Biding our time before ranked ballots are counted and the Maine Legislature returns

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re playing the waiting game. The Democratic gubernatorial primary is still locked in ranked-choice counting and the Legislature will be back in Augusta on Tuesday to vote on a spending package.

Tallying of ranked-choice ballots is underway. The outcome of just one race — that Democratic gubernatorial primary — is in doubt under Maine’s new voting system. The first-round margin between Attorney General Janet Mills and attorney Adam Cote remained within five percentage points with 88 percent of Maine precincts reporting unofficial results by Friday.

The process of feeding ballots and voting information into a central computer is under way after beginning Friday in Augusta. It will continue today. Depending on when all the ballots from across Maine arrive, the tally could be done today or tomorrow and will take moments.

We think Mills is favored to win. The Bangor Daily News on Friday combined real first-round returns with weighted exit polling data collected at polling places in eight Maine cities and towns. Simulations from that process showed that while the margin between Mills and Cote could tighten as ranked-choice tallying advances, Mills should emerge with a majority in the sixth and final round of counting.

This is an estimate. It’s worth noting the Democratic exit poll seemed to represent a more progressive swath of voters who may have been more likely to respond to an exit poll on ranked-choice voting — with lobbyist Betsy Sweet, the third-place finisher, getting a higher share of first-round votes than Mills in the raw poll.

All rounds have been corrected to account for this with ranked-choice data effectively inserted behind the real results in our statistical model, but it’ll be interesting to see how it compares with results to be released by the state later this week.

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s budget panel convenes today at 2 p.m. On the agenda for the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is a discussion about dozens of unfunded bills from the regular session earlier this year and 37 general obligation bond bills. The committee is likely to work for a lengthy period of time with so much to accomplish and the full Legislature coming back to the State House on Tuesday for what legislative leaders have said they hope will be three days of work.

Republicans and Democrats have already agreed to a $42.2 million spending package, but that doesn’t include a transportation bond or a bill to free up Clean Election funding for November elections. The one-time rival priorities of Medicaid expansion funding from Democrats and minimum wage changes by Republicans have been set aside.

For a summary of the two spending bills that lawmakers are compiling, click here for the committee’s website.

LePage: Trump has made job ‘overtures’

Gov. Paul LePage said President Donald Trump has made ‘overtures’ about possible federal jobs, but there’s ‘nothing concrete.’ The term-limited Republican governor said that to Fox News on Saturday. LePage, who will leave office in early January and was an early Trump endorser in 2016, told host Neil Cavuto that he and his wife, Ann LePage, will take the winter off from politics.

After Cavuto asked him whether he may join the Trump administration, the governor responded by saying that he’s “looking at some options” and the president has made “overtures,” but there’s “nothing concrete” and “I don’t really want to be in Washington all the time.”

Reading list

  • Maine’s U.S. senators criticized the enforcement of a “zero tolerance” policy that effectively places children in an internment camp after separating them from parents suspected of immigration law violations. Sen. Susan Collins called the practice “inconsistent with American values,” while Sen. Angus King labeled it “inhumane.” Collins joined Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in pushing the administration for information about how many of the more than 2,000 children taken from their parents at ports of entry were from families requesting asylum. Congress is expected to delve into immigration policy this week, and Collins is already taking some flak from supporters of a Democratic bill who argue that she needs to speak out more aggressively against Trump’s immigration law enforcement tactics. Collins does not support the Democrats’ bill.
  • Democrats might have a candidate for an opening Penobscot County district attorney’s race after all. Bangor attorney Joseph Belisle said he managed to accumulate at least 300 write-in votes in last week’s primary election. Democrats did not have a candidate to succeed retiring District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, who announced two days before the March 15 ballot access deadline that he planned to step down. That did not give county Democrats enough time to gather signatures to place a candidate on the primary ballot. If election officials confirm that Belisle garnered enough write-in votes to make the November ballot, he will be on the ballot to compete against Republican Assistant District Attorney Marianne Lynch in the race to succeed Almy.
  • Conversations about addiction are even more difficult in the isolation of an island community. Vinalhaven is one such community, but a group called Our Island C.A.R.E.S. is working against that. The organization has a crucial mission for the island’s 1,200 residents, who are situated in one of Maine’s hardest-hit communities when it comes to addiction, according to data from the Maine Department of health and Human Services.

Repeat after us: Slip, slop, slap, wrap!

Excuse us if that reminds us of advice we were given in middle school health class, but it’s actually a tip from the Maine Emergency Management Agency about protecting yourself from dangerous exposure to the sun.

SLIP on a shirt!

SLOP on sunscreen!

SLAP on a hat!

WRAP on sunglasses!

It’s going to be blazing out there so remember those four words, though we don’t suggest saying them in public without context. 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.