September 21, 2019
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Mills, Moody jab each other gently in another tepid debate

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Independent candidate for governor Terry Hayes tells the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce crowd Wednesday morning that the state must work to close the gap between medical care costs and government reimbursement rates.

Good morning from Augusta. Maine’s gubernatorial candidates met in their second-to-last debate on Sunday and the squabbling was again minimal as the hopefuls looked to make their closing statements in a race to be decided in eight days.

Aside from one chippy exchange, the front-runners — Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Shawn Moody — stayed their courses and highlighted their respective backgrounds in and out of politics. Mills out-raised him by a lot during the past month or so as well, raising her fundraising edge to $2.8 million overall to his $1.8 million.

At the debate, State Treasurer Terry Hayes, an independent weathering criticism for being a potential “spoiler” in the race, made a play for liberal voters over ranked-choice voting. The other independent, Alan Caron, may leave the race this morning.

Moody took on Mills over her record on taxes and said he is committed to funding Medicaid expansion. The testiest exchange between Moody and Mills came when the Republican asked the Democrat a question about her record on taxes during the Sunday debate in Bangor hosted by Maine Public.

The Maine Republican Party has highlighted video of Mills saying that Maine could “roll back” tax breaks enacted by Gov. Paul LePage or consider a seasonal sales tax. Mills has responded in her own ad, saying she would “never raise taxes on the middle class.”

At the debate, Moody asked why people would “trust” Mills on taxes. She retorted that she was “not in favor of tax increases” either on “the middle class” or on “any citizens of Maine” and that she negotiated state budgets on the Legislature’s Appropriations that were bigger than budgets he worked on at the university and community college systems.

Moody was pressed later by moderator and Maine Public reporter Steve Mistler on his stance around Medicaid expansion. During the Republican primary, he said he would work to repeal the voter-approved law.

But he has changed tune during the general election, saying he wants to find sustainable funding for the law languishing in court in a funding battle. He committed to doing that on Sunday. He didn’t say how, but he vowed to bring constituent groups together to find an agreeable solution.

Hayes hit Mills over early legal opinions over ranked-choice voting as she looks to gain ground on her left. Ranked-choice voting was enshrined by Maine voters in 2016, though it won’t be used in the gubernatorial or legislative general elections because of a constitutional issue that was flagged early in the initial campaign by Mills’ office.

The lack of ranked-choice voting is likely hampering the bids of Hayes and Caron. Mills asked Hayes at Sunday’s debate who she would vote for if ranked-choice voting was an option and the independent refused to answer the question and said Mills “tried to stop it from being implemented in the first place.”

Mills responded by saying that the problem with the law can’t be overcome without a constitutional amendment. She said she would draft one constitutional amendment to allow the method’s use in gubernatorial elections if she is elected governor.

Caron may leave the race this morning. The public policy consultant from Freeport said last week that he would make an announcement within days on whether or not he would leave the race before Election Day — something he has called on any candidate to do if they can’t win.

He scheduled an announcement for today at 10:30 a.m. in Portland after the latest public poll in the race showed him at just under 3 percent. We’ll bring you coverage later.


Comparing legislative candidates

Need help deciding between legislative candidates? The BDN surveyed all legislative candidates whose names will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. We asked them where they stand on eight key questions. Click here for Senate responses. Find responses from House candidates by clicking here.

In addition to broader questions on Maine’s economy, “welfare reform” and infrastructure needs, we asked candidates where they stand on ranked-choice voting, abortion rights and Question 1, the citizen initiative to create a statewide universal home care system. Voters can scroll through the entire list of responses or zero in on the specific races that will appear on their ballots.

Early absentee voting continues through Thursday. We will continue to roll out information about this year’s elections through Election Day. If you have questions about this year’s elections, please email them to politics@bangordailynews.com.


Reading list

— Federal environmental regulators want to rewrite standards for tribal waters in Maine. Environmental Protection Agency officials appointed by President Donald Trump want to revisit the stricter standards promulgated by Obama-era officials for the rivers that flow through or around tribal lands in Penobscot and Aroostook counties, according to documents filed in federal court in Maine. U.S. District Judge Jon Levy will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Portland on the EPA’s motion to stay a pending lawsuit over the standards so Trump appointees can, tribal members fear, rewrite them. Maine sued the EPA in 2014 over what were then proposed standards alleging that once enacted, the rules would create a double standard for water quality in Maine — one for tribal waters and another for the rest of the state.

— More Maine nursing students are graduating, but the state still has a shortage. The state recorded 801 nursing graduates from its public and private nursing programs in 2017, up from 659 in 2015, 701 in 2013 and 563 in 2011. A 2017 analysis of Maine’s nursing employment situation by the Center for Health Affairs projected that the state would be short 3,200 nurses in 2025, based on 2015 employment numbers. Based on the 2017 enrollment numbers, projected vacancies are now down to 2,700, according to the Ohio-based consulting group. There were 1,459 registered nurse vacancies in the state in 2016, according to a Maine Department of Labor survey.

— A Maine Senate candidate’s statements about addiction treatment stirred controversy. Maine Public reported that Matthew Stone, a Republican challenging first-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Shenna Bellows in District 14, which comprises cities and towns around Augusta, suggested the concept of special detention facilities as a possible solution to the opioid crisis during a wide-ranging interview with an online host from the New Right Network, a group that bills itself as unabashedly pro-Trump and a counter to the left. Stone, who declined an interview with Maine Public, used a Facebook post to walk back his “rehab boot camp” idea after he was criticized for it via social media. Bellows called the idea “absurd.”

— A Maine newspaper won a courtroom victory over the attorney general’s office. Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings tossed out an attempt by the attorney general’s office to subpoena the Kennebec Journal’s video interview with a 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to murdering her parents. Billings recently ruled that the attorney general’s office failed to seek court approval before serving the subpoena on the newspaper.


Wins and losses

The Red Sox won the World Series last night, their fourth in 15 years. It’s hard to fathom.

I’m one of those old-school Red Sox fans who watched victories dangle away from Jim Lonborg’s exhausted right arm, roll through Bill Buckner’s legs, slip over the Green Monster off Bucky Dent’s bat, drop just out of Fred Lynn’s reach or fly into the Bronx night courtesy of Aaron Boone. Second baseman Ian Kinsler’s error on what could have been a game-winning play Friday night rubbed the scab off that defining destiny of despair. I figured it was the omen to show that this season was about to fall apart like so many past ones had.

But this year’s team overcame that adversity. That used to only happen in the games played inside my head. In real life, we slumped our shoulders, pulled our caps down over our eyes and mumbled, “Wait ‘til next year.” We weren’t Red Sox Nation, which still smacks of corporate marketing. We were just jilted-but-still-loyal lovers of the Sad Sack Sox.

I am still not used to winning. Heartache defined my baseball fandom for almost half a century. It’s something I inherited from relatives — some linked by genes and others simply by shared experience of that special sense of diamond doom that so often broke the hearts of long-suffering Red Sox fans between 1918 and 2003 — and it’s hard to explain to younger fans who have seen the team win four championships since 2004.

It’s why times like this create some perilous emotional logrolling for me. On one hand, winning is great, especially when the team is as diverse and likable as the 2018 Red Sox. I spent some time Sunday night chatting with someone who is just discovering the joys of baseball. Sharing the moment when he exclaimed, “I love this game” was wonderful. The grace, suspense and liberating sensation of playing without a game clock help make baseball the most poetic sport, providing opportunities for individual heroism and redemption that other more team-oriented sports lack.

But perhaps because of my “expect the worst” Red Sox upbringing, Sunday’s win strangely triggered a sense of loss. It made me sad for all the people — including my mother and three of four grandparents — who lived entire lives without seeing their beloved Bosox win it all. There are lots of people I wanted to hug last night who weren’t there. I’d say this one is for them, but they would not know how to handle it. Here is their 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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