September 17, 2019
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Looking to shape his legacy, LePage says ‘politics is out of my life’

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
In this May 5, 2018, file photo Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican Convention in Augusta, Maine.

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is in the twilight of his tenure as an elected official. He said in a recent interview he won’t run for office again, but his move to roll out a two-year budget proposal could loom over his successor’s transition.

The outgoing Republican went over his tenure in an interview with C-SPAN that was released Thursday, saying his greatest accomplishment was paying back more than $183 million in debt to Maine hospitals in 2013 with revenue from a renegotiated liquor contract.

But Maine still has LePage until early January and he has chances to shape future policy as implementation of voter-approved Medicaid expansion sits in the courts. He also on Thursday released a framework of a budget proposal coming in November that would cut income taxes.

LePage breezily went over his tenure in the C-SPAN interview, saying he’s over politics and he doesn’t mind if he’s not well-liked. The governor took credit for Maine’s low unemployment rate in the C-SPAN interview, attributing it to a climate that his administration helped create by pushing tax cuts. He flirted with a 2018 run for U.S. Senate before ruling it out last year. When asked if he would run for office again, the 70-year-old governor said “politics is out of my life.”

“I did it because I thought it was important I give back to the state of Maine,” he said.

In recent national polling from Morning Consult, LePage had the seventh-highest disapproval rating within each state at 54 percent to 40 percent who approved of his performance. Only 6 percent were undecided or had no opinion, which was the lowest share for any governor in a sign of how polarizing LePage’s tenure has been.

When asked about it, LePage didn’t mind at all and said he’d “take the rap for it”, arguing, “If you have the highest, that means you’re not doing your job. That means you’ve got to do the job you’re hired for and you’re not going to please everybody.”

He also said his relationship with President Donald Trump is strong, although he fleshed out his disagreement with the president over tariffs on Canadian softwood and lobster. LePage has been working with officials in New Brunswick on trying to get them rolled back. He blamed them on “greedy industrialists and millowners around the country.”

LePage also said for the first time that he had a “cardiac issue” during the August incident that his office described as “discomfort,” which caused him to be taken from a visit to New Brunswick to a Presque Isle hospital and finally to Bangor.

The successors to LePage were tight-lipped on how they would receive his budget proposal. The reaction to that proposal was mostly muted from the four candidates to succeed LePage — Republican Shawn Moody, Democrat Janet Mills and independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron.

While Caron said LePage’s attempts to shape the next governor’s two-year budget proposal “are not welcome or helpful,” the others basically reserved judgment on it and said they would review it and take the recommendations into consideration.


Poll: Poliquin, Golden tied in 2nd District

The Democratic challenger has pulled even with the two-term Republican in the second poll of the race from the same organizations. The New York Times and Siena College are continuing their live-polling experiment in congressional districts across the country and they finished their second poll of the toss-up race in Maine’s 2nd District between U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden on Friday.

The results were about as tight as can be, with Poliquin and Golden tied at 41 percent in the poll with 15 percent undecided. Keep in mind that this didn’t include the two independent challengers — Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar — and the effect of ranked-choice voting on the race.

However, trends in polling are more important than the results of a single poll and the previous live poll in the 2nd District, taken in mid-September, had Poliquin five points ahead.

The race is also changing in statistical models. FiveThirtyEight favored Golden in two of three models that it uses to gauge congressional races after giving Poliquin an edge for most of the campaign. Our election results partners at Decision Desk HQ give Poliquin a slim 55 percent chance of winning now.


Arctic circle of friends

The governor is well enough to travel. In his first overseas trip since a cardiac episode left him hospitalized in late August, LePage is traveling to Reykjavik, Iceland, this weekend to talk trade relations with northern European government officials.

LePage, who opted out of a scheduled trade mission to the United Kingdom last month, will take a delegation of 40 Mainers to the Arctic Circle Assembly, where he will meet with Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson. The two will renew the Maine-Iceland Memorandum of Understanding, last signed in 2014, as a commitment to “strengthen ties and increase cooperation in the areas of economic development, trade, energy, natural resources, transportation, culture and the arts,” the governor’s office said in a release.

Members of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office, created in 2014 to foster the state’s relationships in the northern European region, will meet with international partners to discuss, for example, how Greenland’s airport expansion and development in its capital city, Nuuk can benefit Maine.


Reading list

— Maine voters will decide next month whether to borrow as much as $200 million to help pay for things that need fixing. The four bond questions on the Nov. 6 ballot ask voters to approve borrowing money for transportation infrastructure, water treatment upgrades and better facilities at Maine university and community college campuses. History shows that the bond questions will likely pass, as Maine voters have approved 80 percent of all bond questions since 1990, with an even higher likelihood of passage in gubernatorial election years.

— Central Maine Power agreed to bury lines along a scenic portion of the route for its proposed hydropower transmission project, but that didn’t quell controversy. Regulatory review of the $950 million project to funnel electricity from Canadian dams to Massachusetts through western Maine moves into a new phase today, as opponents continue to question the environmental benefits of the plan and proponents tout it as a potential jobs creator. On Thursday, CMP said it would alter the plan by running power lines underground near the Kennebec Gorge.

— Pay no attention to those October snowflakes and that roaring furnace. Climate forecasters predict that Maine will experience above average temperatures during the coming winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center on Thursday released its outlook for the 2018-2019 winter. The organization’s predictive maps placed Maine in a sweeping band of orange, signifying that center forecasters believe the state is among those with a 40 percent to 50 percent chance of being “warmer than normal.” Center Deputy Director Mike Halpert said in a statement a “weak El Nino” could bring “warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North.” Here is your soundtrack.

— A bureaucratic glitch forced a Maine town to reschedule a vote on a new public safety building. The Orrington Board of Selectmen neglected to sign the warrant for next Tuesday’s special town meeting at which residents were to vote on the $3.5 million proposal. When interim Town Manager Andrew Fish discovered the oversight, he sent a letter to townspeople alerting them that the meeting had been canceled and that a new date would be set.


Smart Alex

We at Daily Brief strive to be impartial in all things — except baseball.

Michael Shepherd and I are rip-snorting, full-on Red Sox fans, as was our late colleague, Chris Cousins. Mike and I represent different ends of the Bosox fan spectrum. I align with the long-suffering fans who have still never quite recovered from the heartbreak of 1967, 1975, 1986, 2003 — and a few other sad finishes that I choose not to remember. Mike brings a more positive approach to his Red Sox fandom, as the team actually stated winning World Series titles every few years just about when he was entering adolescence.

Our new colleague, Alex Acquisto, has been strangely quiet about her baseball allegiances. We might have to take this matter up with human resources after the World Series.

In any case, Daily Brief command central was a happy place last night when the Red Sox clinched a trip to the World Series by beating the defending champion Houston Astros. The series-clinching win — coming after the dramatic Game 4 victory shortly after midnight Thursday morning — gave first-year manager Alex Cora the rare treat of winning two games and a trip to the World Series on his birthday.

Cora becomes the first manager born in Puerto Rico to guide his team to the World Series. Here is his soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at aacquisto@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@bangordailynews.com.



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