Gov. Paul LePage has learned a lot during his dozens of public town hall meetings and radio appearances, namely how to work a crowd.
During his State of the State address on Tuesday at the State House, the gap between his prepared remarks and what he said from the rostrum became a cavern by the end of the approximately 75-minute speech. LePage went on significant tangents about opioid addiction, energy costs, education reform and the plight of elderly Mainers, bringing the mood of his impromptu town hall meetings to a setting that traditionally favors a scripted and formal delivery.
You can read coverage of the speech from the Bangor Daily News by clicking here and we’ll have more as the day goes on — there’s a lot to unpack — but the Daily Brief is here to give you a few hot takes to start your day (along with some great blues music):
‘Socialists’ became ‘liberals’: Last year, when LePage delivered the State of the State as a letter instead of a speech, he used some form of the word “socialist” more than a dozen times to brand his opponents. At the time, the presidential primary season was building and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, was popular in Maine and elsewhere. On Tuesday, LePage ripped liberals and their liberal agenda and for those counting, he used some form of the word at least 16 times — and that was just in the prepared version. “Liberals are now trying to transform our state into a socialist utopia,” was one memorable line. “Utopia is an ideology. No amount of taxpayers’ money can make it a reality.” Either way he puts it, it’s just another well-worn attempt by LePage to frame politics in Maine as “us versus them.”
The speech showed LePage’s discipline and lack of it, all at once: When LePage chooses a message, he sticks to it. Through town hall meetings and other public appearances, and through last night’s speech, he has maintained a constant vision for a Maine with cheaper energy prices, lower-cost and more efficient public schools and leaner welfare rolls. On the other hand, his going off-script often leads to verbal gaffes and mistakes that cost the governor in political capital. There weren’t any blatant examples of that on Tuesday and the result was another chapter in LePage’s book of ideologically driven retail politics. Another contrast were with his message — ‘liberals are evil’ — and his actions — ‘you’re all invited over to the Blaine House after this speech.’
The governor seems to be leveraging a new relationship with a Democrat he has feuded with: The only legislator mentioned by name in LePage’s speech was Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. Their relationship was once defined by a memorable 2013 episode in which LePage said Jackson “claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.” But the governor mentioned Jackson three times in his speech, saying they’ve met to discuss Maine’s opiate crisis. Afterward, Jackson said he and other Democrats are meeting with Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew to discuss a new initiative on that subject. During the speech, LePage said it “a wonder that we’d be talking to each other,” but “he’s a better man for it” and “I’m a better man for it.” Jackson said he was “maybe a little bit surprised” by the mention, but there will be “no wedge drove” between him and any Democrats, especially House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who is emerging as a top adversary to LePage now. — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd
- Progressive groups target Susan Collins on Mnuchin’s treasury confirmation: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the Communications Workers of America have collaborated for an advertising buy that will target Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. The intent of the six-figure television ad buy, which is being spread to Maine after already having run in other states, calls on Collins to oppose President Donald Trump’s nomination of Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary. The Senate is expected to vote on Mnuchin’s confirmation in the coming days.
- She’s also taking flak for voting to silence Elizabeth Warren: Collins joined 48 of her Republican colleagues in the Senate in voting to Tuesday stop Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts from reading aloud a letter by the late Coretta Scott King, wife of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., during floor debate leading up to a confirmation vote on Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general. Republicans agreed that reading the letter, which portrays Sessions as a past opponent of civil rights, “impugned” his character, which is not allowed under Senate rules. That rule has come up often in the contentious, partisan fight over Sessions’ nomination. Progressives in Maine, including former state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, were quick to use the vote to question Collins’ image as a moderate.
- Maine ranked third-best state to retire in: Here’s your soundtrack. MoneyRates has ranked Maine the third-best state to retire in, based on its highest-in-the-country proportion of people over age 60 and low rates of violent and property crimes. Maine falls behind Iowa and Hawaii and ahead of New Hampshire and Vermont in the top five. The worst states to retire to? Alaska, Louisiana and Georgia. If you’re interested in reading more about the methodology and rankings, click here.
- LePage uses State of State speech to rip ‘liberal’ attack on Maine way of life — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd, BDN
- How $13 million in unlawful spending took shape in Mary Mayhew’s DHHS — Matthew Stone, BDN
- Maine high court sets hearing on legality of ranked-choice voting — Cousins
- LePage: Maine AG ‘speaks for herself’ on Trump’s immigration order — Shepherd
- Demolition begins at East Millinocket mill site, despite town concerns — Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- Pence breaks Senate tie to confirm DeVos as US education secretary — Richard Cowan, Reuters
- Board OKs extra $1 million for bus contract with Maine Military Authority — Anthony Brino, BDN
- Schumer says Trump court pick avoided questions ‘like the plague’ — Susan Cornwell and Lawrence Hurley, Reuters
We might as well celebrate Led Zeppelin because I don’t have a better idea and deadline is close
On this day in 1968, Robert Plant and John Bonham took the stage in London for their first concert — as the Band of Joy.
I don’t know what was included in that band’s repertoire but if those guys’ later work with Led Zeppelin is any indication, it wasn’t a very good name. Maybe, like, Band of Carnage? I don’t know. Anyway, given what happened on this day in rock history and more current events, here’s a little LedZep to wake you up. –– Christopher Cousins