Impeachment co-sponsor drops re-election bid to work for Sanders

If we’ve learned anything this morning, it’s to be skeptical of political polls. Both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump went into Monday’s Iowa caucuses with 4- or 5-point leads in media polls done immediately before state-level caucuses. Clinton won by a whisker and Trump suffered a major chip in his front-runner status when he was bested by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

We’ve seen the same thing happen here in Maine. In the two most recent gubernatorial elections, the polls have been off by several percentage points. Let’s just all keep this in mind in the coming months, when the polls could possibly outnumber black flies. (I’m predicting a heavy black fly year, just for the record).

On to New Hampshire for the Feb. 9 primaries.

Anyway, here in Augusta the calendar is stacked. The House and Senate convene around 10 a.m. and there is a fairly lengthy schedule of committee activities on tap.

Also of interest is the passing Monday of the deadline for groups pushing citizen-initiated legislation to the November 2016 ballot. By the end of the day, the Secretary of State’s Office had received signatures from groups who want to legalize recreational marijuana, increase funding for public schools, build another casino, increase the state minimum wage and establish a ranked-choice voting system. Check out Mike Shepherd’s summary by clicking here (and I’ll put it in the reading list below, ICYMI. We’ve got your back here at the Daily Brief.).

Oh yeah, your soundtrack. Of all the positive comments we receive about the Daily Brief (thank you!), some of the most common are about the music. It started as a bit of a gimmick but we hear from people frequently who say our insertion of music into their morning has become a sort of tradition. Sometimes choosing is difficult but today I’m in the mood for a funky horn band and if we’re going to listen to a funky horn band it might as well be one of the very best.

And before you complain that I didn’t pick something from this band’s early days (like the guy who spoke up last week about my Velvet Underground selections) here you go. — Christopher Cousins

Open Biddeford-area Senate seat attracting candidates

A well-known Democrat from Biddeford has thrown her name into the mix for a special election to fill the vacant District 32 Senate seat, which represents Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman. The seat is open following the unexpected resignation last week of Democratic Sen. David Dutremble.

Susan Deschambault, former Biddeford city councilor and current planning board member, announced this week that she is interested in the seat. Deschambault, a lifelong Biddeford resident who attended the University of New England when it was still called St. Francis College, is a retired social worker for the Maine Department of Corrections.

Gov. Paul LePage has not yet set the date of the special election. Two other candidates, Democrat Joanne Twomey and Republican Stephen Paul Martin, had previously filed paperwork to run in the general election for the seat.

(Clarification: Deschambault said that despite a press release that indicated otherwise, she never meant to challenge Dutremble in this year’s primary election.)

Expect this contest to be hard-fought as Democrats struggle to retain a key seat in the Republican-controlled Senate. –– Christopher Cousins

LePage names new chief counsel

Gov. Paul LePage on Monday named Avery Day as his new chief legal counsel following the Senate’s confirmation of his former legal counsel, Cynthia Montgomery, to the Maine District Court bench last week.

Day became LePage’s environmental issues adviser in March 2015 and until recently served as the acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. Day, a graduate of George Washington University and Harvard Law School, was an attorney and influential state government lobbyist for Pierce Atwood before entering government service.

LePage also announced Monday that David Sorensen, who in recent years has been a spokesman for House Republicans, the Maine Republican Party and the Department of Health and Human Services, has taken a job as LePage’s senior health policy adviser. — Christopher Cousins 

Quick hits

  • After a decade of Maine’s roller derby teams apparently competing illegally, Portland Democratic Rep. Diane Russell has proposed a bill that would fix the problem by making it legal for skaters to collide with each other. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing this afternoon and a group of undoubtedly tough roller derbyists (derbyers?) have promised to “roll into the State House” in the bill’s support.
  • Independent Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, has announced that he will not seek re-election and will instead spend this year working in support of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Evangelos elevated his profile this year as one of the primary sponsors of an order aimed at impeaching Gov. Paul LePage.
  • Challengers to 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree are lining up. On Monday, a third Republican threw his hat into the ring. Barry Stephens of Scarborough joins fellow Republicans Mark Irving Holbrook of Brunswick and Ande Smith of North Yarmouth on the primary election ticket.
  • Remember the tax conformity bill you’ve read so much about here in the Daily Brief? It passed through the Taxation Committee on Monday and will be vetted today by the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. Democrats on Taxation favored a one-year version of the bill while Republicans opted for it to cover two years.
  • A bill introduced by 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin that is designed to help small businesses passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday. The “Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act” would strengthen report-back requirements for an annual audit of issues facing small businesses by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Reading list

Unlikely poet emerges

Correction: An earlier version of this post featured a new Twitter account purported to be written by Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner. I have since learned that Timberlake has nothing to do with that account so I have deleted this part of the Daily Brief. My apologies. — 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.