A chicken in a video highlights Mark Eves’ ‘family man’ campaign theme

Former Maine House Speaker Mark Eves announced Thursday morning that he will announce Thursday night his intention to run for governor in 2018.

Eves, a Democrat, teased the announcement of his entrance into the already crowded race in a video posted Thursday morning. Why the delay? Probably to build suspense for one of the least surprising developments in the race to replace Republican Paul LePage in the Blaine House.

“I actually think chicken is pretty delicious, but that’s not really my announcement,” says Eves in the video.

“For that, head on over to Mark’s Facebook page later tonight,” adds Laura Eves, his wife.

Wait, chicken? A little context: In the video, which features each of the three Eves children making announcements, 7-year-old Naomi says “chickens are our friends, not food.” The involvement of the children is meant to be cute, as it is, but it’s also to frame Eves as a down-to-earth family man.

A news release from the campaign Thursday morning also mentions the Eves family’s four goats, two pigs and coop full of chickens who will presumably be nervous tonight when a “big announcement” is made during a barbecue in their yard at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Eves, a former four-term representative from North Berwick who served two terms as speaker of the House, has shown ambitions to run for governor but never quite voiced them. When asked whether he was planning a gubernatorial run by the Bangor Daily News in 2015, he said, “I’d love to continue to serve in public office.”

In late 2016, with six months left before he was forced out of office by term limits, Eves launched a 10-stop “listening tour” through Maine about senior citizen issues, even though he wasn’t returning to office. Asked again by the BDN if it was a prelude to a run for governor, Eves said, “I’m not going to answer that question.”

Helping senior citizens maintain independence and lower living costs has been a focus of Eves’ political career. He led efforts to provide direct-care workers with raises and in 2014 sponsored a successful property tax relief bill that included an extra benefit for homeowners older than 65. In 2015, Eves proposed a $15 million senior citizen housing bond, which was approved by more than 69 percent of voters at referendum. LePage has refused to sell that bond and though a bill to force the governor’s hand passed the Legislature this year, House Republicans sustained the governor’s veto of it.

Eves is probably most well known for his legal clashes with the governor, which started in June 2015 after LePage intervened in a decision by the Good Will-Hinckley board of directors to hire Eves. The contract with Eves was quickly rescinded, triggering an unsuccessful attempt in the House to impeach LePage and a lawsuit by Eves that was dismissed by a federal judge in 2016 and then again on appeal.

On Monday, Attorney General Janet Mills announced her candidacy in the 2018 Democratic primary. Sanford attorney and military veteran Adam Cote, lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell and Patrick Eisenhart of Augusta have also filed to run. A primary with at least five candidates could make the outcome unpredictable. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee recommended spending more money on Wednesday. The committee voted through the evening on more than 130 bills that were passed but held up because of impacts to the General Fund. See the whole list by clicking here. The committee, often in split votes, recommended advancement of 35 bills, most of which had a positive or negligible impact on the General Fund — or did after the committee stripped spending provisions. One exception was LD 1263, which appropriates $500,000 to help homeowners buy well water treatment systems. The committee voted 7-4 to take that money from the Medical Use of Marijuana Fund. Another exception is LD 1643, which would route $1.5 million over the next two years to the Loring Development Authority at the former Limestone Air Force Base for building refurbishment. The authority has signed a binding letter of intent with an undisclosed aviation maintenance company that could produce a substantial number of jobs. The money would come from the Maine Technology Institute and therefore will technically be a wash in the General Fund. The committee recommended the bill, neither of which has a General Fund impact, unanimously. There are still hurdles for bills that made it off the table. They have to pass in the Senate and are subject to LePage’s veto pen after that. — Christopher Cousins
  • One controversial bill caused a rift between committee members. It was LD 956, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson’s “Buy America, Build Maine” bill, which would require materials for all public works projects to be manufactured in the United States and would give in-state contractors a chance to match lower bids from out-of-state contractors. Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, argued Wednesday night, based on what he said was a communication from the Maine Department of Transportation, that provisions in federal law could put potentially $200 million in federal highway funding to Maine at risk if the bill passes. Democrats argue that other states have similar programs and haven’t lost funding and that Jackson’s bill has a “notwithstanding federal law” provision in it. “Even if this is an issue with federal law, that the federal government doesn’t support buying from U.S. companies is an issue we want to address,” said Jackson spokesman Mario Moretto. Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who chairs the committee, pushed the vote despite the objections, which ended up 6-5 on party lines. The exchange prompted a testy retort from Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, who said, “We’ll just take care of it on the veto, then, won’t we?” Here’s his soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
  • While we’re on the subject of legislative “tables,” the Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to recommend passing six bills on the highway table. The committee endorsed each proposal on this list except for LDs 956 and 1190, making for a net budget savings, according to fiscal estimates. The highway table follows the same process as its appropriations counterpart, sending the bills to the Senate. — Michael Shepherd
  • Socialists are meeting Sunday in Augusta. But they are not the undercover socialists that LePage railed about for much of 2016. These socialists are out in the open, so much so that they will be meeting at Viles Arboretum in Augusta on Sunday for what organizers described as a “founding convention” of the Maine Socialist Party. It’s designed to unite the state’s two local socialist organizations into a statewide entity. Activities kick off at 9:30 a.m. Pat Noble, co-chairman of the Socialist Party USA and a school board member in New Jersey, will be among the featured speakers. Here’s their soundtrack. — Robert Long

Correction: An earlier version of this item said bills were funded by the Transportation Committee that weren’t. It was a source error.

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The Daily Brief will be off on Friday because of a Chris vacation and a morning assignment for Mike. We’ll be back on Monday with a roundup of the weekend’s news.

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. 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 every weekday morning.

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.