Foes up pressure on Moody in GOP race to succeed LePage

Good morning from Augusta. There was another Republican gubernatorial debate on Tuesday and it was a lot like the rest of them, with businessman Shawn Moody having to spar with the two legislators in the four-way field who are trying to drag down the front-runner’s support.

The hour-long WCSH forum is worth a watch in its entirety, with a lot of time devoted to policy. But the split in the sparring was evident, with former Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew staying out of the fray — and there are likely tactical reasons why.

The lawmakers hit Moody on issues ranging from his command of the legislative process to a recent university tuition hike. During a discussion around how candidates would fund Medicaid expansion, which is something they all oppose, Moody didn’t say how he would fund it, but he hit the Legislature for not being able to finish its work in 2018, saying “instead of eating the big frog first, which is what we do in business,” they “saved the hard work for the end.”

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason jumped in to point out that Gov. Paul LePage encouraged the Republicans in the House of Representatives to block an extension of the session. He said that candidates “deal with real, solid issues” and that Moody hadn’t answered the question.

“Why haven’t you funded it?” Moody asked.

“We’re just asking you, ‘How do you fund it?’” House Minority Leader Ken Fredette chimed in.

Moody then returned to a Republican talking point on the end of the session, saying Democrats are blocking an opportunity to fund expansion. But he then called it “a classic example where nothing has been done” in Augusta.

Later, Mason hit Moody for backing a tuition increase on the University of Maine System board of trustees this year, which happened for the first time in six years. However, the system has said the revenue will largely go into backlogged maintenance and infrastructure projects.

Mayhew, who may be the runner-up in the field right now, was content to let the other three candidates fight. During the Medicaid expansion debate, Mayhew, who was LePage’s chief lieutenant fighting expansion, tried to enter the conversation but was talked over by Fredette, giving him a cheeky pat on the back as he spoke and joking, “Age before beauty.”

She was on her own island for much of the debate. Mayhew was the only candidate to turn back a question from moderator Pat Callaghan on what she would break with LePage on, criticizing it for being negative.

A poll released by the Bangor Daily News this weekend showed Moody as the front-runner in the field and Mayhew as the runner-up. But she was underwater in terms of favorability, with 30 percent of Republicans seeing her favorably to 32 percent seeing her unfavorably.

That doesn’t bode well for a primary candidate at this stage. So perhaps this is part of the reason why she is staying out of the fray for now as the other candidates take aim at Moody in the game of Risk that is primary politics.

Mills: Disgraced New York AG did not aid campaign

A New York elected official’s resignation had political implications in Maine. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned from his position this week after four woman alleged that he physically abused them. On Tuesday, the Maine Republican Party called on gubernatorial candidate and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills to denounce him and return campaign contributions he allegedly helped gather for Mills’ campaign.

Mills responded in a Tuesday statement, saying Schneiderman spoke briefly at a campaign event for progressive activists and donors but he “never contributed to the Mills campaign or collected any contributions on its behalf.” Mills said she was glad Schneiderman resigned because “there can be no tolerance for such actions.”

Today in A-town

That sound you hear is crickets. Or maybe peepers. It’s certainly not lawmakers getting to work on unfinished business. Since adjourning on May 2, legislative leaders have taken turns blaming each other in radio interviews. Here is the take from House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. Here is Fredette’s version. But there has been little apparent movement to schedule a special session to complete the work legislators walked away from. Here’s their soundtrack.

Reading list

  • Maine’s U.S. senators will be at the center of a controversial confirmation hearing today. The Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King are members, is scheduled to interview Gina Haspel starting at 9:30 a.m. Haspel is President Donald Trump’s nominee to take over the Central Intelligence Agency, where she has worked for more than three decades. Some are concerned about Haspel’s past involvement with the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, before those techniques were outlawed by Congress. Neither Collins nor King has given a firm indication of how they will vote. Follow developments from that hearing at
  • Max Linn has been booted from the U.S. Senate primary election, for good this time. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which heard arguments Monday regarding forged or fraudulent signatures on Linn’s ballot access petitions, on Tuesday reaffirmed an earlier Superior Court decision to disqualify Linn from the election. Tuesday’s decision follows weeks of hearings in various courts and before Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
  • A murder suspect detailed for police how he killed two Bangor people in the back of a truck by setting it on fire. Newly released police affidavits indicate that John De St. Croix spent hours drinking with Michael Bridges and Desiree York on March 28 and became angry when Bridges threatened violence against York. De St. Croix allegedly told police that he saw one of the victims sleeping in a box truck and closed the door before building a fire near the truck’s rear tire. The suspect then called 911 but the victims were dead when firefighters arrived.

UMaine students have learned maybe their most valuable lesson

It’s crunch time for college students, who are buried in end-of-semester final exams and term papers and soaked in coffee and their own tears. At the University of Maine, officials who used to provide Pomeranians and golden retrievers are helping students deal with the stress in a new way: with goats.

That’s brilliant. We try our best to be even-handed here at the Daily Brief but when it comes to goats, our bias is real. I have been to goat farms to cuddle with goats. My children have given me plush and plastic goats for my birthday, more than once. One of my favorite pictures of my wife is her snuggling with a goat. I mentioned my love of goats recently in a recommendation for a friend applying to Harvard. When driving, my family stops on the side of the road to watch herds of goats.

The UMaine students apparently agree. According to an article by the BDN’s Emily Burnham (whose bias is also apparent), students lined up across the campus green to spend a few minutes with month-old Nigerian dwarf goats.

Now, if my editors could follow suit. The Bangor Daily News hosted kittens in our Portland office during a 2016 presidential debate, y’know, to increase the civility. With the tension thick at the State House and uncertainty around when or whether the Legislature will reconvene for trifling matters such as funding public schools next year and fighting the opioid crisis, we’re envisioning goats dancing around in the well of the House of Representatives followed closely by unanimous votes on all of the state’s major problems.

But that would be cruel to the goats. Are there any shark farms around? Here’s 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.

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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.