September 22, 2018
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How to follow the money in Maine’s crowded 2018 governor’s race

By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff

Good morning from Augusta, where we got our first real look at the campaign coffers for the crowded field to replace Gov. Paul LePage after a financial filing deadline on Tuesday.

But before we start obsessing over the leaders, note that the Republican governor taught us a valuable lesson during his 2010 race. He only raised $61,000 by 2009’s end. That was less than seven other candidates — three of whom LePage beat in the primary.

The massive Democratic field may have just been whittled down to four or five candidates who have a good chance of winning. The 13-candidate field was led in fundraising by attorney Adam Cote at $527,000 for all of 2017. But he was outraised during the second half of the year by Attorney General Janet Mills. They were lagged by former House Speaker Mark Eves, who raised $160,000. That’s an unspectacular amount, but more than enough to compete in this field. Lobbyist Betsy Sweet impressed as a Clean Election candidate, raising $88,000 in increments of $100 or less. They seem to be running the best campaigns so far. Former state Sen. James Boyle stayed afloat due to an $80,000 loan, but state Sen. Mark Dion only raised $16,000. Former state Rep. Diane Russell spent all but $5,000 of her $50,000 haul. This field is separating.

Not much has changed in the Republican field, though there was one low outlier. Businessman Shawn Moody led the Republican field, raising $286,000 in less than six weeks of campaigning. However, his $150,000 contribution was what pushed him ahead of former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who has been in the race the longest. Senate President Mike Thibodeau raised a middling $91,000, while Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason said he’s close to qualifying for Clean Election funding. The only candidate seemingly in a dangerous spot is House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, who only mustered $14,000. But there’s still time and a new candidate may jump in: Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro told the Morning Sentinel that he may run.

As we expected, two independents look likeliest to join the party candidates at this point. A spokeswoman for independent State Treasurer Terry Hayes said she has collected just under a third of the $5 contributions to qualify for Clean Election funding. Another independent, Alan Caron, gave $250,000 to his campaign alongside his wife.


Today in A-town

Despite the snow, state government is open and it looks as if most legislative committees will proceed as scheduled. A number of hearings kick off around 9 a.m., including one in the Education Committee over a bill to ban “food shaming” in public schools when a student’s family falls behind on the lunch tab.

The State and Local Government and Health and Human Services committees will consider recommendations on bills to fight Maine’s drug addiction crisis. One of the bills, LD 1711, would create a pilot project that provides treatment and housing for addicts. It has the support of officials in the homeless shelter community, who are hosting a news conference this morning at the State House.

The Health and Human Services Committee will spend the afternoon taking testimony on a number of bills related to regulating child care facilities, and the Education Committee could take a vote on a resolve intended to guide schools on how to help prevent young people from dying by suicide. The House and Senate return Thursday.


Reading list

  • A $750,000 deal between St. Joseph’s College and an embattled investment firm has fizzled. The college and a company called Organic Nutrition Inc., which is backed by Cate Street Capital, teamed up to build a hydroponic greenhouse on the Standish campus but the college backed out earlier this month. Peter Nielsen, who was managing the project for St. Joseph’s, said “all parties agreed that it was not a good fit.” Cate Street caused controversy when it leveraged $16 million in public money for a failed restart of East Millinocket’s Great Northern Paper Co.
  • There’s some false information going around about your Maine driver’s license. Maybe you’ve seen something in your Facebook feed recently suggesting that you’ll need a passport to board a commercial flight, even if the destination is in the U.S., as of next week. That’s false, said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap Tuesday in a news release. Maine is still working to make its driver’s license compliant with federal law but has been given until October 20 to do it.
  • Maine has joined a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission over its net neutrality vote. Mills announced Tuesday that Maine is one of 21 states and the District of Columbia asking a federal appeals court to determine whether the commission’s controversial December vote was constitutional.
  • A selectwoman from Lubec will take a leave of absence after creating an international incident with Canada. Selectwoman Rachel Rubeor, who is also the president of a nonprofit organization called Lubec Landmarks, angered Canadians recently when she said vandals were scavenging material from a historic shed that broke free and washed up in Canada after a blizzard in January. After a closed-door meeting week, Rubeor agreed to step down for a month.

(Some) reporters are jerks (some of the time)

Conference calls are normal for journalists who want to participate in news conferences from afar but in the Daily Brief team’s experience they’re usually orderly, if not dull, affairs. A moderator tells specific reporters when to ask their questions, keeping everyone else on mute.

That mute function is important, White House officials learned last week when it took 22 minutes for them to figure out how to activate it. The officials still came out of the call looking good, compared to the reporters.

“This White House can’t even run a [really bad word] conference call,” said one. It unraveled even more from there, until a White House official yelled that everyone could mute their phones if they had “half a brain.” [Disclosure: We’re not positive we’d know how to mute our phones in a pinch.]

One reporter joked that he was Kim Jong Un calling for President Donald Trump. Another showed up 15 minutes late, in the middle of the melee, and asked “has the call started?”

As CBS News reported, it wasn’t the first time a conference call went awry. In May 2017, a similar incident had government officials trying to drown out “crying babies, hacking coughs, and the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Oh, and by the way these were important calls. In the most recent incident, it was announced that Trump would continue to waive nuclear program sanctions against Iran, which somehow ended up being the least interesting thing. Here’s their soundtrack.


Correction

The email version of Tuesday’s Daily Brief flip-flopped what a proposal from Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, would do. The proposal, which was referred to a rules committee on Tuesday, would limit senators to proposing 10 bills per session and representatives to five bills per session.

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.


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