Susan Collins poised to upend 2018 Maine governor’s race — or not

Good morning from Augusta. We have a venue and time for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins long-awaited announcement on whether she’ll run for governor on Friday. But in the meantime, a Democratic state senator kicked off his run without fanfare.

Is Collins running or not? Many we’ve talked to in the Republican Party — some of whom are close to the senator — think she probably won’t leave her seat to run to replace the term-limited Gov. Paul LePage. But they say she hasn’t been tipping her hand even privately.

The time and location of her announcement could be spun either way. Collins will end the speculation tomorrow morning at a Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Samoset Resort in Rockport — with remarks set for 8 a.m. and a media availability at 9:15 a.m. People skeptical that she will run will wonder why she’d announce at someone else’s event and on a Friday, when news is usually released to be buried. On the other hand, the pro-business crowd will likely be full of Collins fans and could form a ready-made rally if she runs. The state (and likely national) media are coming no matter what she says.

Fun facts: Collins effectively announced her 1994 gubernatorial bid in a news release on a Tuesday. When she ran for Senate in 1996, she held a Wednesday press conference in Bangor.

The chamber has no heads-up. Tom Peaco, executive director of the chamber, said on Wednesday that he wasn’t told what Collins’ decision will be, calling it “the most popular question of the day.” But he said the chamber is “honored” to host it no matter what.

But another Democrat has joined the race. First-term state Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland, filed paperwork to run for governor on Wednesday. The former Cumberland County sheriff brings his party’s primary field to 10 candidates.

And his party says ‘it doesn’t matter’ what Collins does. The Maine Democratic Party doesn’t like Collins’ drawn-out process, saying in a Thursday fundraising email that she makes decisions “exactly, and only when, it’s most politically convenient for her and Republicans” and “it doesn’t matter” what she does. But we promise that Democrats care and would rather not run against the popular Collins in November — if she makes it through a primary.

The BDN is your place for Collins coverage tomorrow. The Daily Brief’s Michael Shepherd is set to appear on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” at 7:20 a.m. from Rockport and will provide the BDN’s coverage from there. Tune into

LePage floats bill to solve possible mapping office defunding

A legislative committee will consider the governor’s proposal to redirect nearly $1.4 million to state mapping agencies. LePage has identified an accidental defunding of the Maine Office of Geographic Information Services and Maine Library of Geographic Services as a main reason for calling the Legislature in for a special session later this month. Legislators have disagreed that there’s a problem, but the budget-writing committee will hold a public hearing on Friday at 2 p.m. on a LePage bill to redirect funding from agencies to the office.

Reading list

  • The University of Maine is offering free tuition at some of its campuses. Four campuses announced Wednesday they’ll waive tuition and fees for some in-state students as part of an effort to increase graduation rates and student debt. Starting in the fall of 2018, students who qualify for federal Pell grants could have the rest of their tuition waived at the campuses at Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Augusta and Machias.
  • The cost of the next-generation destroyers being built at Bath Iron Works is skyrocketing. A new report to Congress this week found that the cost of the three Zumwalt-class destroyers has increased 43 percent since the third and final ship in the class was procured. The first two ships cost $9.14 billion with the third anticipated at $3.73 billion, according to the Congressional Research Office. The total cost has risen by nearly $4 billion since 2009.
  • Maine’s lobster catch is on track to hit its lowest value this decade. Dwindling landings and falling prices could combine to send the total haul below 100 million pounds for the first time since 2010, which is about 30 million pounds less than in 2016. The overall lobster catch broke a record in 2016 at a total value of $533 million.
  • An explosion at a Maine business injured several people on Wednesday. A chemical explosion at Northern Agricultural Sales in the mid-Maine town of Detroit hospitalized several people, including one who was flown by helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Authorities are investigating.

Memo to Earth: LIAR!

See-sawing temperatures are nothing new for Mainers but this morning’s crisp weather elicited an knee-jerk reaction from my 7-year-old as we left the house for the bus.

“It’s kind of frosty out here, and it’s not even Christmas time yet,” he said. “The world is lying.”

Son, it’s sad to see you’ve lost faith in not only humanity, but the planet we live on, so soon. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd 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.