Republicans who want LePage’s job jockey for his voters in final debate before primary

Good morning from Augusta. Maine’s televised primary debates ended on Thursday after three networks hosted the four Republican gubernatorial candidates in Augusta. It opened with an attack on businessman Shawn Moody, but the hopefuls largely stayed in their own lanes.

Moody backed further away from moderate positions he held in the past, former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew tacked hard to the right and the two legislators, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette dinged Moody less than in the past while pitching themselves as pragmatists.

Mason’s early attack on a Moody mailer backfired with a pro-Moody audience. Moody recently sent a mailer to Republicans that hit all of his opponents, including Mason for his use of taxpayer campaign funds to recruit staffers from Florida. He went to a Christian college there and has run an internship program for Senate Republican campaigns since 2014.

After being asked how to keep young people in Maine, Mason jumped quickly to hit Moody, saying he was attacking people who have chosen to stay in Maine and that he should “apologize to them.” Laughter and murmurs came from a Moody-friendly crowd and Moody deflected the hit by calling it “negative and abrasive,” generating hoots from the audience.

Moody said his ‘personal position’ on abortion hasn’t changed, but his campaign position has since his 2010 gubernatorial run. WMTW reporter Paul Merrill had the job of pinning candidates down for the hour-long debate. When Moody ran for governor in 2010, he said that people’s choices on abortion are “up to them to make.” Now, he’s running as an anti-abortion candidate and the Christian Civic League of Maine deems him “pro-life.”

When Merrill asked Moody about this change, he said his “personal stance” has always been “pro-life.” That’s the story that he has been telling throughout the campaign, but it does obscure the fact that he was a pro-choice candidate — as far as policy goes — in 2010.

Mayhew made a final pitch to Gov. Paul LePage’s voters, punching hard at an often-asked question about how the candidates differ from the governor. That’s a question that Mayhew didn’t answer in the WGME/Bangor Daily News debate in May. She was more steadfast on Thursday, citing the state’s stronger financial position under LePage and hitting the “liberal media” for only focusing on negatives. Other candidates answered it at least to a basic degree.

There is a fight going for LePage’s core voters, particularly between Moody, who has hired many of the governor’s key strategists, and Mayhew, who rolled out a slate of endorsements from current and former LePage administration officials last week. Mason’s base is in Maine’s evangelical Christian community, which helped decide the party’s 2016 presidential caucuses.

There are no real moderates in the field, but it seems that Mason and Fredette would govern most moderately. Very little separates any of these candidates on policy, from taxes to welfare to gun rights and beyond. But Mason and Fredette were the only ones to name Democrats that they have worked well with in Augusta. Mason said he disagreed with LePage on the governor’s reticence to expand access to an opioid overdose antidote.

While Moody and Mayhew rejected the scientific consensus that human activities are largely responsible for climate change, Mason and Fredette acknowledged that humans are at least partially responsible. We’ll track any last-minute attacks over the weekend.

Here’s the timeline for ranked-choice counting

We probably won’t know the winners of four Tuesday primaries until the following week. In past elections, unofficial voting results after the polls close have been distributed by media organizations that depend on municipal election clerks and on-the-ground reporting to call races. That will also be the case on Tuesday, but this year the secretary of state’s office will break past protocol, at least as far as the four races that will use ranked-choice voting are concerned.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced Thursday that his office will release some results prior to their certification as official. Those results will include the first-round voting and updates about subsequent ranked-choice tallying. However, Dunlap said his office may not begin to roll out results until the week of June 18, six days after the polls close.

Dunlap said the company contracted to bring ballots and memory sticks to Augusta for ranked-choice tallying, General Courier of South Portland, will begin to collect and transport materials on Thursday, June 14. Counting at the Elkins Building on the former AMHI campus in Augusta will begin Friday, June 15.

Reading list

  • The LePage administration is creating a new system for children and teens with intense mental health needs. Rules proposed last month by the Department of Health and Human Services would create psychiatric treatment centers, which would be a step down from psychiatric hospitals. It would be a change from the current emphasis on treatment that’s available in homes and communities.
  • Campaign fundraising data in the gubernatorial race shows where Maine leans left and right, politically. A Bangor Daily News analysis also shows that some of the most successful fundraisers in the race have relied on a smaller geographic sample of Mainers. With polling a rarity this year, fundraising is perhaps the best indicator of how the candidates are doing headed into primary election day.
  • Be prepared for ranked-choice voting. That’s the spirit in which we’ve put together a basic explainer about what you can expect to see when you enter the voting booth Tuesday — and what will happen to your ballot if you screw it up.
  • As expected, the LePage administration has appealed a judge’s order that it must proceed with planning to expand Medicaid eligibility in Maine. The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday appealed Justice Michaela Murphy’s decision in a lawsuit filed by advocates for expansion. Murphy had ordered the state to submit an expansion plan to the federal government in accordance with a law passed by voters in November 2017.
  • It’s legal to dredge for quahogs, but the practice poses a new threat to a valuable shellfish resource. After a local marine resource officer and some clammers who harvest quahogs with rakes in the New Meadows River expressed concerns that a Phippsburg dredger was decimating the resource they had spent years rebuilding, the Department of Marine Resources said it will investigate the situation.
  • That crunching sound in Blue Hill is either cars driving over caterpillars or caterpillars eating all the trees. Caterpillars have besieged a two-mile stretch of road in the town, denuding trees of their new leaves and triggering a traffic alert. “The roads look like they’re freshly paved from all the caterpillar guts. It is pretty nasty, really,’ said resident Aaron Osborn.

Socialist softball

Here’s a new one: the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America has a softball team.

“It’s fun for the whole family!” according to an email alert we received.

The team plays at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Portland’s Payson Park as part of the Casco Bay League and has invited you and everyone else for beers afterward. So there’s that.

We’re intrigued what this is all about. There were few hints, but we’re guessing none of the players had to buy their own gloves or cleats and that there was a hot battle over who plays left field.

Here’s their soundtrack, with some hitting tips from Fidel Castro himself. (Spoiler: “Keep your eye on the ball.”) — 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.