Kavanaugh, campaigns and catching up on Maine politics after the long Labor Day weekend

Good morning from Augusta, where the State House is again relatively quiet as Maine’s political world turns its attention to events in Washington and on the campaign trail.

As Democrats court the vote of Maine’s Republican senator, a Maine teenager is one of their witnesses in the Supreme Court nomination hearing set to begin today. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, has for months been a point of focus for liberals looking to derail President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the high court, although she has never opposed a nominee who made it to the Senate floor and has shown no sign of opposing the Republican favorite so far.

Confirmation hearings will begin today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Collins isn’t expected to take a position on Kavanaugh until they conclude — as is her standard practice. Over the weekend, Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark shot down a Huffington Post report insinuating that the senator pre-approved Kavanaugh in talks with Trump as “false.”

Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the lead Democrat on the panel, released her party’s list of witnesses for the hearing. They include Hunter LaChance of Kennebunkport, a teenager with asthma who has been an environmental activist.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, seems to be signaling that he’ll vote against Kavanaugh. Last week, the Trump administration moved to withhold 100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the administration of former President George W. Bush.

King told Maine Public that there were “some things that disturbed me” in those files — which he reviewed confidentially — and said there’s “no earthly reason that I can think of that senators shouldn’t be able to ask questions about what they saw in these files.” You can access streams of today’s hearings here.

With Labor Day behind us, debates are set to begin in the Maine governor’s race. Last week, Republican gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody released a list of 11 debates and forums that he will participate in, including six televised debates. A spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills, the Democratic nominee, said she would be attending all of those event “and likely more,” making them the marquee events of the race to replace term-limited Gov. Paul LePage.

Moody, Mills and the two independent candidate — State Treasurer Terry Hayes and consultant Alan Caron — are all confirmed for the first forum on Sept. 10 hosted by the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. It will focus on retaining youth, attracting new residents, supporting immigration and investing in workforce development.

The Bangor Daily News is working on two of the televised debates. We’ll partner with the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and Bangor ABC affiliate WVII on an Oct. 23 debate and with Portland CBS affiliate WGME on the crucial last debate before Election Day on Nov. 1.

LePage will be at a Moody fundraiser today. The Republican governor — who was recovering from a health episode last week — will attend a Moody fundraiser on Tuesday evening at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester, according to an invitation. It’s being hosted by Dr. R. Robert Berube, an oral surgeon at MaineGeneral Medical Center, and Brent Littlefield, a political strategist for Moody and LePage, said the governor is attending the fundraiser as a guest.

The Legislature plans to be back next week. The Maine Legislature likely has one more day of work for the 2018 session after making headway on child welfare legislation and other bills on Thursday. Several legislative committees have confirmation hearings set for this week ahead of the Legislature’s expected return sometime next week.

Reading list

  • The two hospitals in Maine’s second largest city turned away mentally ill people seeking treatment and had some of them arrested. Recently released documents from state licensing inspectors detail the failure of both Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center to screen and provide basic stabilizing treatment to patients experiencing mental health crises who showed up at the hospitals’ emergency departments. Some patients were threatening suicide and others had extensive histories of mental illness. In addition, neither hospital had complete records for patients who had received mental health evaluations from the hospitals’ contracted crisis service providers. The hospitals risk losing Medicare payments because of their failure to conform to federal law and are implementing corrective action plans.
  • The centerpiece of a former president’s push for “compassionate conservatism” remains active three decades after it was introduced. The Associated Press checked in on former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light program. The Republican launched the daily Point of Light award in 1990 to promote volunteerism. Today, the 6,341st “Daily Point of Light” will be presented by Neil Bush, the former president’s son, to Searsport resident Kathy Hecht, whose “Salute of Service” helps disabled veterans train their own dogs to become service animals.
  • Maine’s congresswoman was knocked off by her independent challenger … in a cow-milking contest. The Windsor Fair’s annual Political Pull — where politicians compete to see who can get the most milk out of a cow — was won by state Rep. Marty Grohman, an independent who is running for Maine’s 1st Congressional District. The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, is a defending champion who finished third this year. (Grohman had an advantage: He grew up on a dairy farm in Carthage.)
  • Last month was really hot in Maine’s largest city. Maine Public reports that August 2018 was “the warmest August ever recorded at Portland,” according to a National Weather Service meteorologist. The average high was 80.8 degrees, while the average low was 63.5 degrees. This summer also has seen the highest number of days with dew points over 70 since 1940. So you can blame those sweat stains on both the heat and the humidity. Here is your soundtrack.

Have no fear

Troy R. Bennett, banjournalist extraordinare, got a bunch of us together last week to record “I Am Not Afraid,” the song he sang at the memorial service for our departed friend and colleague, Chris Cousins.

Here is Troy’s introduction to the song:

It’s based on all sorts of things I heard people say about him after his sudden passing. I knew him and loved him — and so did many others. One thing he used to say, when facing down a tough story, was, “I am not afraid.”

It was true, in more ways than one. He didn’t fear any difficult story. He didn’t shy away from asking tough questions. He also wasn’t afraid to say, “I love you man,” when saying goodbye. He was a big, brave softie who loved to tell stories.

It’s a lovely tribute and a bit of an earworm. You can hear it here. Please click on the “donate” button, as all proceeds benefit Chris’ family. Thank you. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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 leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at 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.