Good morning from Augusta and another beautiful summer Monday. I mowed my lawn over the weekend and now it’s brown and pathetic. It’s not much more than a massive anthill to begin with but it seems like this year, it’s too dry for even them. I’m not a sprinkler kind of guy.
So that’s what’s going on in my world, how about yours? I can only speculate about your lawn (unless you’re the guy who lives down the road from me, who IS a sprinkler guy: Nice lawn!) but perhaps I do have something to offer about the Maine politics world unfolding around you.
Democrats have come out of their most important political rally of the summer, the Muskie Lobster Bake in Freeport, charged up and raring to go. Was it the lobster that riled them up? Perhaps, though a press release from the party said chicken and a vegetarian option were also offered.
(Dear Democrats: This is Maine. Even if there is a substitute for lobster, you’re supposed to pretend there isn’t. The voters are watching. Sincerely, Chris).
Anyway, the Muskie Lobster, Chicken and Vegetarian Option Bake featured a range of Democrats who are hoping to win their elections, from 2nd Congressional District hopeful Emily Cain to Brownie Carson, who is hoping to fill the Brunswick- and Freeport-area Senate seat in the term-limited absence of Stan Gerzofsky. In the keynote role was Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who discussed the presidential race and did NOT endorse Donald Trump.
So what do I mean when I say they’re charged up raring to go? Well for one thing, they kicked today off with the launch of new digital political advertisements that target Republicans seeking re-election: Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, Sen. Rodney Whittemore of Skowhegan and Rep. Rick Long of Sherman, who is running for the Senate. You can check out the ads here and here and here and here, respectively.
The 15-second ads differ slightly, but accuse the Republicans of voting against cutting property taxes for senior citizens (LD 76, An Act to Amend the Property Tax Fairness Credit), voting against raises for teachers (LD 1370, An Act to Improve the Quality of Teachers) and stopping jobs from going overseas (LD 407, An Act to Buy American-made Products).
All of those bills were difficult for Republicans to vote for. The property tax and teacher pay bills couldn’t find funding with Gov. Paul LePage and Republicans determined not to spend any new General Fund money this year (among other reasons), and the buy local bill was a version of similar proposals that have been tried multiple times in recent years but which died because of concerns they it could escalate costs for taxpayer-funded goods and services.
With less than 100 days until the election, expect a flood of advertisements like these. Were you wondering where Democrats hope to pick up seats and take over majority control of the Senate? These are the seats the Democrats are viewing as their top 4 seat-flip prospects:
- They hope Thibodeau loses in a rematch to Jonathan Fulford, who Thibodeau beat by just 135 votes in 2014;
- They hope state Rep. Henry Beck can unseat Cyrway;
- They hope House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe can make the switch to the Senate, which would unseat Whittemore;
- They hope Long’s legislative tenure will be ended by former attorney general Michael Carpenter, in a seat that is being left vacant by Republican Sen. Michael Willette.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Henry Beck as a former state representative.)
Coming soon: Nearly identical advertisements, but which accuse Democrats of voting against things that we all hold dear. — Christopher Cousins
‘Secret’ commission goes public
The blue ribbon education commission that had a rocky start when its first meeting was held privately at the Blaine House in late April is moving forward again.
The commission is meant to find ways to improve Maine’s education funding laws and increase student performance, with recommendations to be made to the Legislature in January, but it hasn’t held a meeting all summer. Commission Chairman Bill Beardsley has announced the process is re-starting.
The next meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 29 at York County Community College in Wells. Future meetings are scheduled for Sept. 12 at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and Oct. 17 at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center. Three additional meetings are scheduled for Oct. 31, Nov. 28 and Dec. 12, though their locations have yet to be determined. — Christopher Cousins
- No debate: The campaign against legalizing recreational marijuana in Maine, which is fighting Question 1 on the November ballot, said it has been rebuffed in its efforts to hold a debate on the issue. Internationally known legalization advocate Rick Steves will visit Maine in October, according to the group Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, but has turned down participation in a debate because of scheduling problems.
- Talking agriculture: Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree will speak about growing Maine’s agriculture economy today during a meeting of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition today at the University of Maine at Orono. NSAC is an alliance of more than 100 organizations that advocate for federal policy reform. Today’s meeting includes experts from across the country.
- LePage town hall: Gov. Paul LePage will hold his next town hall meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Sanford City Hall.
- Why a Maine school funding guru opposes referendum to hike spending — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- After week of spats, Trump to focus on Clinton, economy — Emily Stephenson, Reuters
- Trump endorses House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. John McCain — Jose A DelReal, The Washington Post
- U.S. asks appeals court to reconsider Bank of America ruling — Nate Raymond, Reuters
Monopoly isn’t terrible anymore
For all you board gamers, I have a bit of what I consider public service for you here: Over the weekend, and thanks to my two boys, I discovered Monopoly Empire, a new twist on an old game.
I have never liked Monopoly. When I met my would-be wife way back in 1992, she was a huge fan of the game and I was doing anything I could to impress her. I remember many hours-long games of Monopoly, both of us refusing to sell any properties that would allow the other to have a complete color set. My backbone is compressing and my legs are falling asleep right now just thinking about it.
Empire is better. Brutal new rules that can rob you of anything with a roll of the dice, huge rental payouts and new criteria for winning (that don’t involve laboriously winnowing your opponent’s money stack over the course of hours) make it a merciful 30-45 minute game. I won one game yesterday before rounding the board a single time.
Younger players might not understand. My 6-year-old is adjusting to a new phase of his life now that he has new-found and profound disappointment in his father. I played a card against him that forced him to return all three of his green properties (those are the expensive ones) back to the board.
Those are the rules, kid. Life is rough. And no, I don’t want to play the old version. — Christopher Cousins