Will other big-name Republicans join LePage at Trump’s Bangor rally?

Good morning from Augusta, where reporters and Gov. Paul LePage have something in common: We’re all preparing for Donald Trump’s Wednesday rally in Bangor.

Maine’s Republican governor was one of the first major office-holding endorsers of the billionaire who is now the party’s presumptive nominee, so it’s only natural that LePage would be there, as he was in March when Trump came to Portland.

On Monday, after Trump announced his rally at the Cross Insurance Center, LePage postponed a planned Wednesday town hall meeting in Greenville. That suggests the event was planned hastily.

However, his office didn’t answer questions on whether or not he’d be at the rally on Monday. But on his regular Tuesday appearance on WVOM, LePage said he’d be there “with bells on.”

So far, LePage is the only big-name Maine Republican to say he’s going to the event. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who hasn’t endorsed Trump and has criticized him, will be in Washington, D.C., for Senate votes, according to spokeswoman Annie Clark.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District who has only praised Trump’s trade stances and status as “a job creator,” will be in Bangor for a forum on addiction on Tuesday. But Brent Littlefield, his political adviser, didn’t respond to a Monday message asking if Poliquin would be at the rally.

A Portland Press Herald poll published Sunday gave mixed signals for Trump in Maine: It showed him trailing Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton statewide, but the race was virtually tied in the more rural and conservative 2nd District.

That’s the obvious read on why Trump’s headed to Bangor. But while he may enjoy support around there, it’s worth noting that Republicans not named LePage continue to sense political risk in tying themselves to his divisive brand of politics. — Michael Shepherd

LePage says funding dispute could lead to Riverview hiring freeze

LePage also said on WVOM that his dispute with the Maine Legislature over funding for four bills passed earlier this year will lead to a hiring freeze at the embattled Riverview Psychiatric Center.

He issued an executive order on Monday saying he’d take money from the Low-Cost Drugs for Maine’s Elderly Program, the Fund for a Healthy Maine and other accounts, while possibly resorting to a hiring freeze in the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the bills.

Democrats said this was unnecessary because funding sources were outlined in the bills, one of which funded raises to workers at Riverview, the state-run psychiatric hospital in Augusta.

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said LePage is using “manufactured chaos” to slash funding of programs he has opposed in the past. But LePage said taking money from salary accounts will just mean more vacancies at Riverview.

That’s something the hospital can ill afford. It was decertified by the federal government in 2013, which put millions in funding at risk.

Earlier this year, Daniel Wathen, the former Maine Supreme Judicial Court chief justice overseeing the settlement over a 1989 lawsuit against the state over mental health services said vacancies were endangering staff and patients there. It’s unlikely that he’d welcome any further freeze. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Recount kicks off: The recount in the Republican primary for Maine’s 1st Congressional District begins today in Augusta between apparent 40-vote winner Mark Holbrook and Ande Smith. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office says it may not wrap up until Friday.
  • Why not every year?: Collins, U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, and other New England senators introduced a resolution today that would set a “National Lobster Day” for Sept. 25, 2016. They got this passed in 2015.

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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.