Daily Brief: Democrats mark death of longtime lawmaker, Angus goes abroad

Good morning from Waterville, where Gov. Paul LePage will commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day at a breakfast with the Waterville Rotary Club and Spectrum Generations, a community and service organization for senior and disabled citizens. 

State offices are closed today for the holiday, and many officials will be attending MLK events in their own districts. That includes U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who will be at a community breakfast in Orono.

Maine’s junior senator, independent Angus King, however, will miss out this year: He’s currently accompanying U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, on a tour of middle eastern states, including visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel.

We may be gearing up for a low-key day in Maine politics, but here’s some news to get you started. Don’t forget, you can’t sign up to receive the Daily Brief in your inbox every morning

Democrats mark passing of ex-Portland lawmaker Brannigan

Joe Brannigan, an 83-year-old Democrat from Portland who represented the city in Maine’s Legislature for 28 years, died of cancer on Saturday night.

Brannigan was a Navy veteran of the Korean War and ordained Catholic priest, according to an oral interview published by Bates College. He left the pulpit in 1975 and took a job with Shalom House, a housing and mental health services facility for mentally ill adults. He’d go on to serve the organization for decades, including 34 years as its executive director, until his retirement in 2010.

As a multi-term member of both chambers of Maine’s Legislature, Brannigan served on several committees and legislated in several policy areas, including health and human services, appropriations, insurance and financial affairs and state and local government.

Most recently, he served in the Maine Senate until 2012. when he was succeeded by Ann Haskell, at that time a Democratic member of the Maine House of Representatives.

“Joe’s compassion was legendary. He was a tireless advocate and he meant so much to all of us,” wrote Haskell in a prepared statement. “Joe was more than a mentor. He was a great friend and a neighbor. I will miss him and his quiet way with words.”

Brannigan is survived by his wife, Claire, and one son.

Angus abroad

It’s becoming clear that Angus King, Maine’s independent junior senator, isn’t content learning about the world through intelligence briefings and reports read from the comfortable confines of Washington.

King, a member of the senate’s Armed Services and Intelligence committees, has made a habit of taking journeys around the world to meet with foreign leaders and assess the pursuit of U.S. interests first hand. He’s travelled to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as to Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, where a car bomb was detonated within earshot of the embassy where he was holding meetings.

This weekend, King is in the Middle East again. In Riyadh, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and the head of the country’s intelligence program, as well as Syrian opposition leaders. In Doha, he met with Qatar’s emir and prime minister, according to his office.

In both meetings, King and McCain discussed plains to aid opposition fighters in Syria and to degrade the influence of ISIS.

King also attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Veshem in Jerusalem, a memorial site to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The ceremony also marked the recent terror attacks in Paris, which included an attack at a kosher grocery, where five were killed and 11 wounded, as well as the siege of Charlie Hebdo.

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At least we’re the best

Anyone traveling I-95 during yesterday’s mess of a storm probably saw a few accidents. I know I did. As the slushy mix of rain and sleet fell from the sky, temperatures hovered around freezing, causing cars and trucks to slide off the road.

We hope everyone made it home safe, but in case you do have a fender bender, keep this in mind: Maine is the best place in America to crash your car.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.