Good morning from Augusta, where Maine has its first real 2018 campaign with state Sen. Eric Brakey kicking off a steep underdog bid today to unseat independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.
We reported the 28-year-old’s campaign launch last night, but there was more in the notebook from our Saturday interview with the Republican from Auburn. Here’s what you should know.
Brakey’s run will be deeply rooted in a small-government philosophy far different than Maine’s congressional delegation has championed. A libertarian-edged candidate running for federal office in Maine has to run up against a reality: The state is heavily dependent on federal funding.
That’s part of the reason why even Republicans in the congressional delegation have championed federal awards here, such as the millions of dollars in grants awarded last year to boost the flagging forest products industry.
In a general conversation about federal aid, Brakey decried the “strings” that come with federal aid and said that tax money would be better spent if returned to Mainers in the form of tax cuts.
“So, I think if we were to move in a direction away from that, the Maine people would do much better,” he said.
Brakey got his start in politics working for 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul and is allies with his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who have both advocated for cuts to defense spending.
In Maine, that’s potentially another problem, since Bath Iron Works, which employs 6,000, is heavily dependent on Navy and Coast Guard contracts.
Brakey gave a qualified defense of the Bath shipyard, saying “as long as the U.S. military needs ships, they should be built in Maine,” but pushed Bath to also focus on commercial shipbuilding.
He wouldn’t say who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election. That small-government philosophy has sometimes boxed Brakey in among his party. For instance, it separates him from President Donald Trump, who has melded socially conservative stances with big-government planks like sharp increases in defense and infrastructure spending.
When asked who he voted for in the election, Brakey took about 20 seconds in which he laughed, paused and thought before saying, “I did not vote for Hillary Clinton,” the Democratic nominee, saying the outcome was “far better” than if she won and that it showed people that they — not “the establishment in both parties” — control the process.
If elected, his path to the U.S. Senate would be far different than anyone Maine has ever sent. It’s hard to say what past Maine campaign Brakey’s bid resembles, given his youth and King’s status as a popular former two-term governor. Brakey will be 30 years old in August 2018, making him just old enough to assume the office under the Constitution. He would be Maine’s youngest U.S. senator ever, eclipsing the record held by Peleg Sprague, who was elected at age 35 in 1829.
Maine also hasn’t sent someone straight to the U.S. Senate from the Maine Legislature since Eugene Hale in 1881, but Brakey’s not really a fair comparison because Hale had served five terms in Congress before that. We’re in uncharted territory here. — Michael Shepherd, with research by the Maine Law and Legislative Library
- The Maine Department of Education will grant $3 million to Maine school districts today. The grants, which were created by Gov. Paul LePage through an executive order in January, are intended to help public school districts with efforts to find new efficiencies in their operations and pursue consolidation efforts. The grants are part of a broader effort by the governor to spur consolidation of public school administrations, of which he has long argued there are too many. This is the carrot side of the effort. On the stick side, LePage has proposed in his biennial budget bill that all costs for school administration should be pushed to the local level. He has also proposed the appropriation of millions more to support more grants in the future. Education Commissioner Robert Hasson Jr. is scheduled to announce the grant recipients during a 12:15 p.m. news conference today at the Maine State Library in Augusta. The LePage administration is touting this latest effort to promote regionalization as an improvement over former Gov. John Baldacci’s largely unsuccessful consolidation plan because it places the impetus for collaboration at the district level in contrast to Baldacci’s top-down approach.— Christopher Cousins
- Maine lawmakers are gathering support behind a victims’ bill of rights. Parents and a bipartisan group of legislators will gather today at the State House to announce their support for a proposed bill that will grant constitutional rights to crime victims in Maine that are equal to those of the accused and convicted. The law, which would create a victim’s bill of rights, would lead to an amendment to the Maine Constitution if enacted. Those rights would include notifications of public proceedings at which a victim has a right to be heard, the right to confer with the prosecution and the right to prompt and full restitution, among others. Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and Democratic House Majority Leader Erin Herbig of Belfast are scheduled to appear together on behalf of the bill today at a 12:45 p.m. press conference at the State House. — Christopher Cousins
- Angus King wrote to Donald Trump to urge the restoration of National Sea Grant funding. Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King and other members of Congress are calling on the president to reconsider his proposal to eliminate the program, which is run by higher education institutions including the University of Maine. That program works on issues of concern to Maine’s coastal communities, sponsor scientific research that matters to those who depend on Maine’s coastal and marine resources and help develop the marine workforce through education programs, fellowships and scholarships. Here’s their soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
- New task force to boost Maine’s economy has been named. House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has appointed eight members to the Task Force on Maine’s 21st Century Economy. Her appointees include Herbig, who will co-chair the task force; Rep. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick; Rep. Stephanie Hawke, R-Boothbay Harbor; Rep. Robert Foley, R-Wells; Chancellor James Page of the University of Maine System; Jennifer McKenna of Gardiner, who will represent apprenticeship programs; Bates College President A. Clayton Spencer of Lewiston; and Eric Meyer of Whitefield, who is president and CEO of Spurwink Services. The task force will also include eight appointees by Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau: Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, co-chairman; Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro; Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston; Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic; Derek Langhauser, president of the Maine Community College System; Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce; Judith West of Portland and William Grant of Winthrop. The task force is charged with making recommendations to the Legislature by March 1, 2018. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
- Susan Collins was honored for work on behalf of senior citizens. Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has been recognized by the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care for her work on behalf of seniors, including the introduction of legislation to repeal arbitrary Medicare therapy caps and to fix the three-day hospital stay rule. — Christopher Cousins
Today in A-town
The House and Senate convene at around 10 a.m. today and early on the House calendar is a LePage veto of LD 213, which seeks to provide access to medical facilities for military veterans whose state-issued driver’s licenses are not compliant with federal Real ID laws. The bill, which would provide funding for Real ID-compliant passport cards, passed 110-8 in the House and unanimously in the Senate last month. LePage vetoed it because he doesn’t believe the Legislature should provide “carve-outs,” but instead should enact a broader bill to comply with Real ID. Legislative leaders were still deciding whether to take up the veto override vote this morning.
In today’s Senate Calendar, Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor has proposed a joint order to create the Maine Health Advisory Committee to “advise the Legislature regarding the interests of Maine citizens and businesses with respect to the delivery of health care in Maine.” The panel would include five members of the Legislature, and people representing the insurance industry, Maine hospitals, hard-to-reach populations, health care providers, a health care advocacy group, a health economics group, and a health statistics, polling and data analysis organization.
On the committee schedule this afternoon are a number of work sessions. The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will consider recommendations on a number of bills involving workplace safety and workers’ compensation laws. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife committee will consider several bills related to Maine’s annual moose hunting season. The Health and Human Services Committee has a lengthy-looking afternoon scheduled, including a debate over a bill that would require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to expend federal funds within a year of receiving them. This bill comes in the wake of reporting by the Bangor Daily News that some of those funds have been left unspent. — Christopher Cousins
- GOP state Sen. Eric Brakey kicks off underdog 2018 bid to unseat Angus King — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- LePage administration paid $315K for a consultant to rethink child care, then did nothing — Matthew Stone, BDN
- Moody’s Diner owner: New tip law drives up prices, will end charity and worker benefits — Darren Fishell, BDN
- As paper mills die, here’s how Maine’s loggers hope to survive — Fishell
- King wants rural towns to compete for money to turn around their future — Stone
- Two maps that show the promise of Maine’s forest industry — Fishell
- Climate change skeptic group’s mailing campaign targets Maine teachers — Nick McCrea, BDN
- Judge recuses himself from Black Lives Matter hearing — Jake Bleiberg, BDN
- Legislative panel’s vote ends Caribou secession effort — Christopher Bouchard, Aroostook Republican & News
- LePage to hold talk at USM’s Portland campus — Bleiberg
This bill would criminalize lying lobbyists (but not lying legislators)
A bill from Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, that aimed to prohibit lying from everyone who testifies before a legislative committee was amended and endorsed by a committee on Monday to only apply to one group of people — lobbyists.
In a 10-2 vote, the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee removed members of the public and state employees from the bill. Legislators, however, were never affected by Sirocki’s bill. It now goes to the floor.
The bill has been criticized by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap for being unenforceable, though Sirocki has cited National Conference of State Legislatures data saying Maine is one of just nine states that doesn’t address false testimony in law.
But in a statement, she said she hopes that “in the future, the law will apply evenly to anyone who testifies in front of a legislative committee.” We’ll see. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd
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