A Maine congressional candidate is trying to out-LePage LePage

Last week brought more national attention for Gov. Paul LePage after he blamed “both sides” for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, but it’s Maine Republican figure who made that case with more vigor and coordination.

That’s Mark Holbrook, a counselor from Brunswick who is running against U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District after losing to her by 16 points in 2016 after an only minorly eventful campaign highlighted by a late spat with his primary opponent.

After the violence between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Virginia — where one counter-protester was killed by a car driven into a crowd of people by a Nazi sympathizer — the Republican governor echoed President Donald Trump by saying the sides were equally at fault.

And so too did Holbrook on Friday, issuing a statement saying the two group “represent opposite sides of the same hate-filled coin.”

He also said Americans must “look at the rhetoric used by public officials, pop-icons, news reporters, and political commentators and how the constant drumbeat of the hyperbole impacts people who are predisposed to violence.”

Last week, he also posted a now-deleted video that compared his 2016 vote totals favorably those posted by other Republicans — President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2016 and LePage in 2014 — with images of rockets and an ‘80s rock-style soundtrack.

It may not have been as offbeat as his football-pads commercial from 2016, but these are signs that he’s doubling down on stark conservatism in a Democratic district. It may get him through a primary if there is one, but nothing’s changed to make Pingree look vulnerable. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • LePage’s relationship with New Brunswick was highlighted by a provincial newspaper this weekend. The Telegraph-Journal of Saint John had a long Sunday piece on the governor’s close relationship with officials in Canada and New Brunswick, especially as it relates to their fight against new softwood tariffs imposed against Canada by the Trump administration. Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement began last week and Canada’s foreign affairs minister gave LePage a shout-out in a meeting in Ottawa, calling him “an influential voice in this administration” who “understands very well the intense and interconnected relationship between Maine and Canada.” LePage didn’t agree to an interview for the piece, but his spokesman passed along a recent letter to Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross that referenced Maine jobs being lost because of the tariffs, noting the state’s relationship with New Brunswick. In June, a CBC report said LePage would “make the province’s case” in a meeting with Trump. The Telegraph-Journal  also speculated that LePage could have a hand in renegotiating NAFTA, but that remains to be seen. — Michael Shepherd
  • U.S. Sen. Angus King will raise money at a Hallowell bar tonight. The Quarry Tap Room is hosting a fundraiser for the independent senator’s 2018 campaign from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday with a minimum suggested contribution of $25. The bar, co-owned by Hallowell real estate agent Chris Vallee, has emerged as a political center in the small city dominated jointly by artists and lobbyists. Gov. Paul LePage was a guest bartender there for charity in March. LePage is flirting again with a run against King after ruling one out, but state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, is running. Democrat Zak Ringelstein of Portland and Libertarian Chris Lyons of Brunswick have said they will run.  — Michael Shepherd
  • An Islesboro bookseller has become the fourth Democrat to declare a run for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Craig Olson, an antique book dealer and former chairman of the Board of Selectmen in the Waldo County island town, announced his candidacy on Thursday, saying in a statement that he’s “tired of politicians who hide from their constituents and who put party first.” He’s one of the four Democrats and political newcomers who are looking to unseat two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, in 2018. Former Maine Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford of Monroe, restaurateur Tim Rich of Seal Harbor and rural mail carrier Phil Cleaves of Dexter are also running for now. But if he runs, the favorite for the nomination would be Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden of Lewiston, who is considering a run and has said he’ll decide on one by summer’s end. — Michael Shepherd
  • Attorney General Janet Mills’ spokesman is stepping down and another Democratic operative is taking his place. Tim Feeley, who has been Mills’ spokesman since 2013, told reporters last week that he left the post as of Friday to enroll at the University of Maine School of Law for the upcoming semester. Andrew Roth-Wells, who left as chief of staff to Maine House Democrats at the end of 2016, replaces him as Mills’ spokesman and special assistant effective today. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

I turned down ‘an exclusive VIP tour’ of the Wienermobile

And some in my Twitter timeline weren’t happy about it. It started with a punny pitch from one of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile drivers on Friday.

“We are relishing the opportunity to let you know that the Wienermobile will be visiting the Augusta area for this upcoming week. We would love to schedule an interview to give you an exclusive VIP tour of the Wienermobile and see what all the excitement is about. If you’d like to come to us as well we will be visiting a Hannaford store this Sunday. If you’d like to ketchup with us we would love to find a time to meet and give you an exclusive look at the life of a hotdogger!”

My pithy response?

“Frankly, I would love to case out the Wienermobile and grill some Oscar Mayer officials. But I cover politics, so I can’t mustard the time and it would probably get me into hot water with the bosses. Thanks for reaching out with this red hot tip, though.”

We have a wiener, but I’ll be steamed if someone else gets this broiling scoop. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

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.