Front-runners were the clear targets in dueling Maine governor’s race debates

Good morning from Augusta. The Maine Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries are ramping up, with Democrats having their second televised debate on Monday and Republicans holding another two forums.

A poll released on Sunday by the Bangor Daily News finding that Democrat Janet Mills and Republican Shawn Moody are the front-runners more than a month from the June 12 primaries hung over the day. Mills and Moody were treated accordingly in public events.

Mills was hit on past support from the National Rifle Association and a proposal to increase penalties for drug possession. Former House Speaker Mark Eves led the charge against the attorney general in a WCSH forum on Monday.

He cited her previous good marks from the NRA and she retorted by noting to Eves that a bill repealing a concealed-handgun permit requirement was passed “under your leadership” — though he opposed that bill.

Eves returned to Mills later in the debate, dinging her for backing a bill in 2016 that would have heightened the criminal penalties for heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. Written testimony from that time indicates that she supported those penalties as leverage to get people into treatment, but the American Civil Liberties Union opposed that initial version and a different version passed.

The two legislators in the Republican field went after Moody in a radio debate on Monday. WGAN hosted a morning forum for the Republican field where House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason hit for political “inexperience” and his support for ranked-choice voting in 2010, according to a recap from WMTW. But Moody hit the others for “finger-pointing” and his campaign told WMTW that the debate over ranked-choice voting was different then.

We have a more detailed look at how the Republicans are pitching themselves. The Daily Brief’s Chris Cousins followed the candidates at the state convention this weekend. Here’s his take on the field.

Golden rips rival’s outside help

Democrat Jared Golden lashed out Monday at a group supporting his chief rival in the 2nd Congressional District primary. Last week, the Daily Brief first reported that a new group called the Maine Outdoor Alliance is booking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of television air time in Maine with commercials that not-so-subtly support Lucas St. Clair, who is vying against Golden and Craig Olson for the Democratic nomination to run in the general election against Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

The spot is framed as an issues advertisement about the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument but about 20 seconds of it features St. Clair. The Maine Outdoor Alliance, which is run by a close friend of St. Clair’s, isn’t bound to disclose its donors and by law is not allowed to coordinate with any candidates, but Golden is crying foul.

“Their intentions are clear. They want to buy this nomination for Lucas St. Clair,” said Golden during an event Monday. Golden has called for the group to disclose its donors or for St. Clair to ask that the advertisements be taken down.

King, Collins to question CIA nominee

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee could be a crucial one. Collins, a Republican, and independent Sen. Angus King will question Gina Haspel in a confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Haspel would be the first woman to lead the CIA, but opposition to the nomination formed quickly over her role in leading a “black site” prison that interrogated detainees using methods that many consider to be torture.

On Monday, the Huffington Post said that the moderate Collins was one of two Republicans to watch in this nomination fight. King, who caucuses with Democrats but often votes for Trump nominees, told NBC News that he still has questions for Haspel after meeting with her.

GOP’s ranked-choice voting suit gets its day in court

A federal court will hold arguments in the Maine Republican Party’s free-speech suit on May 23. On Friday the party’s state convention authorized a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap saying that Republicans have the First Amendment right to choose how they want to choose their nominees in a primary. U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy will hear oral arguments in the case on May 23 at 2 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Portland.

Reading list

  • Thousands turned out Monday in Bangor to honor a slain sheriff’s deputy. The memorial service honored Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was fatally shot while on duty last month in Norridgewock. The service at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor attracted some 3,600 people, many of them law enforcement officers from across the state and country. Cpl. David Cole, who is Eugene Cole’s son, punctuated the day by saying, “Rest easy, Dad. We’ve got the watch from here.”
  • The Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments Monday that could affect the June 12 primary election. An attorney for Republican Max Linn of Bar Harbor, who in April was kicked out of the race for the GOP nomination for the seat held by independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, argued Monday that keeping Linn off the ballot would destroy the petition nominating process. The court is now considering the case.
  • A Bangor health organization will dispense urine test kits addicts can use to test their drugs for fentanyl. Lochness Medical Inc., based in New York, has sent 60 samples of the test kits to Health Equity Alliance. The kits detect fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which is sometimes mixed with heroin to make it more potent. However, users can overdose on fentanyl because it’s a stronger product than they realize.
  • The 2017 numbers are in: Visitors to Acadia National Park spent $284 million in Maine. That sum supported 4,164 jobs and pumped a total of $338 million into the economy, according to a new economic benefits analysis from the National Park Service. A majority of the spending was on lodging, food and beverages.

Thank a teacher today

It’s both National Teacher Appreciation Day and National Coconut Cream Pie Day. You decide which to celebrate.

As the husband of a hard-working teacher, I know what I’ll be doing. I don’t know how my wife and others like her hold it together some days. I’m totally frazzled after running an hour-long Cub Scouts meeting. She handles it all with aplomb, except for the occasional day — usually when there’s a full moon — when she comes home with that look in her eye, by which I mean she’s looking for a cocktail.

Here’s to you and all the kids who will be better people because of you, dear. Cheers.

And here’s to my Oxford Hills High School journalism teacher, Thomas Harvey, who with Mark Twain taught me “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — ‘Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Without you, Tom, I wouldn’t be writing these words today. Here is your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

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

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at, or

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.