July 20, 2019
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Eric Brakey tests the waters for a 2020 run against Jared Golden

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Eric Brakey (right) shakes hands with supporters Ryan Miller and Stephanie Baird at a Party fundraiser in Portland in October.

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There may not be a rematch in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020 between first-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the latter of whom is playing coy on his future while another Republican floats a possible run.

That’s former state Sen. Eric Brakey, who has been in Washington, D.C., for meetings about a prospective run this week after an unsuccessful U.S. Senate run last year that has nonetheless made him one of the more recognizable Republicans among the party grass-roots.

What’s unclear is whether Golden will be one of the more vulnerable members of Congress once next year’s campaign begins, although President Donald Trump, a Republican who won the 2nd District in 2016, will be on the ballot in 2020 and could bring out different voters.

Brakey said he is in regular communication with Poliquin and their future plans may be intertwined. Brakey, a 30-year-old from Auburn who has stayed involved in state politics since leaving the Maine Senate last year, said in a Facebook video on Tuesday from Washington that he was meeting with “freedom-minded groups” about running for the 2nd District.

He didn’t elaborate on those groups in an interview on Wednesday, other than to say conversations about a run have been “very positive.” One candidate is the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans.

An NRCC spokesman responded to a question about meeting with Brakey by saying it is “actively recruiting candidates” to run against Golden, though there isn’t much chatter in political circles here about potential candidates besides Poliquin or Brakey.

Poliquin and his strategist, Brent Littlefield, didn’t respond to questions on Wednesday, but he told WCSH in January that he was “looking for the most effective way to help the people of Maine, whether it be in the private sector or in public life” after losing to Golden in a ranked-choice count. He has been active at Republican events since then.

Brakey said he also hasn’t ruled out running for his old state Senate seat, which is now held by Democrat Ned Claxton. But he said he has been in communication with Poliquin about their plans and running for the 2nd District is “not something I would do without speaking with him.”

“I have respect for him and certainly, I don’t think either of us would want to run against each other (in a primary),” he said. “That’s why we’re having productive dialogue.”

Golden has proven to be careful in his Trump-tinged district so far and could prove to be a difficult out in 2020. Golden has picked his battles so far in Congress, casting what amounted to be little more than a protest vote against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and battling with the House Republican leader over an election reform bill. But he has nodded to his district with a tepid response to the report from special counsel Robert Mueller and voted against a bill to expand background checks in a similar way to a referendum rejected by Mainers in 2016.

He has taken a dim view of some Democrats’ desire to impeach Trump, with a spokesman saying Thursday that “members of the Congress who want to rush to a conclusion about impeachment should instead wait for the oversight work of Congress to run its course.”

For the most part, it seems to be working for him. A March poll from Pan Atlantic Research found that the freshman had a statewide approval rating of 53 percent as opposed to 32 percent disapproval, though that 21-point gap shrank to 12 points in the more conservative 2nd District.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics still labels Golden’s district as one of 11 Democratic toss-up seats in 2020 and the Cook Political Report has the 2nd District in the same category. But he seems to be shielding himself as best he can, though a Republican is always going to have a decent shot in the reddening district.


Today in A-town

Bills to study the emissions impact of the Central Maine Power corridor and allow “death with dignity” could be voted on today. The House of Representatives and Senate look to be in for long sessions today with several big votes scheduled in each chamber. The biggest are in the House, which could take initial votes on proposals that would study the $1 billion hydropower corridor through western Maine and bypass a planned referendum to allow doctors to administer life-ending medication to terminally ill patients who want to die.

The corridor proposal from Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, sailed through the Senate earlier this month, but it faces a more difficult path in the House, where Democrats seem to be more split on the transmission line after pro-corridor lobbying from Gov. Janet Mills. Some are reportedly taking issue with a provision allowing public or private funds to pay for the study.

The other bill would make Maine the seventh state to allow what supporters call “death with dignity,” which is opposed by social conservative groups and failed to pass the Democratic-led House two years ago to the day. Today could bring a nail-biting vote. If it fails, it could go to referendum after narrowly failing to pass that way in 2000.

On the Senate calendar are votes on other high-profile bills, including House-backed proposals to allow medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions and fully fund state aid to cities and towns. See today’s committee schedule here.


Reading list

— What can Maine learn from Nebraska about how a consumer-owned electricity system works? The Legislature’s energy committee continues to work a bill that aims to replace Maine’s electricity providers with the Maine Power Delivery Authority, which would be a consumer-owned transmission and distribution company. Nebraska is the only state that relies completely on consumer-owned utilities for its electricity. The Cornhusker State has 162 such utilities, which are regulated by the Nebraska Public Review Board, formed in 1963 and composed of five people appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. Click here to read about how it works, what watchdogs in Nebraska think about its effectiveness and what Maine could learn from that state’s experience.

— Advocates and law enforcement officials say Maine could make better use of electronic monitoring devices to reduce domestic violence. In 2012, then-Gov. Paul LePage and Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, attempted to raise awareness about a push to use electronic monitoring devices statewide. Fredette, whose previous bill to implement electronic monitoring had failed, said it would remain his focus in the future. “If I’m re-elected for the next session, this will be my top priority bill to bring in the Legislature,” he said. But legislatures led by Democrats since then have failed to implement such a policy, leaving electronic monitoring oversight and costs to municipalities and counties.

— A Maine town got rid of its third town manager in less than a year. Orrington selectmen voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to fire Town Manager Joan Gibson, whose first day on the job was March 11. Gibson was the third person to leave the position in less than a year. Her firing was effective immediately. She did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting, but said Wednesday that selectmen violated the town charter in firing her. She’s now seeking legal advice over her firing. Gibson’s departure is expected to further divide the community already at odds over a proposed $3.5 million public safety building that voters rejected in December and the elimination of a community policing program with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office. The town’s police chief quit last month.

— Waldo County expects to save $200,000 per year as part of a new deal to send its inmates to a different jail. Waldo County commissioners balked this spring at the cost of renewing their contract with Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset and instead decided to sign a new three-year deal with Somerset County that will start on July 1. The East Madison correctional facility is a few miles closer to the courthouse in Belfast, but prisoner rights advocates remain concerned. “Any time you move prisoners away from their families, especially long distance, it puts a real strain on family support in the community,” said Joseph Jackson, the executive director of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition. Waldo County has had to find a place for its jail inmates to live for about 10 years, since the old Waldo County Jail closed in order to become the Maine Coastal Regional Re-entry Center.


Get me to the Greek

Yesterday, I asked readers to suggest where one might bite into the best sandwich in Maine. I received no response. Nada. Crickets.

I can only assume that, like true Mainers, you are keeping information about the best aspects of our state to yourselves. Or that you are salad eaters.

Therefore, you leave me no choice but to write about a sandwich from Massachusetts. In their list of best sandwiches by state, People magazine and The Infatuation, an online restaurant guide, selected the large beef sandwich with cheese and sauce from Nick’s Famous Roast Beef in Beverly as the Bay State’s best thing on sliced bread — or a roll.

During the early 1980s, I lived a short waddling distance from Nick’s. I can attest to its greatness. Even better — I can attest to its Greekness. Entering that shop was like walking onto the set of Saturday Night Live’s classic “ cheeseburger, cheeseburger, Pepsi” routine.

The owner and namesake presided over his meaty domain as only a proud Greek immigrant turned restaurateur could. He wore crisp white shirts buttoned only halfway up so that the silver Orthodox Greek cross nestled in his shock of black chest hair — matching a similarly impressive field of slicked-back, salt-and-pepper hair on his head — could be seen in all its glory. The chief grill man was named Socrates. His cross was even more impressive.

A black-haired beauty with long, perfectly manicured fingernails took the orders and shouted them back to Socrates. She never took notes and the only paper ever seen on the counter was a pile of napkins used to sop up the grease and overflowing sauce. We used to try to challenge her with a mix of complicated orders — a dozen sandwiches, each with a different set of condiments — but we could never rattle her.

Nick’s apparently ran into some trouble with the IRS a few years ago — some quibble about evading $1 million in taxes, which surely must have been an oversight caused by a cash-only business’ focus on quality food and service. But it’s well worth the trip, if not for the beef and grease, then for the beefcake from Greece. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd 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 or rlong@bangordailynews.com.



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