Assurances from lawmakers that they’ll act to fight drugs not enough for LePage

Good morning folks. I hope you’ve survived last night’s icy roads — Mother Nature’s first major salvo in the looming battle we call winter — without a fender bender or worse. Be careful out there.

Gov. Paul LePage has used his weekly radio address to repeat his intention to use the Maine National Guard to root out drug dealers unless the Legislature promises to fund more law enforcement officers when it returns to Augusta in January. LePage said — again — that he will enlist the National Guard on Dec. 10 unless the Legislature makes that promise. As in the past, LePage did not say how the National Guard, which already shares information about illegal drug operations with law enforcement, would be used.

“The Legislature can determine the timeline for funding the new agents,” said LePage. “I just need to know they are serious about creating these positions no later than January 2016. But if they continue to stall and wait around for an unspecified plan to increase treatment, I will move ahead without them.”

Having lawmakers — legislative leaders from both parties, presumably — promise now that a majority of the entire Legislature will support the plan two months from now would be relatively unprecedented, though support for ramping up efforts against an exploding heroin crisis in Maine is widespread. In the past, many lawmakers have said that more resources need to be spent on the treatment of addicts — not just throwing drug dealers in jail.

LePage, for his part, seems to be striking a more collaborative and conciliatory tone than he has in the past.

“We absolutely agree that more treatment, education and recovery efforts are needed,” said LePage. “If the Legislature wants to create a comprehensive plan to increase both law enforcement and treatment, we welcome it.”

Many lawmakers agree that the drug crisis is a priority. Last month, Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, indicated that they and others are actively developing a plan, including introducing a handful of bills that focus on education, treatment and law enforcement. House Republican leaders also stated publicly that they support more resources for law enforcement — though House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, and Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, said their priority is not treatment and recovery.

“We believe that enforcement should be our top priority and that goal is readily achievable through the Legislature,” said Espling and Fredette in a written statement.

Those announcements were made nearly two weeks ago but apparently weren’t enough for LePage. It begs the question: What other assurances is the governor looking for? — Christopher Cousins 

UPDATE (11:50 a.m., 11/2/15): LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett called to say that what LePage wants is a written assurance from legislative leaders that specifies they will find funding for 10 new drug crime investigators for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Ben Carson qualifies for Maine ballot

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson has qualified for Maine’s March 5, 2016, presidential nominating caucus ballot, but that just means he has filed the proper paperwork and paid a $10,000 fee, which the Maine Republican Party says helps cover the cost of the caucus.

As you’ve read previously in the Daily Brief, the Maine Democratic Party doesn’t charge presidential candidates a fee and bases its qualifying process on a presidential candidate receiving at least 15 percent support at a municipal caucus.

Carson become at least the third Republican to qualify in Maine. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are already in. — Christopher Cousins

George Mitchell endorses Ben Chin

Yesterday I reported here in the Daily Brief that Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin was endorsed by the national group Democracy for America. Most of the time, endorsements of political candidates mean little to the average voter, except when they come with cash and resources, such as the Democracy for America nod.

They can also matter when the person making the endorsement is a political titan, such as former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who according to the Chin campaign has backed Chin.

Has there ever been a mayoral campaign in Maine that has garnered such widespread attention? — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Win this year’s ugly holiday sweater contest, thanks to Ted Cruz

For $65, you could own this sweater, which is available on Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz’s campaign website.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 8.42.17 AMThe Cruz campaign is also selling “A Very Camo Christmas Bundle” for $50. it includes a hat and a canned beverage cozy, which to me is WAY more value for your dollar. — 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.