More Republicans jump into races to retain the Maine Senate

Good morning from Augusta. Two Republican state representatives filed last week to kick off their 2018 races for the Maine Senate. It will be one of the state’s signature battlegrounds that will nevertheless take a back seat to the governor’s race next year.

The two new Republican candidates are proven commodities, boding well for the party’s chances to hold the two seats. Looking for promotions are Reps. Matthew Pouliot of Augusta and Robert Foley of Wells. They filed last week to succeed two Republicans from the same communities — Sens. Roger Katz and Ronald Collins, respectively. Pouliot ran unopposed last year in a district with more Democrats than Republicans and will follow the moderate playbook that Katz used to win 77 percent of votes in 2016. Foley’s district and the Senate one he’s running for are more conservative. He won 62 percent in 2016 and Collins won 55 percent. No Democratic opponents have emerged yet.

These seats are important for Republicans in a year when they’ll be hit hard by term limits. Katz and Collins are among the seven Senate Republicans who’ll hit term limits in 2018. That also includes Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, who are both running for governor. Only one Democrat will hit limits. Thibodeau’s Waldo County swing seat is in jeopardy for Republicans with House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, widely expected to run, though she hasn’t commented on that.

Seven other incumbent Republicans have already filed, but one is already facing a primary. Five of those senators — Andre Cushing of Newport, James Hamper of Oxford, David Woodsome of North Waterboro, Kim Rosen of Bucksport and Lisa Keim of Dixfield — won comfortably in 2016 and may be safe. But Scott Cyrway of Benton is in an always-competitive seat that includes Waterville and Dana Dow of Waldoboro beat a Democratic incumbent in 2016 and is being primaried from the right by Gordon Colby of Waldoboro. More of these races will start to take shape as 2018 draws closer.

Reading list

  • Ivanka Trump joined U.S. Sen. Susan Collins for a tax reform ‘forum’ that often looked more like a Republican unity event. The Friday event in Biddeford “was billed as a forum, but it often functioned as a unity event for Republicans,” Maine Public said. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate must reconcile divergent plans for tax reform. The party is banking on it as a last chance to pass major legislation before the 2018 midterm elections. Collins, a moderate Republican, spoke in favor of tax changes, but she has already said that she won’t back two particular tax breaks for the wealthy supported by party leaders.
  • But U.S. Sen. Angus King said the tax reform process ‘stinks.’ The independent who caucuses with Democrats noted to Maine Public that Republicans have had “no hearings” and gotten “no public input” on their plans with “very little analysis of what it all means.”
  • Hillary Clinton on LePage’s Medicaid expansion stance: ‘Who appointed these people king?’ It has been a while since Clinton was making Maine-centric headlines, but CNN reported last week that the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee took aim at Gov. Paul LePage at an event in Pennsylvania over his opposition to implementing Medicaid expansion as it stands after voters backed it overwhelmingly in Tuesday’s election. Clinton said, “Who appointed these people king?” and said government “requires these people to compromise.”
  • Maine is seeking an extension to Obamacare signups because of the wind storm. King wants 10 days more time for Mainers to sign up for the Affordable Care Act because of power outages during the first week of the sign-up period. The enrollment window closes Dec. 15.
  • The biggest U.S. maple sugarbush failed to win Maine conservation funding on Thursday. The Big Six Forest finished last of two dozen projects vying for funding under the Land for Maine’s Future program, according to Maine Public. The owner of the Somerset County tract on the Quebec border was seeking $1.25 million to help complete a $5.7 million conservation easement he said was necessary to ensure that he doesn’t cut the maple trees. The project gained scrutiny after it won LePage’s support despite the governor’s past opposition to the program and when two Canadian producers complained about sharp lease increases. The tract was criticized by board members as being inaccessible to the public.
  • Delivering babies is draining Maine’s hospitals. The economics of maternity wards aren’t working for many hospitals, including Maine’s rural ones. In eastern Maine, three community hospitals have closed their obstetrics units since 2011: Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, Penobscot Valley Hospital and Calais Regional Hospital.
  • Maine’s blueberry harvest is down this year. The harvest was down to below 100 million pounds for the first time in four years, according to the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine. Meanwhile, the industry is struggling to find enough buyers.

And you thought baseball was complicated?

We consider ourselves sports fans here at the Daily Brief and at least two of us could probably be considered baseball experts — or at least when it comes to the Boston Red Sox. As it turns out, we’re quickly lost when it comes to some other sports.

Take bowling, for example. Red Sox right-fielder Mookie Betts definitely has it figured out. He’s a competitor in the Professional Bowlers Association’s World Series of Bowling and made headlines over the weekend for bowling his first perfect game. That means he rolled 12 strikes in a row.

That’s quite an accomplishment, but it wasn’t easy. We think. Betts, who is known for theatrical catches, didn’t do it until the 36th of 40 games in the tournament. Making matters more challenging, we think, is that he did it on “a 42-foot Scorpion lane conditioning pattern,” which was the fourth animal pattern of the qualifying stages.

Bowling tournaments are hard. Even with the perfect game, Betts tied in the tournament for a dismal 158th place and didn’t advance to the world championships.

Just remember next season, Mookie. We do understand what your career .292 batting average means. If you can bowl a 300 you ought to be able to bat it. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd. 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.