Good morning from Augusta. Two of Maine’s highest-ranking Republican officials are heading for the exit and turning the keys to their offices over to Democrats, but they’re making longshot legal bids to affect state policy after they leave.
That’s Gov. Paul LePage, who is taking his final legal battles with Gov.-elect Janet Mills to the end of his tenure, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who could be in court for a year or more in a court fight against Maine’s first-in-the-nation statewide use of ranked-choice voting.
Mills may be soon be in a position to dismiss a LePage lawsuit against her office, a move that LePage is trying to block. During the past few months, there has been a dizzying array of legal volleys between LePage and Mills, the Democratic attorney general who has often warred with the Republican governor during their six-year overlaps in the state’s highest offices.
In the final weeks of her gubernatorial campaign, LePage drew publicity to two lawsuits between his administration and Mills’ office, including one from him surrounding her ability to weigh in on out-of-state lawsuits and one from her looking to stop LePage’s blockage of millions in reimbursements for state legal services to her office.
Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled against LePage in October on the first case. Yesterday, he said Mills shouldn’t be allowed to withdraw his appeals of that case once she becomes governor — as she has vowed to do through an assistant attorney general.
Given Murphy’s history in these cases, it’s probably unlikely that LePage will get his way. He blasted her as an “activist judge” last week on WVOM and again Tuesday on The Howie Carr Show. She also ruled against the LePage administration in their court fight on Medicaid expansion, which Mills has vowed to implement.
The Republican incumbent in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is trying to stop the swearing-in of his presumptive successor, but it doesn’t look like it will take. Attorneys for Poliquin filed an emergency injunction in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on Tuesday, requesting that Rep.-elect Jared Golden, a Democrat, be prevented from taking the oath of office Jan. 3 until Poliquin’s appeal is resolved in court — a process that could take months.
The two-term congressman filed his appeal on Tuesday after U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker — a President Donald Trump appointee who was a LePage-appointed state judge and recommended by Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins for his current post — rejected his argument that ranked-choice voting was unconstitutional last week.
Poliquin’s legal team is arguing that Walker sidestepped questions of consequence in his decision, which read as a thorough thumping of the congressman’s legal arguments, saying at one point that he found no evidence “minority rights have been burdened unduly, if at all.”
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat, has presented a certification of Golden’s election to LePage after Poliquin ended his recount bid last week. A LePage spokeswoman has said he has been advised not to sign off on it, though Dunlap has said the likely incoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, D-California, may be willing to seat Golden with Dunlap’s signature.
King’s top aide to retire
The longtime chief of staff to Maine’s junior senator will leave her post next month. Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King bid farewell to his longtime chief of staff Kay Rand in a surprise speech on the U.S. Senate floor on Tuesday. She is perhaps the aide most associated with any political figure in Maine, having held that position for King during the entirety of his career in public service, including when he was governor from 1995 to 2003.
King said Rand, an Ashland native who will return to her home in Bar Harbor, advised as much as she directed, and she wasn’t afraid to tell the truth, which is an “essential function for someone in a position of that kind of responsibility with a public official.”
“An important public servant is leaving us, but has left us, left me, with an everlasting legacy of leadership, integrity and character,” King said. “She, in many ways, has taught me how to lead.”
— Maine’s departing governor quarreled often with political opponents in Maine’s big cities, but they provided him with a lot of the economic success for which he claimed credit. In essence, the parts of Maine where LePage was least popular prospered most during his eight years in office. Progressives, including Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, credit gains in wages and median household income to incremental minimum wage increases passed over LePage’s objections. LePage allies attribute some success in urban areas to the trickle-down effect of his management of state government finances.
— Tallies of people living in tents or on the street show the number of homeless people in Maine to be declining, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. Since 2013, the number of adults tallied by shelters as spending more than half the year outside has shrunk from 262 to 68, as of July. “I don’t want you to leave with the impression that we are somehow close to ending homelessness. We have a long way to go,” said Cullen Ryan, chairman of Maine’s Statewide Homeless Council, a policy advisory group established by the Maine Legislature in 2005. “But we’ve figured out a way to actually house and keep housed one very challenged population, and that is our longest stayers. And that’s going to make it easier to house everybody else.”
— A pastor who is waging a court battle to protest abortion outside a Planned Parenthood in Maine will probably have to find new legal representation. Lawyers for Andrew March say he has become so uncooperative that they can no longer represent him. On Monday afternoon, attorney Kate Oliveri said that she and March’s other lawyer have had “extreme difficulty getting communication back” from him and have not been in touch since late November. She declined to explain these issues further, citing attorney-client privilege.
Garland and song
My good college friend, Brandon, told me once that Christmas, as we and everyone else knew it, was a sagging attempt to recreate the original Christmas that happened in the 1950s. The Americana traditions of stringing lights, cranberries and popcorn (my family did this once, stupidly hung them outside, and the birds had ravaged them by morning), assembling gingerbread houses, wrapping items just to unwrap them, telling stories about mythical santa, hanging stockings — all seemed like activities you might see depicted in Norman Rockwell paintings.
But mostly, we felt this way because of the music. The best Christmas songs — performed by old-timers like Judy Garland, Andy Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the like — are still unmatched and other-worldly. They fostered in me a deep, romanticized sentiment for the holiday that, still, I seek each year when I travel home to be with family, which I’ll do later today.
I’m always somewhat let down, though. The constant stream of Hallmark channel Christmas movies is a stark reminder of how kitschy and commercial the holiday has become. Probably neither of my brothers will want to cut out paper snowflakes with me, and I’ll eventually get angry at myself for eating too much.
Though my family’s Christmas isn’t like what I’ve always imagined Judy Garland’s to be, I’ve since realized that my holiday traditions are special because they’re my own. Years from now, I imagine I’ll pine just the same for the way they used to be. Wishing you all the merriest of holidays. Here’s your soundtrack.
We’re going to shut down the Daily Brief on Thursday and Friday as we wind toward the Christmas weekend and sneak in our last-minute vacation time. We wish you all a joyous and harmonious holiday.
We will aim to return on Wednesday, Dec. 26 and publish Daily Brief on an as-needed basis during the last week of 2018. Thank you for reading us this year and we look forward to stirring your morning coffee again in 2019. Here’s your soundtrack.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.