Republican state senator to co-host fundraiser for Democrat Janet Mills

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, said Tuesday that he has not decided who he will endorse for governor in the 2018 election, but for now he’s helping raise campaign cash for Janet Mills, who is running as a Democrat.

Saviello, who has been friends with Mills for more than 20 years, confirmed rumors that he and two local movie theater owners, John Moore and Janet Bjorn, will host a fundraiser for Mills on Friday.

“She’s our local candidate and she’s my friend,” said Saviello. “I haven’t endorsed her but at this stage of the race I want to show my support.”

Mills, who lives in Farmington, is a long-time prosecutor and lawmaker who currently serves as Maine’s attorney general. She is one of eight Democrats who have filed to run in the 2018 gubernatorial primary.

Saviello, a retired paper company manager who has switched his party affiliation from Democrat to independent to Republican during his 15-year legislative career, is known as one of the Senate’s more moderate Republicans but said he will made a decision about who to officially endorse at a later date.

Saviello has frequently butted heads with the Senate’s more conservative Republicans and Gov. Paul LePage. In 2016, he sponsored a bill to expand Maine’s Medicaid program, which won majority support in the Republican-controlled Senate but not enough to override a gubernatorial veto.

Saviello said he has also offered his support — but not his endorsement, necessarily — to independent gubernatorial candidate Terry Hayes, who is Maine’s treasurer, if she holds events in his area. To date, he has not made a similar offer to Republican candidates Mary Mayhew or Ken Fredette.

“Nobody I see on the Republican side right now floats my boat,” said Saviello. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Independent Alan Caron could be the next candidate to enter Maine’s wild 2018 gubernatorial race. Caron, a former town planner and communications consultant from Freeport who has been president of the board of Envision Maine, a group that promotes Maine’s “new economy,” since 2009, looks to be eyeing the race to replace the term-limited Gov. Paul LePage, but he hasn’t been explicit. He said in a Facebook post that he would be “announcing a run for major office in Maine” within a few weeks and that he’s left Envision Maine and stopped his Portland Press Herald column. When reached by the BDN, Caron wouldn’t say what he’d run for, but that he’d do it as an independent. Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes of Buckfield is the only other independent to file so far. Eight Democrats and two Republicans are already in. — Michael Shepherd
  • And Hayes will headline a panel of independents at the University of Southern Maine tonight. The Portland chapter of the national Centrist Project, which has endorsed Hayes for governor, is hosting a discussion on running for office and serving as an independent. The treasurer will be joined by independent state Reps. Kent Ackley of Monmouth, Owen Casas of Rockport and Kevin Battle of South Portland. Former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and Kyle Bailey, Cutler’s 2014 finance director, are behind Hayes and a new political action committee called Maine Independents that is recruiting unenrolled legislative candidates. Their goal is to elect enough candidates to own the gap between Republicans and Democrats in each chamber and force more consensus decisions, but such an effort is unprecedented here. — Michael Shepherd
  • U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is trying to raise awareness of rent rates that are too high. Poliquin, a Republican who represents Maine’s 2nd District,  will participate in a news conference in Washington this afternoon with an organization called Make Room Inc. to shed light on the estimated 25 million Americans who face housing insecurity. Of those, at least 11 million Americans are paying at least half of their income on rent. Poliquin and others will introduce a House resolution designating September 2017 as National Month for Renters. The event, which will include country singer Kane Brown, is designed to raise awareness, though no legislation to directly address the problem was announced in a news release. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
  • Another $5 million is available for grants to help school systems in Maine regionalize. This is an initiative that LePage launched earlier this year with $2.7 million worth of grants given to seven school consolidation projects. That money was allocated through an executive order by LePage but the $5 million now up for grabs was appropriated by the Legislature in the biennial state budget bill. Another $5 million will be available in 2018. More information about the Fund for Efficient Delivery of Educational Services is available by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Republican Senate spokesman among Mainers helping in Florida

Jim Cyr, who is a spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau, told the radio hosts on WVOM this morning that he is volunteering for the American Red Cross near Fort Myers, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Cyr, a former TV reporter and State House regular who is widely respected, said he has wanted to help in the wake of a disaster for years.

“I’m just in awe of people who go to help,” said Cyr.

To make it happen, he reached across the partisan line to Ann Kim, a former spokeswoman for House Democrats who now works for the Red Cross. He intended to go to Texas to help with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey but was told the need was more pressing in Florida. Next thing he knew, he was nearly alone on a connecting flight from Charlotte to Florida.

Cyr, who is on a two-week deployment, said the area he’s in is without power and many people remain living in shelters.

“How they roll with the punches and make the best of it is something I’ve never seen before,” said Cyr.

Jim is one of the Daily Brief’s most avid soundtrack listeners, and as we salute his efforts, he gets his own today. — Christopher Cousins

Programming note

Daily Brief will stick to its summer schedule and take Wednesday off. We’ll be back Thursday with more Maine political news and soundtracks. Here’s a bonus soundtrack to hold you until then.

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at 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 most weekday mornings.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.