LePage hints at 2018 power play as Gideon labels him ‘less relevant’

Good morning from Augusta, where the two-year budget may be signed, but Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature’s top Democrat have already teased their tacks for the next standoff, likely to happen sometime next year.

The budget agreement reached by the Republican governor and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, will likely require a supplemental budget in 2018 because it leaves additional funding for Maine direct-care workers unaddressed in the next fiscal year.

Before he signed the budget on Monday, LePage praised the loyal House Republicans for holding up two budget deals before that by withholding needed two-thirds majorities, saying they “held together and controlled the majority” and “kicked butt.”

He also relayed a conversation with House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, saying, “Ken told me the next supplemental budget, we’re going to be in the driver’s seat,” foreshadowing a continuation of their strategy to boost LePage’s voice in the Legislature.

On Wednesday, Gideon was pre-emptively fighting back along those lines in an appearance with Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, on Maine Public’s “Maine Calling.”

She said “the governor’s participation in the legislative process become less and less relevant as he heads into his last year of government” before he leaves office in early 2019.

But he’s hinting at a power play: While he signed a budget that added $162 million in education funding, he told WGAN on Thursday that it was a “ransom” for eliminating the voter-approved surtax on high income for schools and told that group of lawmakers on Monday that there would be “hell to pay in education,” according to Maine Public.

LePage, who was in the Blaine House for much of the shutdown, also blamed protesters for “keying Republican cars” over the weekend, even though there’s no evidence of that.

It was a reference to reports of vandalism from two lawmakers, Reps. Sheldon Hanington of Lincoln and Tim Theriault of China. But the Kennebec Journal reported that Capitol Police found no intentional damage to Theriault’s car and Hanington’s truck was damaged in his Lincoln driveway. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • A relatively unknown Democrat has announced plans to run in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Tim Rich, 40, of Seal Harbor, has filed with the Federal Election Commission to run as a Democrat in 2018. Rich, owner of The Independent Cafe in Bar Harbor, has an uphill battle to unseat two-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Jonathan Fulford and Moira O’Neill also have been mentioned as possible Democratic challengers to Poliquin, whose name also has been floated as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate. Derek Lane, a young Democratic operative who worked on 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ Maine bid, is working on Rich’s campaign. — Robert Long and Michael Shepherd
  • A Maine legislator will be one of the featured speakers at a Washington, D.C., news conference on centrism.  Rep. Owen Casas, a first-term independent from Rockport, will participate in the Centrist Project’s July 12 “Independents Day” program at the National Press Club. He will join Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and other independent state legislators. They are expected to discuss efforts to pull state and national politics out of its partisan bunkers. Maine’s endangered ranked-choice voting system — approved by voters in November but in limbo after a high court opinion questioning its constitutionality — is likely to be discussed. After electing two independent governors and an independent U.S. senator, Maine voters have a reputation for nonpartisanship, but despite the fact that — after three post-election party defections — there are now five independents in the Maine House of Representatives, the independent bloc has not achieved critical mass to exert meaningful power in the Legislature. –– Robert Long

Reading list

Good thing it’s not the fish that count, it’s the fishing

I took a day off Wednesday and for the first time this year put my canoe in the water. My co-pilot was the Portland Press Herald’s political reporter, Kevin Miller, who is a longtime friend.

“OK, we’ll talk about work until we get to this next bend in the river,” he said. “Deal?”

Those seven hours on the lake were good for the soul, but not so good for my fish count. I didn’t put any in the boat except for one of the three or four that Kevin caught. It’s a good thing that under my fishing rules, I almost never get skunked. Weeds are “saladfish,” y’know, for the vegans, and sticks are “stickfish,” y’know, because they’re sticks. When we hook bottom, it’s a “planetfish.” I’ve never landed one of those.

Late in the day, with the water dark and the birds quieting, I hooked something solid. I reeled it in, pulling the canoe and the object equal distances toward each other. It’s amazing how strong 8-pound-test fishing line is. Finally, it surfaced.

“Jeez, I’m going to need two hands for this,” I told Kevin as I leaned toward the water and the canoe took a semi-concerning lurch. The object turned out to be a log bigger around than my arm and about four feet long. Must’ve been at least 15-20 pounds. I was so proud.

Biggest lumberfish I’ve ever caught. Here’s my soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Programming note

You most likely won’t see the Daily Brief again until Monday as we split some time off today and tomorrow. Have a good weekend! — Michael Shepherd and Christopher Cousins

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.


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.