George Mitchell: Trump will take the US backwards

Good morning from Augusta. Yesterday’s political story of the day was in Lewiston, where former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell was stumping with Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain.

That wasn’t a surprise: Mitchell, a Waterville native who rose to be Senate majority leader and czar for peace in the Middle East and Northern Ireland is a Democratic heavy-hitter who headlined a New York City fundraiser for Cain last week for her key rematch against Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Mitchell hasn’t commented much on the 2016 presidential race, but he has also raised money for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, he told reporters, “She’ll be able to hit the ground running and deal with the many serious issues that we face in our country.”

But Clinton is having trouble in Maine, which normally favors Democrats in presidential elections: A poll this week showed her tied statewide with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and 10 points behind him in the more rural and conservative 2nd District, which is worth one of Maine’s four electoral votes.

Maine has gone for Democrats in every presidential election since 1992, but it has been thought for months that Trump’s party-bucking stances on issues like trade could have outsized sway in parts of Maine that have been hit hard by manufacturing job losses in recent years.

Mitchell acknowledged an economic anxiety in many parts of the electorate, including Maine, that “prosperity is not distributed throughout the country.” But he said Trump wants to take the country backwards.

“And going backwards doesn’t deal with these problems,” he said. “I believe that, come Election Day, a majority of Americans will understand that, act on that and elect Hillary Clinton as president.” — Michael Shepherd

In Maine’s, endorsements from sportsmen can get awkward

This week, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine released its list of endorsements in federal and state races, backing Poliquin over Cain and longshot Republican Mark Holbrook over Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in the 1st District.

That was no surprise, because the powerful group that melds advocacy for guns, conservation, hunters and fishermen usually backs Republicans, with a smaller handful of Democrats always getting SAM’s backing in legislative races.

That’s what happened this year, but the politics behind SAM’s decisions is perhaps more complicated than it has been in the past.

While it’s a pretty conservative group working with Gov. Paul LePage in the Republican grassroots to defeat the gun background check expansion in Question 3 on November’s ballot, it was working with Democratic-oriented environmental groups to pressure LePage to release conservation bonds in 2015.

This balance makes this year’s endorsement list an interesting read, with a “special recognition” section for Democrats who got good marks from the group, but didn’t win an endorsement.

In a key race, SAM endorsed Sen. Rodney Whittemore, R-Skowhegan, for re-election over House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, even though both got A+ grades.

SAM Executive Director David Trahan wrote that while “no one is more committed to protecting the Second Amendment” than Whittemore, the group is “lucky to have two great candidates.”

Unlike most Democrats, McCabe has spoken out against Question 3 and has long received the group’s backing in House races. He said after a close relationship with the group, he’s “disappointed to not receive an endorsement,” but “my focus and priorities remain the same.”

In an interview, Trahan said this endorsement and others were largely due to a policy that “if we have a friendly incumbent who we’ve worked well with in the past, they always get the endorsement.”

A few Democrats also benefited from that phenomenon, including former Maine Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. He’s not an incumbent, but was endorsed over the A+-rated Caribou City Councilor Tim Guerrette, a Republican.

The impact of these endorsements might be muted in most districts, but it’s something to think about in rural areas that will largely decide 2016’s nip-and-tuck race for legislative control— Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Watch Monday’s first presidential debate with the Bangor Daily News in Portland. We’ll be projecting the 9 p.m. debate between Clinton and Trump at Think Tank Coworking at 533 Congress St. Food will be provided, but it’s BYOB. RSVP on Facebook.
  • The National Rifle Association released an ominous, six-minute video in its fight against Question 3. It features LePage, Trahan, Assistant Maine Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols and others.
  • Blaine House repairs have pushed back LePage’s annual fall food drive. It’ll now happen in April 2017, according to the governor’s office.

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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.