Why LePage won’t be rooting for the Patriots this weekend

Good morning from Augusta, where New York Giants fan Gov. Paul LePage won’t be rooting for the New England Patriots when they play the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s Super Bowl or even watching the game.

That’s what the Republican governor told WGAN on Thursday, saying he holds two particular grudges against the Patriots and owner Robert Kraft: Their aborted move to Connecticut in the late 1990s and tight end-turned-murderer Aaron Hernandez.

LePage praised Tom Brady as “probably one of the most fantastic quarterbacks who’s ever going to play the game” and called Bill Belichick is “the best coach in football.”

But the governor said he has “a real hard time getting over what Bob Kraft did to the state of Connecticut.”

That’s a reference to 1999, when the Patriots reneged on a publicly announced plan to move from Foxborough to Hartford after the Massachusetts Legislature approved incentives after a long political battle that left many thinking Connecticut was used merely for leverage.

“Once he did that, I just thought that his ethics of business are well beyond mine and I just can’t accept it,” LePage said.

And there’s also the matter of Hernandez, who was convicted of murder in 2015, still faces two more counts and was drafted with a team adviser admitting that the Patriots knew he had off-field problems, according to CBS Sports.

“They knew better than that,” LePage said.

LePage also said since the Giants aren’t in the Super Bowl, he won’t be watching it. But maybe he’ll change his mind after watching this 1986 hype video. We at the Daily Brief hope this game goes better than that one— Michael Shepherd

Libertarians taking permanent status fight to Maine Legislature

The long and complicated creation of the Libertarian Party in Maine is now moving into the hands of the Legislature, which will consider a bill this year that would grant permanent party status.

Let’s catch up on the background. Through a nonprofit, Libertarians launched a drive in early 2015 to collect 5,000 registrants, the first step in becoming a party. They submitted 6,482 names but Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap rejected nearly 2,000 of them in December 2015 because they could not be verified as registered Maine voters, so all were unenrolled from the party by the state and became independents.

The decision was upheld in U.S. District Court in April 2015 but the Libertarians appealed and the ruling was reversed by the same court a month later, a major victory for the Libertarians. But their fight was far from over.

To achieve permanent party status, they needed at least 10,000 registered Libertarians to vote in November 2016, but they fell far short, with Dunlap spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski saying Wednesday that there are 5,616 enrolled Libertarians.

Now, the party has brokered a deal that could lead to permanent party status. Chairman Chris Lyons said the deal, which involves the presentation of LD 295 to the Legislature, could keep the issue from going back to court for more arguments about how Maine’s system for creating a new party is so hard it’s unconstitutional. That was the crux of the party’s legal arguments the first time around.

The bill was referred to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday. There is also a second bill, which has not yet been drafted, coming from the Dunlap’s office to make broader changes to the qualification process.

“We’re going to continue to be an official party,” Lyons said on Wednesday. “If either of those bills get hacked up or not accepted, basically we’re going right back to court.”

There’s some irony here. LD 295 basically lets the Libertarians fall back on a previous law that lets them qualify because their 2016 presidential candidate — in this case Gary Johnson — received more than 5 percent of the vote in Maine. Because the Libertarians were in the qualifying process, they faced the more rigorous 10,000-vote threshold.

Why does it matter? Having a fourth political party in Maine could mean a great deal if it gains any traction. Even one or two Libertarians in a closely divided Legislature could change the political dynamic in Maine, which raises the question: Will Republicans and Democrats vote for this? Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • The Maine Senate will ask the state’s high court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the voter-approved ranked-choice voting law. The request, pushed by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, is expected to face a vote on Thursday. The rarely used “solemn occasion” request asks the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to say whether ranked-choice voting, passed by voters in 2016, is constitutional. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has said it violates two provisions allowing candidates to win elections by a plurality and calling for votes to be counted by municipal officials. Kyle Bailey, the effort’s campaign manager, blasted the request in a statement on Wednesday, calling it “unprecedented and out of order” and the first time that the court will be asked in this manner to interpret law on the books. Lawyers put forward by the campaign have called the law constitutional.
  • Maine’s U.S. senators both voted for Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. As expected, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King voted Tuesday to confirm the former Exxon Mobil CEO, who was President Donald Trump’s pick to lead Foggy Bottom. King, an independent, joined only three other Democrats to back Tillerson in a 56-43 vote. King said in a Monday statement that he concluded that Tillerson “can and will effectively lead the State Department and serve as a critical moderating influence on and counterweight to the more impulsive forces” in Trump’s administration.
  • U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was one of nine Republicans to vote against nullifying an Obama administration stream protection rule. The rule was finalized by the Department of the Interior in December, as former President Barack Obama was headed out of the White House, but with the congressman from Maine’s 2nd District and eight other Republicans opposed, the bill from House Republicans to gut the measure passed by a narrow 16-vote margin.
  • Groups are rallying on Thursday to push Collins to vote against President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The Sierra Club and progressive groups are rallying at the Republican senator’s Portland office at 10 a.m. after Collins has been targeted by ads from environmental groups to oppose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for the job. In his current role, he has sued the EPA 14 times. Collins hasn’t said how she’ll vote on Pruitt’s confirmation and has met with him. After that, she told Maine Public that she was “concerned … about the number of times he has sued the very agency that he has now been tapped to lead.” In a Super Bowl reference, people at the rally will be dressed in referee shirts, blowing whistles and issuing flags. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

My kid’s a little streaky with his math grades

All you parents out there with school-aged kids know, it’s report card time and depending on your kid, ‘tis is the season of either celebration or “consequences.” For my 12-year-old, we’re celebrating 8 A’s and a B+. (Not that I’m bragging.) (OK, I’m bragging.)

Through the miracle of modern technology, I can see his day-to-day grades online and when I checked on Wednesday there was a shock: He totally bombed his first math homework of the third quarter by making the same simple mistake on all but one problem. Because it was the only grade logged, it made his “in progress” grade for the quarter a seven. Out of 100. 

I try not to pressure my kids about their grades as long as I see them making an effort but my boy came home with a long face. He told me how he physically recoiled and nearly cried when he saw the grade, but I high-fived him. In my opinion, a grade of seven is pretty awesome in its own way, especially when it’s your grade for a whole class. Luckily for his average, he can correct the homework.

Later in the day, a second math grade was added which brought his average up to a 42. I told him about it, hoping to buoy his spirits.

“It’s still an F,” he said. “But at least that’s six times better than a seven.”

Who said this kid isn’t good at math? Here’s his soundtrack. Come to think of it, he’s my son and it’s my blog so he gets 1 + 1. — Christopher Cousins

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.