Trade battle leaks from presidential race into Maine’s 2nd District

Good morning from Augusta. It was another rah-rah day for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, where President Barack Obama and vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine made the case for their party’s presidential nominee.

But on Tuesday, Clinton had a bit of a headache when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close ally, said she’d support the Trans-Pacific Partnership if she takes office, which The Washington Post called “damaging” to her campaign. Clinton’s camp pushed back immediately.

Trade has been one of the trickiest issues of this campaign for Clinton: She helped negotiate the deal as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, but came out against it last year in a rare split with the president, with whom she has aligned herself closely.

That was a major wedge issue during her primary campaign with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but it may be just as a big of a deal in her campaign with Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has broken with his party to oppose free trade deals.

When Trump visited Bangor in June, trade was one of his main points of attack against Clinton, as he looks to court working-class voters here after polling has shown a close race between the two in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

In 2016, that district will also see one of the nation’s biggest congressional races, with Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin running a rematch of his 2014 win against Democrat Emily Cain. Both oppose the Pacific trade deal. Poliquin announced his opposition in April, while Cain has long opposed it.

On Wednesday, Cain came out against her party’s own platform on trade in a statement, calling for the platform to outline standards for protecting workers in trade agreements.

But she also used it to hit Poliquin for silence on the Republican platform, which calls for “better negotiated trade agreements that put America first,” but also to “broaden our trade agreements with countries which share our values and commitment to fairness.”

“Mills are closing and Mainers are being put out of work as our jobs go overseas,” Cain said. “It shouldn’t take an election-year poll to take the right position.”

Maine Republican Party spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin responded with a statement defending Poliquin’s trade stances, noting Cain’s early endorsement of Clinton before she opposed the Pacific deal and saying “it appears Cain is wrestling with major divisions and the skirmishes” in her party.

Trade is perhaps the biggest issue in the presidential campaign, so expect Poliquin and Cain to find more ways to disagree about their agreement on it. — Michael Shepherd

LePage misfires on education spending

Gov. Paul LePage railed against Question 2 in a Wednesday radio address, but got some facts wrong on education funding.

The Republican governor opposes the question on November’s ballot, which would assess a 3 percent surtax on income over $200,000 to increase education funding. It aims to allow the state to pay for 55 percent of K-12 schools’ “essential programs and services,” a standard set by voters in 2004 that the state has never met.

In his address, LePage said “superintendents decide what the 55 percent will be, and they move the goal posts every year.” But “essential programs and services” is a state formula that was designed to do away with the “expenditure-driven” model that Maine had before 1997.

Also, he said, “if you take into account the state’s portion of teacher pensions and health care after retirement, the state is paying over 55 percent of the cost of public education.” But that’s explicitly set by law. This year, that percentage is 50.79 percent.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose a new tax, but these aren’t the best ones. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • At the town hall, LePage said the state jobs targeted for elimination in next year’s budget are “all vacant.” That’s according to the Portland Press Herald, after a leaked memo showed that the governor wants to reduce the state workforce to 9,500 and cut income taxes. But if that figure is correct, simple subtraction indicates bigger effects on the workforce: David Heidrich, a spokesman for LePage’s budget department, said there are 13,286 executive branch positions authorized, with an employee count of 11,808. That makes for 1,478 vacant spots. If the workforce were to go down to 9,500, that would mean 2,308 layoffs at current levels.
  • A new contract for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative program was announced on Wednesday. It’ll allow the program — which places laptops in the hands of Maine schoolchildren — to provide new devices to schools that opted into the program in 2013. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

‘D-Money,’ ‘LeRage’ reign at governor’s mansion Pokemon gym

Today in political “Pokemon Go” news, players have been trolling LePage at the Blaine House, which is a gym in the augmented-reality game. (For the uninitiated, here’s a good Vox explainer.)

Screenshots were left by an Imgur user named “Vachenzo,” who won the gym and left a Magikarp — the most pathetic Pokemon in the game — named “LeRage” to defend it. Another user left a Meowth named “D-Money,” a reference to LePage’s infamous comments on drug dealers impregnating “young, white” Maine girls.

Vachenzo didn’t return a message seeking comment on his motives, but this sort of trolling has happened before: A Magikarp named “The Donald” was left at the White House gym, according to Kotaku.

Oh, those millennials and their satire. Here’s your soundtrack. — 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.