Friday updates from the Maine campaign trail

Good morning from Augusta, where two months from today, we should know who will be moving into the Blaine House and who will control the next Legislature.

Campaigns and their allies have started throwing around bigger wads of cash while positioning themselves for the stretch run and we’ll be seeing more of it for the next two months.

The first big outside expenditures have been reported in Maine’s 2018 state elections. Priorities USA Action, which may be the most influential Democratic super PAC, reported dumping more than $490,000 into Maine to support Attorney General Janet Mills, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Maine Public reported that it’s using an innocuous-seeming Facebook group called “Maine Matters” as a conduit for ads that have been targeting older women disproportionately to men on that social media site.

The National Association of Realtors also jumped into the 2018 legislative races in a big way, putting more than $50,000 into digital ads supporting Republicans running for the Maine Senate. Virtually all of it went to help five candidates, two of whom are incumbents — Sens. Amy Volk of Scarborough and David Woodsome of North Waterboro. They’re running against former Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, and former Sen. John Tuttle, D-Sanford, respectively.

The other Republicans helped the most were former Rep. Jayne Crosby Giles of Belfast, Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling of New Gloucester and Rep. Matthew Pouliot of Augusta, who are facing House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, physician and Democrat Ned Claxton of Auburn and Democrat Kellie Julia of China, respectively.

Friday marks a deadline for independent expenditures in state races to be reported to the Maine Ethics Commission. When those reports are filed, we’ll have a clearer picture of the priority legislative races and whether Republicans will begin spending now to boost gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody.

Mills replaced the campaign manager who won the June primary with a longtime Maine Democratic operative. The Portland Press Herald reported that Mills replaced Michael Ambler, a Maine native who had largely worked on races in other states, with Jeremy Kennedy, a veteran of Democratic campaigns here and a former executive director of the state party.

A Mills spokesman told the newspaper that the change was amicable and the candidate issued a statement saying she was “deeply grateful” for Ambler’s leadership. Kennedy ran Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign in Maine and worked on Libby Mitchell’s third-place gubernatorial run in 2010.

An independent candidate is hitting the road in a newly purchased RV. That’s Alan Caron of Freeport, who is one of two independents facing Moody and Mills in the November election to replace the term-limited Gov. Paul LePage. The two party candidates were tied in the only public poll of the race last month, with Caron and State Treasurer Terry Hayes lagging far behind in the single-digits, though that’s normal for independents around this time.

Looking to gin up attention for his run, Caron closed a Freeport office and bought an RV that he’ll use as a mobile office, saying he plans to at least drive through nearly 500 Maine cities and towns — and perhaps stop at 60 of them — between now and Election Day.

He kicked off that tour with a quick run from Fort Kent to Portland via Presque Isle, Bangor and Augusta on Thursday. In an interview, he said the RV “isn’t going to win the campaign, but it’s going to help send a signal to people.”

Legislative leaders picked a return date

The Legislature will return — likely for the last time in the 2018 session — next week. The presiding officers slated the possible final day of this year’s legislative session for next Thursday. Lawmakers will handle any vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage and a late-filed governor’s bill aimed at improving the sharing of information between school districts and the state when a teacher or other school official is investigated by a school entity.

The Legislature’s plan is to wrap up the session, which was supposed to end by statute in April and stretched on because of partisan leverage battles, but we’re not pronouncing this session dead until we see it end in front of us. Something else can always come up.

Reading list

  • An email that creates doubts about whether a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court believes Roe v. Wade is settled law triggered no such doubts for Maine’s senior senator. In the 2003 email, Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the high court, wrote “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.” But a spokeswoman for Collins, who said that Kavanaugh told her he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law when they met last month, noted that the emailed statement was within the context of editing a commentary and that the 2003 email “does not contradict Judge Kavanaugh’s statements that he believes Roe to be settled law and that he agrees it is important precedent.”
  • In his latest spat with legislators, the governor withdrew a slate of nominees to boards and commissions. After the Transportation Committee on Wednesday voted against two of his nominees, LePage pulled back nominations for 18 people — including one who had already won committee approval. Republicans joined Democrats in voting against nominees to the Maine Turnpike Authority and Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, but a LePage spokesman labeled them as “petty, partisan politicians.”
  • There’s new local opposition to a major energy transmission project in western Maine. The town of Caratunk, which lies in the path of Central Maine Power’s proposed $950 project to deliver hydro power from Quebec to consumers in Massachusetts, rescinded its support for the proposal. Town officials cited concerns that the project’s property tax benefits would fall far short of original projections. Regulatory agencies in Maine and Massachusetts still must approve the project.
  • A quick-hitting thunderstorm knocked out power to 25,000 people in southern and coastal Maine yesterday. The storm began in Bridgton and reached its peak over Brunswick before continuing to Bath and Boothbay Harbor, knocking out power to more than 25,000 people. In Brunswick, there were downed trees and wires on at least 30 roads and power was knocked out downtown.

Beyond Delicious

In a report spurred by news that the Gala apple supplanted Red Delicious as the nation’s most popular pomological palate pleaser, the BDN’s Abigail Curtis notes that as many as 3,000 different varieties of apple grow in Maine.

I want to try them all, although some are probably far better as animal feed or cider mash than as crunchy treats.

I have to admit that I am a bit of an apple snob. Living so close to an orchard that offers dozens of intriguing varieties each year, I’ve grown quite particular and esoteric in my pomological tastes. I’m like a craft beer drinker who only imbibes double IPAs made with citra that’s locally sourced from the northeastern sides of western foothills.

I know that Honeycrisp has been the big thing in apple circles in recent years, but I resist jumping onto that trendy bandwagon.

For a long time, I favored Idared apples. But Macoun won me over a few years ago and it remains my favorite. The latent apple snob in me would love to claim that I am a discerning disciple of the Duchess of Oldenburg and Newtown Pippin varieties, but, honestly, more taste tests are in order before I can make such claims.

With so many varieties, we might have to up the ante on that “apple a day” maxim. Plus, Maine orchard owners deserve our support. 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.

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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.