Good morning from Augusta. The recount requested by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will begin today with a court decision tracking for next week in the outgoing incumbent’s two-pronged fight against ranked-choice voting.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office will start the recount between Poliquin, a Republican, and Rep.-elect Jared Golden, a Democrat, at 9 a.m. on Thursday. It’s expected to run through the new year, though Poliquin can call it off at any time by conceding to Golden.
It’s all highly unlikely to change the outcome of the election, since Golden beat Poliquin by more than 1 percentage point in a ranked-choice count. For Poliquin to prevail in the recount, there would have to be deep flaws with the original count that haven’t been evidenced so far.
The recount will done by hand and that will be an arduous process because of ranked-choice voting. The recount, which is expected to last four weeks, is governed by rules from Dunlap’s office. While the original ranked-choice count was done with tabulators and software that applies ranked-choice rules to those tallies, the recount will be done by hand.
Ballots will be sorted by city, town and precincts. Then, those will be sorted by first-choice votes and the tallies will be counted and recorded. After that, ballots on which Poliquin or Golden weren’t the first choice will be sorted depending upon which candidate is preferred — if any.
That will provide the final tally. Poliquin, who will have to pay for the recount if it doesn’t change the outcome, can call it off at any time by conceding to Golden. But he hasn’t shown any quit against long odds in the process so far, so that’s looking unlikely at the moment.
A federal judge hopes to issue his decision on ranked-choice voting by next week. Lawyers for Poliquin, Golden, the state and other interested parties were in U.S. District Court on Wednesday to hold arguments in the incumbent’s case against ranked-choice voting, which he argues is unconstitutional. Poliquin has asked Judge Lance Walker to order a new election if he isn’t declared the winner based on his first-round plurality in the November election.
On Wednesday, Poliquin’s team had University of Maryland professor James Gimpel testify that ranked-choice voting is confusing, but he acknowledged that he did not ask any Maine voters if that was the case for them in November.
Walker plans to rule on the challenge next week, though he has already ruled that Poliquin is unlikely to prove that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional and took a dim view of the incumbent’s proposed remedies. His bid for a revote has almost no historic precedent.
Cash keeps rolling in to state coffers. Maine’s tax revenue is projected to grow during Gov.-elect Janet Mills’ first two years in office by 3.52 percent, up to $263.2 million, robust rates that outgoing Gov. Paul LePage points to as proof his “pro-growth” policies have benefited Maine.
“Reducing the tax burden on Maine families has proved to be an excellent policy decision,” LePage said Tuesday in a statement. “We have cut taxes for more than half a million Mainers, and the state is seeing record tax revenues — the largest predicted increase since 1990,” he said. That’s why he’s recommending Mills borrow a page from his budget playbook by returning surplus tax dollars to Mainers by way of new marginal income tax rate reductions.
Other economic analysts differ with LePage, suggesting that the strong revenue stream derives more from sustained national economic good health and that the added state revenue should be used to pay for programs — including Medicaid expansion — that would help Mainers who are not affluent.
New projections from the Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee in its General Fund revenue forecast show revenue increases of 3.25 percent to $362.4 million through 2021 from state sales tax, individual income tax and corporate income tax.
There are political undertones. This report undoubtedly will lend credence to the proposed budget LePage promised in October to leave for his successor before he exits the Blaine House later this month. It’s unusual for a departing governor to draft a budget on the way out the door, but LePage continues to tout his economic successes, which he reiterated Tuesday.
“The incoming administration is poised to assume a state government that is vastly improved — both structurally and financially — from the one I inherited,” he said. “During my time as governor, our administration has brought stability to state finances and implemented pro-business, pro-growth policies across state government.”
Before she was elected, Mills was circumspect when asked whether she would work any of LePage’s budget suggestions into her first two-year spending plan, which is due in early January, just days after she takes office.
Click here if you want to dig into the budget plan LePage put forth for the current biennium. It will give you a sense of the task that awaits Mills and her finance team.
— Democrats ran the table in constitutional office elections and installed the House speaker and Senate president on Wednesday. Legislative Democrats used their large majorities in both chambers on the swearing-in day of the 2019 session to formally install Attorney General-elect Aaron Frey as the replacement for Mills and State Treasurer-elect Henry Beck while re-electing Dunlap to his fourth consecutive term and seventh overall. Beck will take over for independent Terry Hayes after beating her on Wednesday and he said the two are already working on a transition plan. House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, was elected to her second term leading the lower chamber with Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, elected for his first term in charge.
— Maine’s outgoing governor will likely be the focus of a subpoena issued as part of an investigation of the president’s business empire. The Associated Press reports that a Maine will likely be one of dozens of entities to be subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of profiting illegally from the presidency. Maine is also expected to receive a subpoena because LePage, stayed at Trump’s D.C. hotel when he had official business to conduct, including discussions with the president. LePage’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
— The United States officially said farewell to its 41st president. On Wednesday, Trump and the four living former presidents attended the Washington, D.C., funeral for George H.W. Bush. His son, George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and others gave eulogies.Bush was remembered as “America’s last great soldier-statesman” by biographer Jon Meacham, one of four people delivering eulogies. “An imperfect man, he left us a more perfect union,” Meacham said of the 41st president.
You knew it all along
On Wednesday, we asked eight questions about State House lore, trivia and history. As promised, here are the answers:
Q. Who was the first woman elected to the Maine Legislature?
A. Dora Pinkham, a Republican from New Limerick, was the first woman elected to the Legislature. She ousted an incumbent to win a House seat in 1922 and took office on Jan. 3, 1923. She lost her re-election bid two years later, but won a Senate seat in 1926. She and Katherine Allen of Hampden became the first women to serve in that chamber when they were sworn in.
Q. Who was the first woman elected to serve as speaker of the Maine House of Representatives?
A. Libby Mitchell of Vassalboro became the first woman elected to serve as speaker of the House. She led that chamber in 1997 and 1998, then served as Senate president from 2008 until 2010. She was the first woman in the U.S. history to lead both chambers of the Legislature.
Q. Who was the last person from Aroostook County to serve as Maine Senate president?
A. John Reed of Fort Fairfield, who served as Senate president in 1959, was the last Aroostook County resident to fill that role. At the end of 1959, he became governor.
Q. Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, has the longest cumulative service in this Legislature. When was he first elected?
A. Martin first won election to the House of Representatives in 1964. His first House tenure stretched from then until 1994. He served as speaker for roughly 20 years, until that reign ended amid a ballot-tampering controversy involving one of his aides. After a break in legislative service, he won election to four terms in the Senate, beginning 1998. When he was termed out of that chamber, he returned in 2008 to the House. His service in the lower was broken in 2012 when he surprisingly lost his seat in a year when Democrats seized control of both chambers. He won the seat back in 2014 and is entering his third term since then.
Q. What item does the senator from Franklin County deliver to ceremonially mark the opening of the legislative session?
A. A log
Q. How much did the state pay for the land chosen as the site for the State House and Capitol Complex?
Q. In what year did the Legislature first convene at the State House in Augusta?
Q. What does the “Lady of Wisdom” statue atop the State House dome hold in her left hand?
A. A pinecone, of course. If you answered “fingers,” we will grudgingly give you credit.
Feel free to email us to gloat about how well you did or complain about how badly the questions were worded. Here’s your 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.
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