Older Mainers agree on a lot, but not on who to vote for

Good morning from Augusta. A poll released on Wednesday by the AARP shows something interesting, but probably not unsurprising: While Mainers age 50 and older are about as starkly divided on the rest of us about who to vote for, they agree on lots of policy outcomes.

First, a note of caution on the poll — which shouldn’t be read as a good way to evaluate races. We’re always skeptical about the many polls that cross our transom here at the Bangor Daily News. Many of the results we see are only partial views from campaigns or other partisan groups. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that we rarely publish stories about polling data that hasn’t been made fully transparent and if we do, it’s in the context of stories.

This AARP poll of Maine was part of a larger survey in eight states and full results were released. It had 804 respondents who were all over age 50 and registered voters in Maine, so while the group did ask about Maine’s hot-button political races in 2018, the results shouldn’t be seen as a good proxy for those races.

Despite that, the results align reasonably well with others we’ve seen so far. In the AARP poll, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Janet Mills and Republican nominee Shawn Moody were statistically tied at 39 percent and 38 percent, respectively, with independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron splitting up 6 percent of votes and another 15 percent undecided.

That was similar to what we saw in a Suffolk University poll released last month, in which Mills, the attorney general, led Moody, a business owner, among middle-aged voters. In that survey, the Republican did better with voters over age 65. The undecided share of the vote was largely the same.

We’ve seen no reliable public polling on the nationally targeted race in Maine’s 2nd District, where U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, is looking to fend off Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden and two left-leaning independent challengers.

Poliquin was tied with Golden in the AARP poll with 40 percent to Golden’s 37 percent with the independents splitting 5 percent of votes and 16 percent undecided, but it didn’t retabulate those results using ranked-choice voting, so take them with an extra large grain of salt.

That doesn’t mean that older Mainers don’t agree on a lot. In the poll, 95 percent said Medicare is important for retirees, 90 percent said Social Security is, 82 percent said it’s unfair to make people with pre-existing conditions pay for health care and 81 percent support letting Medicare negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. But that clearly doesn’t make them politically homogeneous in any way.

Rand Paul coming to Maine to tout Brakey

It’s the Kentucky senator’s first trip to Maine to boost the U.S. Senate challenger, but they have long been closely aligned. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, will be in Maine tomorrow for a Cumberland Foreside fundraiser and Yarmouth rally for state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Brakey and Paul are longtime allies: Brakey got his start in Maine politics as a staffer on the 2012 presidential campaign of Paul’s father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, and Brakey chaired Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential run in Maine, though he was gone before the state caucuses.

Paul’s visit comes as Brakey and Democrat Zak Ringelstein of Yarmouth are looking for attention in the race against King, a popular former two-term governor who led an August poll with 52 percent of votes to Brakey’s 25 percent and Ringelstein’s 9 percent with 15 percent undecided. The University of Virginia Center for Politics rates it as a safe seat for King.

Maine revenues up 21 percent over projections in July

Maine saw a strong start to the summer season, fueled by growth in income tax revenues. Commissioner Alec Porteous of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services said in documents issued last week that July state budget revenues were exceeded projections by $20.8 million. Tourism-related sales were up over last July, but the biggest single contributor to the increase was growth in withholdings, which was over budget by $7.2 million. Income tax collections were up $14.1 million over the projections.

Porteous touted it as a product of “Maine’s strengthening economy” in a release. However, Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, the co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, said on Twitter that the growing surplus shows that LePage’s resistance to voter-approved Medicaid expansion is “absurd.”

Reading list

  • Politics apparently wasn’t the main reason why Mainers went to a strip club Wednesday night. Despite the fact that the main attraction was Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who allegedly had a sexual encounter with president-in-training Donald Trump in 2006, most attendees who spoke to the BDN said her newfound political clout is not what drew them to the Portland club. Daniels will take the stage again tonight. Here’s her soundtrack.
  • The governor’s pick to lead the Maine Turnpike Authority failed to pass muster with a legislative committee. On Wednesday, the Transportation Committee voted against the nomination of Jonathan Nass, who has been a close policy adviser to LePage for years. During the hearing, Democrats on the committee aggressively questioned Nass about whether he agreed with the governor on merging the turnpike authority with the transportation department. Nass never directly answered those questions, saying it’s up to the Legislature to decide. The committee also voted against the nomination of former state Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, to a passenger rail advisory board. The Senate will vote on the nominations, but two-thirds of that chamber’s members will have to vote against the committee’s recommendation in order for Nass or Thomas to win a spot on the panels to which LePage wanted to appoint them.
  • Maine’s senators questioned leaders of Facebook and Twitter about how they plan to stem the flow of misinformation that their companies spew. Maine Public reports that Sen. Susan Collins faulted Twitter for shortcomings in its notification process and pushed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to have his company be more aggressive in notifying targets of social media attacks. At the same Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, King urged Twitter and Facebook executives to increase efforts to make users aware of Russia’s efforts to employ social media platforms to influence elections in other countries.
  • Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court refused to give direct answers to Democrats’ questions during the second day of his confirmation hearing. Democrats on the committee tried to solicit responses from Brett Kavanaugh about whether there are limits on a president’s power to issue pardons — including to himself — or whether he believes the president can be subpoenaed to testify. Kavanaugh largely rebuffed those efforts as “hypothetical questions.” Senate Democrats lack the votes to block his nomination, so Kavanaugh’s opponents — who fear he will tilt the high court to overturn abortion rights — are desperately hoping that Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only Republicans yet to endorse the nomination, will vote against him. Click here to watch the third day of the hearing.
  • A second University of Maine professor has been placed on leave again. Theatre professor Tom Mikotowicz is joining English professor Tony Brinkley back on leave for at least part of the fall semester, with the university citing an ongoing human resources process. Mikotowicz was placed on paid leave during the winter and spring semester after “a number of emails from students alleging confidential concerns about him.” He was reinstated in the spring, but then placed back on leave on Sept. 1.

The best month in Maine

There’s been a bit of social media chatter lately about whether September is the best month of the year for people who live in Maine.

Beleaguered parents — bedraggled after weeks of trying to keep their kids from spiraling out of control during the final stages of summer vacation — probably skewed the discussion in favor of September because the ninth month’s arrival marks a return to the routines embedded in a school calendar.

Kids who don’t enjoy school probably offered a counterweight to that take. June — another splendid month — combines the arrival of strawberries and other early garden fare with the most sunlight and the freshness of the start of school vacation to make a compelling argument that it’s the best month Maine has to offer. It certainly wins the Vitamin D scale. But on the downside, June also unleashes the influx of tourists from away.

I’m sure there are compelling arguments for other months. Feel free to share them. In the meantime, I will sit on the back deck, eating a just-picked apple, inhaling wood smoke, listening to chickadees call their names and towhees cry “drink your tea” as respectful crickets keep their chirp volume set at 2. If I become overwhelmed by all that serenity, I can shift my chair so I can see the squirrel carnage in the street.

The leaves are turning. The humidity is abating. I can fill myself with fresh sweet corn, cucumbers and a bounty of other Maine-grown vegetables and fruits. The Red Sox are in first place. UMaine has already beaten UNH on the gridiron. Savor September. Thank you, Maine, and here’s your soundtrack — 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.