Good morning from Augusta, where we’re preparing for the third and final presidential debate tonight between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
It’s being seen as a crucial moment for Trump, who has fallen nearly seven points behind Clinton in the latest Real Clear Politics polling average amid a rash of sexual misconduct allegations that he said at a Bangor rally on Saturday were part of a “rigged system” against him.
What’s remarkable about this is that it’s far from an ideal time for Clinton, who is dealing with WikiLeaks’ disclosures of purportedly hacked emails detailing Wall Street speeches and internal anxiety about her campaign, a sore subject for a candidate for whom secrecy has long been a major problem.
We just don’t know how this will play out Maine, which has garnered swing-state status in 2016, with Trump visiting the state four times since March in a bid to pick off one of our four Electoral College votes by winning the rural, relatively conservative 2nd Congressional District.
That looked likely through September, when he held a double-digit polling lead in the 2nd District. But that’s up in the air, with the latest poll from the progressive Maine People’s Resource Center finding the 2nd District tied and Clinton up by 8 percentage points statewide buoyed by a large lead in the 1st District.
Their second debate was a nasty one, with Trump vowing to jail Clinton over her email practices as secretary of state. In the third debate, Trump is expected to escalate “attacks on Mrs. Clinton’s character and a focus on her health,” according to The New York Times. So, we’re expecting fireworks.
The BDN will be running a live blog during the debate, and I’ll be watching from the Bangor Daily News’ debate party in Portland, which is now sold out because of the brilliant addition of therapy kittens from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.
They will be a reminder that everything will be all right and that there’s less than three weeks until Election Day. — Michael Shepherd
Cushing plans to pay back $3,100 in legislative reimbursements originally paid by PAC
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Newport, said Wednesday that he plans to pay back more than $3,100 in legislative reimbursements for expenses originally paid by his political action committee.
Issues were flagged by the Bangor Daily News last week after a review of legislative travel reimbursements and spending records for Respect Maine, the PAC run by Cushing, who is one of the top Republican fundraisers in Maine and one of the party’s most influential legislators.
The expenses related to Cushing’s 2014 and 2015 trips to Seattle and Minneapolis for meetings of the National Conference of State Legislatures, for which Cushing personally was approved for more than $3,100 in legislative reimbursements.
The problem was that these expenses were paid by Respect Maine, with individual transactions reimbursed to Cushing showing up in the PAC’s records, including hotel, airfare and credit card charges.
Cushing attributed it to a bookkeeper’s error and said his PAC owes him a larger amount of money for mileage to political events. On the recommendation of the Maine Ethics Commission, he said he plans to reconcile the accounts by moving money between his personal account and the PAC.
However, his PAC may come under more scrutiny.
A civil lawsuit filed earlier this month by Cushing’s sister alleged that he misused more than $1 million in family business funds, putting at least $20,000 toward campaigns and an unspecified amount into his PAC. Cushing said the allegations are “without merit.” — Michael Shepherd
- U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree used her campaign email list on Tuesday to boost a petition on banning fracking on public lands. It indicates that the 1st District Democrat isn’t too worried about 2016 Republican opponent Mark Holbrook, who was behind her by 42 points in a September poll from the Portland Press Herald. She had $544,000 in the bank as of September’s end to Holbrook’s $28,000.
- U.S. Sen. Susan Collins formally backed Rep. Bruce Poliquin for re-election at a Bangor event yesterday. The endorsement was never in doubt, as Collins typically backs all Maine Republicans and has indicated support for him already in his 2nd District matchup against Democrat Emily Cain, but it’s always good to have Maine’s most popular politician next to you.
- Poliquin and Cain will debate tonight in Presque Isle. It’s at 7 p.m. on CBS and Fox affiliate WAGM, simulcasting on Bangor CBS affiliate WABI and Portland ABC affiliate WMTW. C-SPAN has expressed interest in re-broadcasting it given the 2nd District’s nationally targeted status, according to WAGM. — Michael Shepherd
- Auditor finds DHHS misspent $13M in welfare funds — Matthew Stone, Bangor Daily News
- After winning two elections, LePage said voting system in Maine is illegitimate — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Donald Trump’s call to monitor polls raises fears of intimidation — Trip Gabriel, The New York Times
- ‘People in politics today could learn a lot from Ed Pert’ — Cousins
- Answers are hard to come by at first Poliquin-Cain debate — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- ‘I need a favor’: FBI official at center of alleged Clinton email ‘quid pro quo’ speaks out — Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post
- The Portland grocery store welfare fraud case, explained — Jake Bleiberg, BDN
- Thanks to national PAC, City Council candidate has an early — and big — fundraising lead — Bleiberg
- Melania remains a mystery — for better or worse, say Trump supporters — Jessica Testa, Buzzfeed
- A computer’s hot take on the 2016 election — Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic
Best of Maine’s Craigslist
- Do you want dumpster food at your next barbecue? Then invite this “Canadian traveler” who “dumpster dived well over 50 pound of meat, chocolate, fruit, bread and anything you can think of,” but doesn’t have enough friends in Portland to share it with.
- A signature kind of lust: A petitioner got a signature from a “beautiful redhead teacher” on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. “I was the guy in the leather jacket” he says, “but if you agreed to go out for a coffee or a dinner I’d clean up my look.” Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd