All’s quiet in Augusta, but #mepolitics sleeps for no one

Good morning from Augusta where things are (finally) quiet.

The Legislature is away until July 16. There are no committee meetings scheduled between now and then. The budget is passed, bills have been acted upon, and all that’s left for lawmakers to do is let Gov. Paul LePage’s veto clock run out. When it has, they’ll return to decide what to do with all those vetoes.

But just because lawmakers are rounding the bend on the extended 1st regular session of the 127th Legislature doesn’t mean state politics is over.

The Legislature’s watchdog agency has begun its investigation into LePage, the first step in the Government Oversight Committee determining whether LePage acted illegally or unethically in helping get one of his political adversaries fired. The investigation is supposed to take about two weeks, according to Beth Ashcroft, director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. However, the LePage administration has pledged not to cooperate, which could drag the process out.

Then there’s all the work being done across the state at the municipal level. Minimum wage increases are still being debated in Bangor and Portland, after the Legislature balked at LePage’s bill to stymie those efforts.

Meanwhile, presidential politics are heating up as well. As you know, Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in Maine yesterday to pick up LePage’s endorsement while U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has announced she’ll support Jeb Bush. On the Democratic side of the ticket, a surging Bernie Sanders is scheduled to visit Portland on Monday. The event’s expected attendance has already mushroomed, causing a relocation form the Ocean Gateway to the Civic Center.

All of that’s not to mention the upcoming mayoral race in Portland’s largest city or the ongoing signature drives for referenda on marijuana legalization, a statewide minimum wage increase and the institution of ranked-choice voting in all Maine elections.

Never a dull moment in #mepolitics. Stay tuned. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

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Hobson’s Wharf, hold the politics

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exited Becky’s Diner around 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

He’d chatted with voters there, and received the warm endorsement of Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who he considers a friend. Ahead was the drive back to Bristol, New Hampshire, where his next campaign event was scheduled.

This was the first day of his presidential campaign.

Reporters were everywhere as he exited the building, the same team of journalists who moments earlier had been crowding the diner, blocking the path of working waitresses as they attempted to deliver food to customers who didn’t expect that kind of spectacle when they ordered their breakfasts.

Christie caught sight of three young women, all standing on the sidewalk in brightly colored jackets. They were all holding umbrellas; it had been raining all morning. He didn’t know it, but the trio were tourists from Philadelphia, just a river away from his state. Before climbing into his SUV, Christie walked over to the women, shook their hands and introduced himself. This was a campaign stop, after all.

They all smiled politely, if a bit awkwardly. Camera shutters clicked and clicked and clicked with each handshake.

Christie thanked them for their time, and headed toward his car, where staff and security were waiting. The cameras followed him, and the women were alone again, or as alone as you can be outside a busy restaurant. One of them looked around with seeming bewilderment, having not expected to run into a presidential candidate that morning.

“We just wanted some breakfast,” she said.

— Mario Moretto, BDN

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.