Maine Democrats to consider superdelegate changes at state convention

Good morning from Augusta, where Democrats rejected a last-minute budget maneuver from Gov. Paul LePage and House Republicans that had the State House halls buzzing on Thursday.

The proposal wasn’t released by Republicans, but Democrats said it funded $18 million worth of bills — pay raises for law enforcement and direct care workers and jail funding — by finding funding sources other than surplus revenue that House Republicans want to go into Maine’s rainy day fund.

House Republicans held a closed-door caucus on the plan for much of Thursday afternoon with the Republican governor’s staffers, but they wouldn’t answer questions about it.

However, Democrats were briefed on it and rejected the proposal out of hand, with House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, telling the Sun Journal that “we are just going to see where the chips fall” on a piecemeal budget.

So, we’re back to where we were in yesterday’s Daily Brief. Politics is great. Here’s our soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

Portland state representative floats superdelegate rule change

A prominent Maine supporter of Democratic presidential underdog Bernie Sanders will float a rule change at this year’s state convention to upend rules around “superdelegates.”

Those delegates, which are party leaders who are unbound to any candidate and make up 15 percent of the total pool in the nominating process, have been maligned by Sanders supporters as most support Clinton, according to an Associated Press survey.

That holds true even in Maine, where Sanders won resoundingly in the March caucuses with 64 percent of state delegates. He’s projected to get 16 of Maine’s 25 pledged delegates under the state party’s rules.

But Clinton is backed by three Maine’s five superdelegates — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District, Maine Democratic Party Vice Chair Peggy Schaffer and national committeewoman Maggie Allen — and they have said Sanders’ win in Maine won’t flip them.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett hasn’t endorsed a candidate, while the last superdelegate, national committeeman Troy Jackson, is a top Sanders backer who worked for his campaign.

The proposed rule change from state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, a Sanders supporter, would make it so superdelegates would have to cast their first ballot for the candidate who won the state, or in the case of a member of Congress, their district. It would also allow superdelegates who support another candidate to be pledged delegates.

Russell said she has the signatures to get it considered at the state convention in May, and that it could be a blueprint for other states. — Michael Shepherd

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A longshot congressional candidate has a $12 billion idea for Maine

An independent running for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District held a press conference on Thursday to outline a $12 billion plan that would put two nuclear power plants on the Penobscot River in rural Woodville.

The idea, unveiled by Mike Turcotte of Bangor, who announced a longshot run against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, and Democrat Emily Cain in November, may be impossibly ambitious.

In a presentation outlining the plan, he cautions that he’s “not an energy expert,” but that the plan could create 800 jobs.

It isn’t federal in scope, calling for a state referendum for a $12 billion bond issue to build the two power plants, a new state agency to manage them and creation of a state woods preserve in northwestern Maine, where development would be banned.

In messages, Turcotte admitted it “seems odd” that a congressional candidate would propose state initiatives, but “this is more about creating jobs” for the district and “I’m looking to create solutions, not sound bites.”

The price tag for this would be hefty. Assuming debt service matches that which was predicted for two 10-year bonds in 2015, the lifetime cost of borrowing $12 billion would be $15.3 billion. To put that in perspective, it’s more than twice the cost of Maine’s current two-year state budget of $6.7 billion.

But Turcotte said the power plants would generate more power than the state needs, so it could be sold to pay back the borrowing and provide stable electricity prices.

“I know about the debt service but the power that is sold out of state with a production tax added will generate the revenue to service the debt,” he said. — Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.