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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “While there could have been so many other tragedies that day, the loss of my dad was enough,” said Danielle Bell Flannery, a daughter of Farmington fire Capt. Michael Bell, who died in a September building blast she told a legislative panel was caused by a bollard severing a propane line. “Losing him to such a preventable death is enough.”
What we’re watching today
Daylight is emerging between Maine’s two senators on the introduction of witnesses to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has held firm to her statement that she is likely to vote to allow witnesses to testify, but only after House Democrats and Trump attorneys sides have made their case.
Maine’s junior senator, Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, sees it differently. Speaking on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday, he decried the process led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, as “completely backwards,” saying that senators ought to see evidence before their hear arguments from each side.
“What happens if we get witnesses and it raises a whole host of new questions?” King asked. “There’s nothing in the rules that calls for a new session of questions by the senators or even presentation by the House managers and the White House.”
House impeachment managers will begin their second day to make their case for Trump’s impeachment today. The president’s defense team is expected to have the floor starting on Saturday. Under Senate rules, witnesses would be called on Wednesday at the earliest, as each side has three days to make their case, and the Senate takes Sundays off.
That will be a crucial time for Collins, who is, along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, is seen as one of the Republicans who Senate Democrats are counting on to ensure witnesses are called. Of the four, Collins is the only one facing re-election this fall amid a stiff challenge from national Democrats.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Janet Mills said she wants to reconsider utility regulations. What did she mean?” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The remarks were a surprise in the speech, sparking some confusion from lawmakers and showing the diversity of opinions on the subject as Maine’s largest utility weathers public opinion crises amid an existential threat from some who want a statewide public power authority.”
— “We annotated Janet Mills’ first State of the State speech. Here are the main lessons,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “The Democratic governor’s speech lasted more than an hour and consumed 28 typed pages, striking a balance between highlighting an ‘ambitious’ agenda and perhaps signaling some restraint in an election year in which Republicans are assailing state spending.”
— “Opioid prescriptions fell in Penobscot County after 2011, but county still led New England,” Eesha Pendharkar, BDN: “Maine counties made up nine of the 10 New England counties with the highest number of pills prescribed per person between 2006 and 2014. … Penobscot, Somerset and Kennebec counties … had the highest rates of pills prescribed per person over that nine-year period, averaging 54.6, 50.6 and 50.3 pills per person each year respectively.”
Swing-seat special election sets up in Brewer
Democrats nominated a former city mayor for a vacant House seat, while a former Republican lawmaker is running again. A special election for the seat held by Rep. Archie Verow, D-Brewer, who died in December, is set to coincide with the March 3 presidential primary. On Wednesday, Democrats nominated former Brewer Mayor Kevin O’Connell for the seat, while former Rep. Garrel Craig, R-Brewer, filed to run for the seat last week and has been nominated by his party.
Craig beat Verow by 55 votes in 2016 to win one term in the seat, but Verow won it back by 165 votes last year. Republicans have a 5-percentage-point registration edge on Democrats there, so this is a prime pick-up opportunity in March and a likely swing seat in November.
Coming soon to your screen
— Two Democratic presidential candidates are dropping their first TV ad buys in Maine. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who is sidelined from the campaign trail while the impeachment trial is underway — has more than $10,000 in ads set to air in the Portland market next week, while Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has at least a $9,375 ad buy, according to filings with the federal government. The pair joins Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as candidates who have bought TV time in Maine ahead of the primary.
Maine isn’t New Hampshire, and, with the primary falling on Super Tuesday, Mainers will be voting on the same day as Democratic voters in more than a dozen — mostly more populous — states. Here’s your soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email