Good morning from Augusta. Today is the final day for candidates to qualify for Maine’s June primary ballot for state and congressional races — with some candidates still racing to qualify.
We’re expecting a five-way Republican race and an eight-way Democratic race for the parties’ gubernatorial nomination. Those are the candidates who have already qualified or have scheduled a time with the Maine secretary of state’s office to turn in petitions today — and it will make for a real test of the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.
There have been few qualifying surprises so far in the race to replace the term-limited Gov. Paul LePage. Four of the five Republicans in the race have already qualified alongside five of the best-known Democrats.
Scheduled to qualify today are House Minority Leader Ken Fredette to round out the Republican field and three Democrats — former state Rep. Diane Russell, educator Steve DeAngelis and Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion. The latter two candidates will likely be the Democratic longshots if they qualify.
Democrats will likely have a four-way battle for the nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd District. The Republican’s seat will be nationally targeted for the third straight cycle in 2018 — especially if Democratic candidates keep proving that they can win in more conservative areas than Maine’s 2nd District, like on Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
It’s probably too early to be enamored of their prospects, since it’s deeply unclear who the Democratic candidate will be. Conservationist Lucas St. Clair and Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden are the frontrunners according to conventional wisdom.
However, former Maine Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford has progressive support. He has qualified for the June ballot alongside St. Clair and Golden, with Islesboro bookseller Craig Olson — the likely longshot — scheduled to join them today.
It’s still too early to handicap the legislative races. Both chambers of the Legislature are closely divided and 366 candidates have qualified for the ballot so far, according to the secretary of state’s official count as of yesterday, though it includes some who have dropped out.
Democrats have fielded candidates in the Senate, while Republicans have a candidate now in every district except for one. In the House, there are 28 candidates running unopposed as of right now. But many of these districts are competitive, so expect some more action today.
One House Republican candidate, Les Gibson of Sabattus, has swept himself into a progressive zeitgeist over insults levied at survivors of the recent Florida school shooting. He was unopposed, but a Democrat has qualified and someone else apparently wants the seat.
That’s a good reminder that many legislative candidates are merely “paper candidates” who are buying their party more time to recruit candidates who want the seats. Parties can replace those candidates up until July and chambers could be won over those final moves.
LePage vetoed two bills on Tuesday. One of them, LD 1030, would require health insurance providers to cover naturopathic doctors and bar insurance carriers from excluding naturopathic doctors from their networks. In his veto letter, LePage argued that the bill, which gained unanimous support in the Legislature, would restrict health insurance carriers’ ability “to construct provider networks to deliver quality and cost-effective services.”
The other bill vetoed by LePage, LD 1476, seeks to incorporate requirements under the federal Affordable Care Act for coverage of preventative services, including for women, into state law. The coverage would be required for all individual and group health insurance policies issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019. LePage wrote in his veto letter that the ACA has an uncertain future and “I will not sign into Maine law the same provisions that have made the Affordable Care Act a disaster at the federal level.” This bill also received unanimous approval.
Today in A-town
The House and Senate convene this morning around 10 a.m. Check out their calendars here and here, respectively. On the House calendar is a new bill from LePage that would require Maine’s Learning Results standards to include “vocational preparation and practical life skills.”
Also due to be referenced to a committee is a bill from Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, LD 1865, which would overhaul the citizen initiative process with new petition circulation requirements and disclosure measures for any entity contributing more than $100,000 to a petition effort.
Among other issues, the Senate will consider a gubernatorial veto of a bill that would create the Bar Harbor Port Authority. There is also a dense schedule of committee work planned this afternoon, which you can peruse by clicking here.
- The Maine Department of Corrections is being sued for the way an 11-year-old boy was allegedly treated while incarcerated. The ACLU of Maine filed the civil suit Wednesday on behalf of Sadiya Ali, alleging that her 11-year-old son’s face was “bashed” into a bed frame by guards, knocking out some of his teeth.
- A Maine House candidate from Belfast faces an assault charge. Republican candidate Beverlyn Beatty reportedly has a court date for a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from an alleged altercation at a Bangor nightclub in May 2017. Beatty told The Free Press that her court date is in April but declined to answer further questions. Beatty also has a criminal record dating to 2009 and 2010.
- Bangor Savings Bank is merging with Granite Bank. The $45 million deal was announced last October. Following a vote of the New Hampshire bank’s parent company’s shareholders on Wednesday, the sale will close April 6. After the merger, Bangor Savings and Camden National Bank will be Maine’s two biggest banks in terms of assets.
- A national group has rated Maine’s counties according to how healthy they are. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a report that found Cumberland County to be the healthiest with Washington County ranking last. Childhood poverty was a major factor in the rankings, with 28 percent of children Downeast in poverty, compared to 11 percent in Cumberland and 20 percent nationally.
- The remaining Toys R Us stores will be sold or closed. It will affect all of the stores in Maine, including those in Bangor and South Portland, as well as the Babies R Us in South Portland. The closures will affect some 33,000 workers nationally.
Happy birthday, Maine
Maine became a state 198 years ago today, after officially throwing off the yoke that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had thrown upon our lands and waters during the European colonization of North America.
Maine’s first governor, William King, marvelled at that peaceful transition in his first inaugural address, delivered three months after the break-up.
“The political connexion, which had so long subsisted between Massachusetts and Maine being dissolved, it is a source of much satisfaction to reflect, that the measures, adopted for its accomplishment, have effected the object in the most friendly manner.”
I was going to write something nasty about that being the last time someone from Maine had reason to praise Massachusetts, but it’s our birthday. Why be nasty? Maine’s better than that. Here’s your soundtrack. And here’s a soundtrack for Massachusetts. — Robert Long
Robert grew up in Massachusetts, but we forgive him. Here’s his soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading this 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.