March 31, 2020
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Election spending in Maine topped $65 million in 2018. Democrats spent more than half of it.

Elise Amendola | AP
Elise Amendola | AP
Attorney General Janet Mills will be Maine’s first female governor.

Good morning from Augusta. Final campaign finance numbers for Maine’s state and federal elections in 2018 are in. They were massive with $65.3 million spent on primary and general elections, including Maine’s 2nd District, the governor’s race and the battle over control of the Legislature.

They were also one-sided. Democrats and their outside allies spent $35.6 million of that — or around 55 percent — to $21.8 million and 33 percent for Republicans. The rest came from independents, chief among them U.S. Sen. Angus King, who was easily re-elected and caucuses with Democrats.

Democrats’ money edge was dramatic in key races. It was a great year for Democrats in Maine, with Attorney General Janet Mills taking the Blaine House from term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Rep.-elect Jared Golden beating outgoing Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a tight ranked-choice race and Democrats taking back the Maine Senate.

Money was a large factor in all of those races, in which Democrats put up disproportionately large financial numbers. Mills outraised her Republican opponent, Shawn Moody, by nearly $1.2 million and outside interests backed her by nearly a 2.5-to-1 ratio. Golden outraised Poliquin and Democratic outside groups outspent Republican ones by $3.3 million.

In state legislative races, Democrats and their allies spent more than two-thirds of the campaign and outside money, which allowed Democrats to swamp Republicans in certain places. They spent three-fourths of the money in a Auburn-area Senate race won by physician Ned Claxton. You can see our full accounting of the spending here.

It’s hard to quantify how the money advantage helped flip these key races, but it can’t be disentangled from the results. Just after the election, The Boston Globe noted that Maine saw the largest swing in party of any state in 2018. A lot of that is likely natural — it was a good national environment for Democrats and it came after a divisive eight years under LePage.

Republicans could be at a nadir here, but their two strong performances in 2014 and 2016 show that there is still a healthy appetite for conservatism in Maine. They’ll be looking to erode Democrats’ standing here in 2020 and the 2nd District should be particularly competitive again.

But a fundraising deficit like this year’s doesn’t bode well. Former House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, called the disadvantage “a green wave” that can’t be disentangled from the results and Moody thought the Democratic edge in spending up and down the ballot hurt Republican candidates running for lower offices.

It’ll be a subject that Republicans discuss as their state party chair, Demi Kouzounas, faces a potential leadership fight next month from potential candidates including former Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason.


Reading list

— A quiet legislator from Bangor is ready to take over as Maine’s next attorney general. After winning a fourth term representing parts of Bangor and Orono in the Maine House — which he will not serve — Aaron Frey, 39, defeated four other Democrats to win his party’s nomination to succeed Mills as attorney general. He said his priorities as attorney general include being “more proactive” in fighting Maine’s opioid crisis, working with law enforcement and the Legislature to implement reforms to the criminal justice system, and improving the state’s relations with the federally recognized Native American tribes in Maine. Frey will be sworn in on Jan. 4.

— The governor-elect’s choice to lead her administration’s economic development agency highlights a focus on broadband expansion. Maine Public reports that Heather Johnson, director of the ConnectME Authority, is Mills’ nominee to head the Department of Economic and Community Development. Johnson, 48, grew up in Skowhegan and now lives in Norridgewock. The University of Maine graduate has worked for regional economic development groups and in management positions for Gateway, Polaroid and Nokia. The Maine Senate must vote to confirm her and other Mills’ Cabinet nominees.

— More than 500 active-duty Coast Guard members in Maine likely won’t receive their next paycheck, which is due Monday. Because the Coast Guard falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense, funding to pay active-duty members has been curtailed because of the shutdown. Pay for members of other military branches will continue. All but 1,300 of the Coast Guard’s 8,700 civilian workers have been furloughed without pay during the shutdown, which began Saturday. If a funding resolution is not passed today, the Coast Guard’s military workforce will not receive paychecks that are due on Dec. 31.


When pigs fly

The holidays bring added stress, which often shows up in police blotters.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote cop logs for a weekly newspaper in Augusta, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day always seemed ripe for odd holiday-related behavior requiring police intervention. When the wassail flows freely, strange things ensue. I recall nasty messages spelled out in colored lights, bitter family feuds over pie plates, toppled Christmas trees, abused plastic reindeer and Santa-suited home invasions — usually by confused inebriated “elves.”

I was reminded of those giddy times by a story that circulated this week about a Kentucky man who was arrested after allegedly throwing a Christmas ham at a woman in a dispute over when they would share their holiday meal. I will leave it to my esteemed colleague, Alex Acquisto, a Kentucky native, to say whether pig-based projectiles are a holiday tradition there. But it seems like a feckless waste of a perfectly good pig product to me.

Growing up in a family of seven, I do have some experience with holiday food flights. Peas provide a far subtler — and festively colored — way to add airborne panache to a holiday meal. And if you use your fork to poke holes just right in Brussels sprouts, you can wing those things like a Wiffle ball. It’s easier — and less criminal — than trying to get a good spiral on an aerial ham. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long


Programming note

To help us rest up for the new year, the new governor, the new Legislature and all kinds of other new stuff in 2019, we won’t publish Daily Brief on Monday and Tuesday. We will return fresh and feisty on Wednesday, Jan. 2. We thank you for reading and supporting us in 2018. In your own ways, please join us in raising a glass to those who dearly departed us during this past year. Happy New Year! 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 mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, aacquisto@bangordailynews.com, and rlong@bangordailynews.com.


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