Maine Republicans are already lining up to fill key Senate vacancies in 2018

Good morning from Augusta, where it’s already been a busy week for legislative Republicans looking for promotions in 2018.

Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling said she’s considering a Senate run. The term-limited Republican from New Gloucester said Monday that she has “more to offer,” but she has no timeframe to make a decision on running for the seat to be vacated by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who is running against independent U.S. Sen. Angus King in 2018.

But Senate Republicans have already found their candidate. Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, quickly backed Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn, when he announced his run last week, praising Bickford’s “strong record of service.” Espling said that didn’t change her thinking about the race and that she’d run if she feels “it’s the right thing.”

That could highlight tension between leading Senate and House Republicans, but three more filed to move to the upper chamber. Thibodeau and House Republicans — closer to Gov. Paul LePage — were warring during Maine’s 2017 budget battle that led to a shutdown. But Reps. Jeff Timberlake of Turner, Brad Farrin of Norridgewock and Russell Black of Wilton filed on Monday to run for open Republican-held Senate seats, so their fates are tied.

Mills to insurance companies: Incentivize pain treatment without opiates

Attorney General Janet Mills joined 36 other attorneys general to ask that companies increase coverage for alternative pain treatment. A letter from the top attorneys say increased use of non-opioid medication, physical therapy and acupuncture would help tamp down on national opiate epidemic they call “the preeminent public health crisis of our time.”

It’s study time for Maine lawmakers

Legislative leaders will discuss how to advance two task forces today. The Legislative Council, which is made up of leaders from the House and Senate, is scheduled to convene today at 11 a.m. One of the task forces was established to study Maine’s health care system. According to the council’s agenda, lawmakers will consider an outside funding source to support that effort. Lawmakers will also consider whether to convene another task force to identify special education cost drivers in the state’s education system and to recommend new approaches. That task force was created in 11th-hour budget negotiations in July.

Reading list

  • Susan Collins looks like a hard sell — again — on a leading Republican bid to replace the Affordable Care Act. The Republican senator from Maine cited “a number of concerns” with the repeal-and-replace proposal now being pushed by her party’s leaders, including Medicaid cuts. She was one of three Republicans to sink the last repeal bid in July.
  • Two victims of a two-county rampage are suing the Maine State Police, alleging the agency failed to protect them. Brittany Irish of Bangor and her mother filed a federal court complaint saying they told police that Anthony Lord was dangerous and sought police protection that was denied before he killed Irish’s boyfriend and a Lee man, wounded three others and assaulted another with a hammer. Lord was sentenced to life in prison last month.
  • Bath Iron Works and a 700-employee union have extended contract talks for a week. The Bath Marine Draftsmen’s Association voted Saturday to authorize a strike after rejecting the company’s latest offer, but they’ve now agreed to work until Sept. 24. BIW has also agreed to not lock them out until then. The parties are scheduled to continue negotiations today.
  • Another round of military base closures was stripped from a $700 billion defense funding bill. The Senate voted 89-8 in favor of the bill on Monday. The bill looked to be controversial in recent days with proposals to block President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from the military and a bid to launch another round of base closures, but those provisions were stripped and could live to be debated another day. The defense spending bill now goes to the House.
  • The Maine coast is on Hurricane Jose watch. The state could see high surf and minor coastal flooding late Tuesday as the hurricane churns over the ocean near the East Coast. The National Weather Service issued high surf and small craft advisories for Maine and New Hampshire through Tuesday evening.

Mystery candidate revealed

Driving through Lewiston on my way to Auburn on Sunday, I took note of the campaign signs along Sabattus and Russell streets. The “Cayer for Mayor” placards had a nice ring. I noticed a big Chin sign for mayoral candidate Ben Chin across the street from Bates College, his alma mater. But one sign perplexed me.

“Who is this ONELA person?” the Abe Simpson voice in my head asked the other voices. “That’s an unusual name.”

To my credit, I did figure out it was a “One L-A” show of support for merging Lewiston and Auburn before I crossed the river. Here’s their soundtrack. And to be fair and balanced, here’s a soundtrack for the anti-merger forces. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Christopher Cousins and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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.