Good morning from Augusta, where we’ll see the biggest group of lawmakers that we’ve seen in awhile on Friday, when Democrats in the Maine House of Representatives meet to select leaders.
Republicans gained three House seats in the November election, but it wasn’t enough to wrest the majority from Democrats, who will have a 77-72 majority with two independents — one who beat a Democrat, one who beat a Republican.
On Friday, Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, is expected to be nominated as the next House speaker, replacing the outgoing Mark Eves of North Berwick. But she’s being challenged by Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner in the elections, which are set to kick off at 10 a.m.
The race for the majority leader spot is expected to be between the co-chairs of the Legislature’s labor and transportation committees: Rep. Erin Herbig of Belfast and Rep. Andrew McLean of Gorham, respectively. Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston is expected to become assistant leader.
That completes the leadership picture for this year’s Legislature, which will set the tone for key negotiations and priorities in the 2017 session.
Things were status quo for Republicans, who re-elected Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport and their teams. Troy Jackson of Allagash will be Democrats’ minority leader in the Senate and Nate Libby of Lewiston will assist him.
The caucuses will have their first scrapes on Dec. 7 — swearing-in day for the new Legislature — when they’ll also elect constitutional officers, including the attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
Democrats Janet Mills and Matthew Dunlap have held the first two posts since 2013, but independent Terry Hayes — a former Democratic lawmaker — won the treasurer’s office in 2015 with support from Republicans over a Democrat. The elections are done by an aggregate vote of all members of the Legislature.
With four-member Democratic majority, the parties are wrangling behind the scenes to contest the races, although the odds seem stacked in favor of the status quo.
Republican lobbyist Josh Tardy, a former legislative leader, said he’s been asked to consider running for attorney general. Outgoing Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, is rumored to be considering a run against Hayes.
Tardy called it “a great honor to be part of that discussion,” but he wasn’t too optimistic about the odds, saying “unless there’s a change based on a recount, the Democrats will have barely, but enough to elect constitutional officers if the caucus holds.”
Those recounts haven’t done Republicans a favor yet: Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, beat Republican Benjamin Twitchell of Winslow by 150 votes after Thursday’s recount in House District 78.
On Friday, Dunlap’s office will do a recount in House District 121, a seat held by Rep. Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, who apparently beat Republican Gary Drinkwater of Milford by 22 votes.
Things probably aren’t likely to change, but if they do, we’ll have a day of intrigue on our hands at the State House. — Michael Shepherd
- Protesters are planning to gather at the Maine State House today. The rally looks motivated by Trump’s election, with organizers saying it’s to “tell the Maine government we will not go back” or “stand for racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, classism, or any other bigotry in Maine.”
- U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is being targeted with calls urging her to “stand up to Trump.” Paul Jessen of Cape Elizabeth rolled out a website called CallingCollins.com, where he provides phone numbers for Collins’ office and says “the most likely check on Trump’s power would come from the Senate” and specifically Collins, a moderate Republican who didn’t vote for Trump and criticized him during the campaign.
- U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin took to the House floor on Thursday in support of a bill that would stop American banks from financing airplane sales to Iran. The Republican from Maine’s 2nd District opposes President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which unfroze roughly $100 billion in Iranian assets in exchange for curbing of their nuclear program. The deal allows Iran to buy U.S.-made airplanes if they stick to its terms. Poliquin called it a “good, common-sense bill” that would keep assets out of the hands of a state terrorism sponsor. But critics of the bill, which passed in the House on Thursday, have said it would undermine the deal, with Rep. Denny Heck, D-Washington, saying it could create “an unsafe and unstable situation.” An Obama veto is expected, but Trump opposes the Iran deal. — Michael Shepherd
- Some legislators skeptical of preliminary findings in Maine lottery review — Dave Sherwood, Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
- Maine court rejects Emera deal but sidesteps energy market conflicts — Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News
- In Trump’s top adviser, Maine Jews see a reason to worry — Jake Bleiberg, BDN
- Bangor methadone clinic ban might survive judge’s ruling — Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- Trump asks Flynn, a fiery general, to be top adviser and plans Romney meeting — Philip Rucker, Karen DeYoung and David Nakamura, The Washington Post
- Obama reckons with a Trump presidency — David Remnick, The New Yorker
- What should Democrats do now? — FiveThirtyEight staff
- Apple, conservation group donate easement on 32,400 acres in Aroostook County — Jen Lynds, BDN
- Maine man charged after allegedly threatening to kill Obama, Pingree — Michael Shepherd, BDN
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, didn’t endorse his party’s presidential nominee during the 2016 campaign and hasn’t commented on Trump’s much-maligned selection of Stephen Bannon to a top position.
But he doesn’t look disappointed by the outcome in this selfie snapped by Vice President-elect Mike Pence with the House Republican caucus. However, it’s hard to find Poliquin. I couldn’t at first glance. Can you?