August 24, 2019
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What you need to know on an under-the-radar Election Day in Maine

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Jeff Hodgdon sets a sign out in front of the Expo building on Park Avenue in Portland, Nov. 6, 2018.

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It’s a rainy Election Day in much of Maine today, with no statewide initiatives on the ballot and most of the biggest votes confined to cities and towns aside from a special legislative election in what has been a swing district in the Portland suburbs.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is projecting 10 percent turnout statewide in the locally focused election, according to Kristen Muszynski, his spokeswoman. That could rise to 25 percent in Cumberland and part of Gray, where a Maine House of Representatives race will be decided.

Democrats may be favored in the special House race, but it could be the most competitive of the three so far in 2019. While it won’t make much of a difference in floor votes with Democrats firmly in control of the House after the 2018 election, the Cumberland County seat is a chance for Republicans to re-establish themselves after losing many suburban seats last year, led by a surprising loss for Amy Volk, then a party leader in the Maine Senate.

The seat was vacated in March by Rep. Dale Denno, D-Cumberland, who died in April of lung cancer. Denno lost to Republican Michael Timmons in 2014 and beat him two years later. He won re-election easily in 2018 after disclosing his diagnosis.

Democrats have easily defended Bangor and Bath seats in 2019 special elections so far and they hold a registration edge over Republicans in the district, with 34 percent of voters to Republicans’ 29 percent. That isn’t a large advantage, but it still could favor former Rep. Stephen Moriarty, D-Cumberland, a retired lawyer who is running against Republican KC Hughes of Cumberland, who owns a screenprinting business.

Moriarty told The Forecaster in April that he supported policy to “meet the changing needs of Maine employers” and warned against dipping into state reserves. Hughes said he’s “a little afraid of all the spending that’s going on” in Augusta and that there need to be legislators who “walk across the aisle and talk to people with common sense.”

Democrats spent nearly $7,500 in outside money to elect Moriarty to Republicans’ $1,650 to boost Hughes. Hughes raised nearly $12,600 in a privately financed campaign as of May 28 and Moriarty spent more than $8,100 under the taxpayer-funded Clean Election program.

The highest-profile races in your city or town are probably school budget validations. The June election in Maine is largely reserved to decide school budgets and other local issues. In Portland, the $117 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year would be up nearly 7 percent over the current one. Bangor will consider a nearly 4 percent hike. Augusta is considering a city and school budget package that won’t raise taxes, according to the Kennebec Journal.

Outside of the cities and the budget votes, Orono will decide on whether to borrow $17 million for school upgrades. The Hancock County town of Gouldsboro was set to vote on disbanding its police department, but a clerical error held it up and it will be decided later.

Correction: Hughes raised more than $12,000 in his campaign so far. An earlier version of this post confused money raised and money spent. It was a reporter’s error.


Today in A-town

As the chambers continue long sessions, bills from a top Democrat aimed at prescription drug prices will face votes in the Senate. The calendars are long in the House and Senate on Tuesday with eight days until the scheduled adjournment date for 2019. Both chambers haven’t given us a complete schedule of the big items going up for votes today, so stay tuned.

Initial Senate votes are expected on a package of bills from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, aimed at lowering prescription drug prices. It would include a program to import drugs from Canada, following a first-in-the-nation program set up last year in Vermont.

A legislative panel will also work on the rules proposed for Maine’s new recreational marijuana market from the administration of Gov. Janet Mills. They’re being fast-tracked through the legislative process about 2 1/2 years after Mainers approved the program in a referendum.


Reading list

— The trial of a man who fatally shot a Somerset County deputy will focus on intent. On the first day of what is expected to be a two-week trial, defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed that John D. Williams shot Cpl. Eugene Cole on April 25, 2018. The question of whether he “knowingly and intentionally” killed Cole will determine whether he could be convicted of murder or the lesser charge of manslaughter. Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea told jurors she would call expert witnesses who would testify that gunpowder found on Cole’s neck and lead found on his uniform collar is proof the fatal shot was fired at point blank range. In his opening statement, defense attorney Verne Paradie said that Williams had essentially been smoking crack nonstop and “was completely blacked out and had no idea what he was doing.”

— The owner of Maine’s largest medical marijuana dispensary network has threatened to sue over restrictions in the latest proposal for oversight of a retail marijuana market. Maine Public reports that Wellness Connection, which owns four of the state’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries, and a New York-based investment firm object to draft rules designed to ensure that all marijuana establishments have a majority ownership by Maine residents. “These rules go well beyond the statute and threaten our ability to serve Maine people and continue to raise the bar regarding public welfare and safety,” Patricia Rosi, CEO of Wellness Connection, said to the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee during a Monday public hearing. Lawmakers and the new state agency tasked with implementing rules for recreational use of marijuana, which voters approved in 2016, hope to act on the latest proposal before this session adjourns.

— Maine is poised to become the 18th state to establish an automatic voter registration system. On Monday, the Maine Senate voted 19-14 along party lines — with all Democrats present in favor — to advance a “motor voter” bill from House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. Under the bill, Mainers who aren’t registered to vote in their cities and towns would be registered when doing business with the motor vehicle bureau or other agencies that collect similar information unless they opt out. The Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office estimates that the bill would require $140,000 in one-time federal funds. The bill previously passed the House in a similar party-line vote.

— Maine will allow medical professionals other than physicians to perform abortions. The Associated Press reports that Mills on Monday signed a bill to allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives to perform abortions. Mills has made improving access to abortion a focus of her first year in office. During a legislative committee hearing on the bill last month, Bethany Beausang, one of Mills’ legal advisers, called the current law limiting who can provide abortions, “outdated and not based on science.”

— Passenger trains won’t be rolling up Maine’s coast north of Brunswick this year. Plans for a limited summer schedule that would extend passenger rail service to Rockland again fell through, as proponents ran out of time to negotiate a deal to use the tracks. The news means further delay for a project aimed at bringing more tourism money to the midcoast. The program was slated to begin last summer for a limited three-weekend run, but that was canceled because Amtrak was unable to conduct safety assessments of the new line in time.


Kernels of truth

Today is National Corn on the Cob Day. The designation seems cruelly premature for those of us who live in the Northeast, where fledgling corn stalks have barely broken through the ground and where the sweet rewards revealed within locally grown husks remain months away.

I am a corn snob, so I won’t eat corn grown anywhere other than Maine. I have my favorite farm, from which I purchase perfect ears of the best-tasting corn on Earth. To find out where it is, you’re going to have to stalk me, because — even though I am just a transplanted Mainer — I’m not telling.

However, I will share that the best way to prepare fresh corn for eating is to grill it. The Washington Post offers a few suggestions on the best grilling methods, but I suggest that you skim those, then go right to the correct grilling approach, as described by old pal Darren Fishell.

After settling on proper preparation, the next key question is how to eat corn on the cob. Don’t even consider cutting kernels off with a knife — unless you keep your teeth in a glass beside the bed. The only real debate — which my family members have kept alive for decades — is whether to bite the kernels off the cob in horizontal rows, like hitting return on an old typewriter platen, or to spin the cob to essentially create vertical rows.

It’s really just a question of whether to move the mouth or the cob. 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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