LePage announces date for drug summit; Hillary headed to Maine

Good morning from Augusta. Whether you’re ready for presidential campaign season or not, we’re in the midst of it. In case you missed it, Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday that she will come to Maine for campaign meetings and a fundraiser on Sept. 18.

That follows a July 6 visit to Portland by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is vying against Clinton for the Democratic nomination next year.

The election is still more than a year away but the primary is just on the other side of winter. Wait … that still seems a long way into the future.

On Monday, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Niki Rellon, who was born and raised in Germany but now called Colorado home. Rellon, a world-class athlete in several sports, is about halfway through hiking the Appalachian Trail. Amazingly, it’s been only about 18 months since Rellon was rock-climbing in Utah, where her harness failed and sent her plummeting 45 feet to the rocks below. She suffered bone fractures all over her body and her left foot was so mangled that it had to be amputated.

I tell you all of that just to point out that what I write next is, by a long shot, not the most interesting thing about Niki Rellon. Anyway, the conversation eventually turned to politics.

“American elections are crazy,” she said. “There’s already a campaign and the election isn’t until next year.”

In Germany, candidates become candidates two or three weeks before an election. They campaign fiercely for that short time and boom, Election Day comes and the winners take office.

In the U.S., as you know, campaigning basically never stops and everything that happens in Congress happens in the context of how it will play during the next election. The same is true, to some extent, here in the Maine Legislature.

Look, I know there is no chance at the kind of election reform that would force politicians to hold off until October, especially given our primary election system. But I must say, as a political reporter, I found myself imagining how exciting it would be to see our protracted elections squeezed into just a few weeks, like in Germany.

Alas, a guy is entitled to a daydream once in a while, right? That brings us to today’s catchy soundtrack from The Lovin Spoonful. Enjoy! — Christopher Cousins

LePage drug summit date set

With the drama of this year’s legislative session and the legal battle that followed it over, most of the political focus these days is tilted toward finding solutions to a drug problem in Maine that is becoming more and more clearly a crisis of terrible proportions.

Gov. Paul LePage is planning a drug summit, from which he hopes new solutions will emerge. To date, the administration is being exceptionally vague about the summit, though it appears that LePage already has some measures in mind, such as somehow using the Maine National Guard to target drug dealers.

According to his weekly radio address, LePage’s summit is scheduled for Aug. 26. There are no other details available at the moment — other than previous statements from the administration that the summit will not be open to the public nor the media — but stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins

November ballot finalized

Don’t let the hype around the presidential election make you forget that there is another statewide vote between now and then. This November’s state election ballot has been finalized and absentee ballot request season is officially upon us (you can request a ballot now but you won’t receive it until about 30 days before the election).

According to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, the ballot will include the following:

Did you know that the order of bond questions on the ballot is decided randomly? In this case, the order was decided in a quick game of Pick-a-Hand between Dunlap and state elections chief Julie Flynn. Check it out:

Contributed photo

Jimmy Carter has cancer

Just a quick acknowledgement here of the surely terrifying ordeal facing former President Jimmy Carter, who announced Wednesday that a recent liver surgery revealed cancer spreading through his body.

Carter, 90, has a history of pancreatic cancer in his family, including his parents, two  sisters and a younger brother, who all died from the disease. In 2007, members of the Carter families donated blood for genetic studies seeking to help doctors diagnose the disease, according to Reuters.

Carter’s relatives who died from the disease all smoked cigarettes. The former president, a Democrat who also served as governor of Georgia and who has led countless humanitarian missions since losing the White House to Ronald Reagan in 1980, said he has never smoked one, illustrating a terrible fact: Even if you take care of yourself, you’re not immune to cancer. There’s no other way to say it: Cancer sucks. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Meteoric rise of a lifetime memory

In Wednesday’s Daily Brief, I urged you to go outside last night and gaze at the sky to see a meteor shower created by the Earth’s passage through a trail of comet dust. I also pledged that if the show was spectacular enough, I’d wake my two sons to see it in hopes of recreating for them one of my cherished childhood memories: my parents waking me decades ago to see the aurora borealis.

I sat on my deck for about 15 minutes before a brilliant ball of fire streaked across the horizon, leaving a long tail of light that lasted only a couple of seconds. It was bigger and brighter than I’d expected, by a long shot. I was in awe.

“Put your shoes on and come with me,” I said to my wife and sons. We went to the edge of our front lawn, where there is more sky to see, and tilted our faces upwards. About 10 minutes went by and I was worried that heavens wouldn’t cooperate. My 5-year-old was complaining that he wanted to go inside.

But then, a meteor streaked through the sky directly above us, from one horizon nearly to the other. My wife and sons all said “Whoooaaaaa!” in unison, in that wonderfully involuntary and breathtaking way that comes only with genuine amazement. It was a supremely proud moment for me as a husband and father.

We stayed outside for another half hour and saw about a dozen meteors. If any memory from this summer stays with my boys until adulthood, I’m sure it will be the ones we created by simply walking to the edge of our front lawn and looking up.

I hope you didn’t miss it. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.