said. In the end, the threat of machetes was allayed when I produced a business card and a laminated press pass the BDN gave me years ago. It could be reproduced by any junior high kid with Photoshop.

But, I’ve been thinking: Now those people know who I am. Should I be concerned?

Here’s your soundtrack, one of the late Tom Petty’s best. — Christopher Cousins

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

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.