In need of rural voters, Maine Democrats leave gun ban out of party platform

Good morning from Augusta. The Maine Democratic Party’s state convention over the weekend in Lewiston was highlighted by speeches from six of their seven gubernatorial hopefuls and the three candidates running in a June 12 primary in the 2nd Congressional District.

There was also interesting and overlooked debate around the party’s platform, with a more moderate and older-skewing crowd of party delegates rejecting certain items that progressives wanted to add to the state party’s statement of values.

Certain rural Democrats won a fight to reject support for an assault-weapons ban. The crowd of delegates voted down support for a ban on “military-style assault weapons” after speeches from delegates including former state Sen. John Patrick of Rumford, who was unseated by Republican Lisa Keim in a rural district that took a hard right turn in 2016.

Patrick told the crowd that as he went door-to-door in his district, the question that he got most was where he stood on the 2nd Amendment. He said Democrats need to win the Blaine House and legislative majorities to make gun law changes and “if you want to un-elect Democrats” in rural areas, “pass this legislation, because that’s what you’re going to get.”

This vote was overwhelming, even as gubernatorial candidates called for gun control in their speeches on Saturday after the platform debate. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling tweeted that the vote was “so disappointing.” It’s an example of an urban-rural divide in the state and party.

Other results were mixed for different types of progressives. The delegate crowd also rejected a plank that would have stated opposition to corporate contributions After lengthy debates about the platform on Saturday morning, Seth Berner of Portland, an outspoken supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election, led an effort to pass a rule change raising the threshold for stopping platform debate from one-third of delegates to two-thirds.

We also may have seen a preview in strategy in the gubernatorial field against the front-runner. As we noted in the Saturday story on the governor’s race, Attorney General Janet Mills was a tacit target during the speeches from former House Speaker Mark Eves, attorney Adam Cote, lobbyist Betsy Sweet and state Sen. Mark Dion, all of whom levied criticism of Mills without saying her name in an almost coordinated-looking fashion.

Mills had a steep lead in a poll released earlier this month by the Bangor Daily News, though the race had a lot of room to change then and has almost certainly changed by now. The other candidates need to drag Mills down in order to win.

Ranked-choice voting may also play a role in this strategy. We’ll be watching the race for for these nuances going forward. Get excited — there’s 22 days until Election Day.

November referendum wording has been drafted

The comment period is open for an already-controversial referendum on this November’s ballot. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has released proposed wording of a citizen-initiated referendum to create a universal home care program for all Mainers, funded by new employment taxes totalling 3.8 percent. The proposed wording is as follows:

“Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program, which will provide services to people with disabilities and senior citizens who need daily assistance in their homes, funded by a new tax of 3.8% on individual income over $128,400?”

Dunlap will accept comments on the wording through June 15 and could revise the wording based on those comments. A group of lobbyists and lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have come out against the initiative, which was spearheaded by the Maine People’s Alliance.

Reading list

  • One of the owners of a company that overcharged Mainers for electricity had ties to a man facing federal money laundering and marijuana trafficking charges. Kevin Dean, who co-founded Electricity Maine and once owned several other Maine businesses, is now involved in a lawsuit that indicates he has ties to a man facing federal charges for marijuana trafficking and money laundering. Dean denies being involved in illegal activity but his former business partner, Emile Clavet, has told prosecutors otherwise.
  • Mary Mayhew has gone from Democrat to a LePage Republican. Mayhew “probably would have been working for Nancy Pelosi” if Democrat Pat McGowan had been able to defeat Olympia Snowe for a House seat in 1990, he said, but it didn’t happen. Mayhew, who was McGowan’s campaign manager, is now one of four Republicans vying for the nomination to replace Gov. Paul LePage as one of the key architects and protectors of his agenda.
  • A southern Maine school board member lost his seat after a spat about proficiency based learning. The incumbent candidate, Dick Bachelder, is a supporter of proficiency-based learning, which caused controversy in the York area when it was implemented for this year’s ninth-graders. Political newcomer Meaghan Schoff, who defeated Bachelder and another candidate who favored proficiency-based learning, said people in the community wanted “someone who could make some change.”
  • George H.W. Bush is back in Maine. The former president returned to his Kennebunkport summer home Sunday, but it won’t be the same without Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years whose funeral was held last month in Texas. Bush, 93, who recently suffered a blood infection, has visited Walker’s Point every summer since he was a child.
  • LePage was hit by a car last year. The governor said during a speech Friday morning that he was in an accident while bicycling in Florida in November 2017. The accident was relatively minor and he refused medical treatment at the scene, but said it aggravated a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

New old skills

You never know what to expect from your children but it’s special when they suddenly focus on something from your own childhood and run with it. Maybe “special” in quotes is more appropriate.

On Friday, suddenly my 13-year-old was watching Michael Jackson videos and trying to learn the moonwalk. I remember trying to do that, and I don’t think alone. In fact, I think everyone who was alive in the 1980s tried it once or twice. Well, my kid tried it 1,000 over the weekend and I must say he’s got it down.

You know it’s real when the movement doesn’t look real.

It made me a little proud, I must say, but the kid drove me down memory lane again Sunday night with another physical feat: making fart noises with his armpits. Unfortunately, he’s a natural at that one, too.

You know it’s not real when it doesn’t smell real.

Here’s his soundtrack, as appropriate for him now as it was for me when I was around his age. — 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.

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.