Good morning from Augusta. Residency may again be an issue in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin sold his in-district home in January, but his political adviser says he’s still living in an apartment there under a rental agreement.
Poliquin moved into the family home before his first run for Congress and it was a major campaign issue. The Republican and Waterville native lived in an oceanside home in coastal Georgetown in the 1st District before his first run for Congress in 2014. He still owns that home — which is valued at $3.4 million by the town — but he registered to vote from the family home in Oakland along Messalonskee Lake in 2013.
His residence in the district was a major issue in the 2014 primary for the 2nd District seat against former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, but he overcame it and it was talked about less and less in his 2014 and 2016 general election campaigns against Democrat Emily Cain.
He was planning to look for a new home after selling this one, but he has a lease now. The Morning Sentinel reported last year that Poliquin’s home was on the market and a spokesman said he was looking to downsize and find another home in the area. However, he sold it in early January to a Winslow couple, according to the deed.
On Monday, Poliquin adviser Brent Littlefield said the congressman negotiated a rental agreement with the home’s new owners that allows him to keep using an apartment on the property. He registered for the ballot from his campaign’s post office box.
It may be an issue again as four Democrats vie to replace him in 2018. The four-person Democratic primary is wide open, with conservationist Lucas St. Clair, Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, builder Jonathan Fulford and bookseller Craig Olson on the ballot and looking to distinguish themselves. (St. Clair moved from Portland to Hampden after declaring for the race.)
It will be a nationally targeted race for the third straight cycle, with Democrats leading generic congressional polls by wide margins now. But the 2nd District has taken a conservative turn since Poliquin first won it in 2014 and any Democrat will likely have a hard time beating him.
Where is all that money donated to the Greene Democrat going?
A Democratic zeitgeist trained itself on a Sabattus legislative race, giving a committee led by a college student more than $170,000 so far. That now belongs to the Lewiston Democratic Committee, which harnessed viral outrage over insults levied by Republican legislative candidate Les Gibson against survivors of the Florida school shooting to get it.
Gibson was the only candidate who had filed and tracking for an open House of Representatives seat before that move, but he quickly drew challenges from Democrat Eryn Gilchrist and a Republican primary opponent in former state Sen. Tom Martin before quitting the race last week.
Local committees barely ever register on the fundraising radar in legislative races. This is different, though it’s unclear where the money will go. This episode has given Lewiston Democrats a sum larger than both Republican and Democratic campaign committees spent combined on all but nine Maine Senate races in 2016.
A fundraising page promises that the committee will use “every dollar” against Gibson’s hateful allies in Androscoggin County,” but Kiernan Majerus-Collins, a Bates College student who chairs the Lewiston Democrats, said the committee is “still figuring out what to do with the money.”
Democrats question LePage DHHS hiring plan
A new bill being introduced by Gov. Paul LePage seeks to re-establish eight positions in the Department of Health and Human Services that were cut during last year’s state budget negotiations. Appearing in today’s House calendar, LD 1867 seeks to spend nearly $650,000 in General Fund money, plus other “special revenue” funds, to restore positions in developmental services, the division of contract management, the Maine Center for Disease Control, mental health services and the office of the commissioner.
Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for House Democrats, said the positions include attorneys that the LePage administration was using last year “instead of working with the attorney general’s office.” Crete said her caucus is just learning of the bill this morning but that “it’s surprising the governor wants to reinstate those positions now, when there are such pressing needs in DHHS.” LePage’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Today in A-town
The House and Senate are back with heavy calendars this morning, following an extended absence last week caused by Mother Nature. Of interest on the Senate calendar is a joint resolution condemning the violent neo-Nazi rally last summer in Charlottesville, Virginia, and urging Congress to enact laws against mass violence and domestic terrorism. This issue has been simmering since December, when Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and his colleagues on the Legislative Council opposed the language in a similar resolution.
In January, the Republicans on that committee voted against introducing a Democrat’s resolve to the full Legislature. Thibodeau said the language being introduced today is the result of negotiations with Rep. Rachel Talbot-Ross, D-Portland, and should have a much stronger chance of winning Republican support.
Committees are working this afternoon. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will take public comments on a bill designed to increase transparency in the direct initiative process with new requirements around the collection of signatures. The Judiciary Committee will consider voting out a recommendation on a controversial bill that would lift restrictions on government agencies sharing immigration and citizenship information and establish a “duty to report” anyone who is in violation of immigration laws.
The Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider a bill that would make changes to the disability retirement program administered by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. The bill, which is under development, stems partially from 2016 reporting by the Bangor Daily News about a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder fighting for disability benefits.
- The battle over how Maine spends workforce training funds is heating up again. LePage has spent years fighting with the people who run regional workforce training boards about how to spend the federal money they receive. After a court ruled against efforts to block funding to the regional boards, the LePage administration unveiled a new policy that one workforce board administrator called “a landmine.” The Republican governor’s years-long power struggle with regional training programs is drawing national attention, as workforce boards elsewhere in the country seek to preserve local authority in the face of challenges from governors.
- The president supports a measure pushed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to stabilize the Affordable Care Act, but anti-abortion language could sink it with Democrats. President Donald Trump told Senate Republicans this weekend that he backs a measure putting money toward lowering premiums. However, it likely can’t get by House Republicans without language limiting abortion coverage, which Democrats have treated as a red line.
- LePage said he’ll comply with a court order to reopen a Down East prison — minimally. On Monday, the governor said he would take steps to return a minimal number of staff and inmates to Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport through June. He abruptly closed the facility on Feb. 9, incurring the wrath of Washington County officials and state employees’ unions. Last week, a Maine Superior Court judge issued an injunction that, in part, ruled LePage could not close the prison without legislative approval. Prison operations are funded through June 30, and efforts to extend funding past that date appear stalled in the Legislature. An attorney for plaintiffs in the case against LePage said the measures he proposed Monday do not go far enough.
- A company targeted in a 2016 biomass bailout bill designed to boost Maine’s forest products industry is languishing. Stored Solar fell far short of the wood products purchase goals it was supposed to meet to qualify for state subsidies. In a report issued Friday, the Maine Public Utilities Commission recommended reductions to the more than $1 million in state aid funneled to Stored Solar for its wood-to-energy electricity generation plants in Jonesboro and West Enfield.
- The University of Maine will have tighter strictures on political activity. The university system’s board of trustees on Monday approved new guidelines on political action. The move comes after months of deliberation, but some faculty members say it’s still rushed. In part, the new policy aims to buffer the university against potential legal challenges.
- LePage picked a long-time Maine State Housing Authority administrator to run the agency. After Senate Democrats scuttled his nomination of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais last week, the Republican governor nominated Dan Brennan, who is likely to be a much less controversial choice. The Legislature’s labor committee and the Senate will vote on Brennan’s nomination.
Sad news from Africa
Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhinoceros, died Monday at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He was 45. Wildlife managers euthanized him after he lost the ability to stand and showed signs of great pain.
“He was an amazing rhino, a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity,” said Richard Vigne, who runs the conservancy.
His death leaves two females as the last remaining members of the species. Scientists will try to use stored eggs from the two females and stored semen from Sudan and Suni, a northern white rhino male who died in 2014, for in vitro fertilization of a southern white rhino surrogate mother.
Poaching, mutilation for rhino horns — which are valued in Eastern medicine — and habitat loss to development contributed to the demise of the northern white rhino. To support African wildlife conservation, click here. Here’s your soundtrack. If you’re not sure what a “bodger on a bonce” is, here’s an alternative. — Robert Long
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading this 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.