What to watch for in this weekend’s Maine political party conventions

Good morning from Augusta. We’re two days away from the Maine Democratic Party’s state convention in Lewiston and it’s going to take two days to get through all of their candidates in a busy 2018 election cycle.

Democratic candidates for Congress and governor will speak on Friday and Saturday. The convention begins in earnest at 4 p.m. on Friday at the Colisee. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District will speak ahead of 2nd Congressional District candidates Lucas St. Clair, Jared Golden and Craig Olson and U.S. Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein.

The bulk of the convention will be on Saturday, when Democrats reconvene to discuss their party’s platform — an activity that can often lead to spirited debate or headlines. The party’s seven gubernatorial candidates are scheduled to speak at 2:45 p.m. and the convention will be keynoted later that night by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas.

We’ll be watching the candidate speeches and platform debate for tinges of division. Maine’s Democratic base is highly progressive, as evidenced by the strong support of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential caucuses. The convention is a key organizational step before the 2018 elections that provide Democrats with pick-up opportunities after a tough eight years for them in the era of Gov. Paul LePage.

The Maine Green Independent party will hold its annual political convention Sunday at Viles Arboretum in Augusta, with an anti-war activist headlining its agenda. The Maine Green Independent Party’s Sunday convention at Viles Arboretum in Augusta will be headlined by Bruce Gagnon, an anti-war and anti-nuclear weapon activist who will discuss his recent hunger strike in opposition to a bill that provided Bath Iron Works with $45 million in tax breaks over the next 15 years.

Also on the Greens’ agenda is Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville, who has been the Legislature’s lone Green Independent and the second in Maine history since registering in the party last year. The convention will also see an address via the Internet from 2012 U.S. vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala and feature six candidates for state offices. The convention will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Are you in a party and want to vote in another party’s primary? There isn’t much time. In most Maine cities and towns, you must switch your party affiliation by May 25 to account for a 15-day waiting period under Maine law before you can vote in your new party’s primaries on June 12. Unenrolled voters can join a party and be eligible to vote in a primary anytime, including on Election Day.

Net neutrality may have its last gasp today in the U.S. Senate

Maine’s U.S. senators could give the policy a short-lived boost. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is expected to break from her party today in favor of reversing a December 2017 vote of the Federal Communications Commission to end Obama-era rules regulating internet service providers.

Among other things, the rules bar ISPs from restricting what content their customers access over the internet and at what speed. Collins and all Senate Democrats, along with independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, have said they support restoring the rules and the measure is likely to pass the Senate.

However, that’s where the process of restoring the rules, which the Wall Street Journal has editorialized is “phony,” will see the beginning of its end. It’s unlikely to survive the U.S. House of Representatives or be approved by President Donald Trump.

Reading list

  • LePage is lobbying for Trump to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He joined six other Republican governors in sending a letter to Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Berit Reiss-Andersen, citing what they called Trump’s “transformative efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.” That followed a similar missive from 18 Republicans in the U.S. House. The letters were sent before North Korea threatened to cancel the summit that serves as the primary justification for the peace prize nomination.
  • Maine’s top court will decide on an unprecedented bid to bar the attorney general’s staff from prosecuting a high-profile case. The attorney for Sharon Carrillo — who with her husband, Julio Carrillo, is accused of murdering her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedyappealed a lower-court ruling against his attempt to have prosecutors from the attorney general’s office excluded from the case because they improperly used subpoena procedures to procure information. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed to hear arguments related to the appeal on June 12.
  • Maine families are grappling with the skyrocketing cost of insulin. Paul Grant of New Gloucester told a U.S. Senate committee last week that he has had to scour eBay, Craigslist and foreign markets to find insulin he can afford for his 13-year-old-son, who has type 1 diabetes. A 30-day supply from a U.S. pharmacy cost him $322. The average price of insulin, which people with diabetes need to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. Despite the attention from the Senate Special Committee on Aging, there’s no financial relief in sight for Grant and others struggling to pay for the insulin their loved ones need. Virtually all insulin available in this country is manufactured by one of three companies: Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly in the U.S. and Sanofi in France. No generic versions are available, even though the medicine is nearing the 100th anniversary of its discovery.
  • Maine has more bears than wildlife biologists want. The population of black bears in Maine has doubled to 35,000 since 1985 and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is largely limited by state law from increasing hunting unilaterally. The Legislature would have to act to begin the hunting season earlier in northern Maine, for example. Biologists say the increasing population means that bears could end up in new places where people live.

Throwing Stones at Trump

Add Keith Richards, the delightfully debauched guitarist for the Rolling Stones, to the list of people who will not be nominating Trump for a Nobel Prize. The Hill reports that Richards said in a BBC Radio 4 interview released Tuesday that it’s time for the U.S. to “get rid of Trump.”

As grounds for Trump’s dismissal, Richards cited problems with Trump’s work as a promoter for a past Rolling Stones U.S. tour. “That was the last time I got angry,” the 74-year-old musician said. “I pulled out my trusty blade, stuck it in the table and said: ‘You’ve got to get rid of this man.’”

For context, Richards and the Stones have been doing U.S. tours since Lyndon Johnson was president, so one could argue that history is on his side.

Tuesday’s blast wasn’t the first time one or more of the Rolling Stones have tangled with Trump. In 2015, Richards called the potential for a President Trump “the worst nightmare.” The next year, singer Mick Jagger lambasted Trump for using “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as his walkoff song for political rallies and the Republican National Convention.

So don’t expect to see Trump and Richards or Jagger together on the same stage. Wild horses couldn’t drag them together. Unless … Richards follows in the footsteps of Bob Dylan and wins a Nobel Prize for Literature. Can you imagine the afterparty in which Trump compares the size of his Nobel Peace Prize to Keith’s Literature medal? Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long

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 ccousins@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@bangordailynews.com.

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.