Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, is seen in this Dec. 5, 2018, file photo.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It was such a hard, long process,” said Daniel Waldron, who plans to reopen the Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. and the Three Tides bar (the best one in Maine) on the Belfast waterfront by spring after buying one of the buildings from a bank. “We had put so much time and effort and money into buying it, and walked out of it yesterday like, wow, here we are.”

What we’re watching today

A Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful had a strong fundraising quarter, but it was also marked by heavy spending. Campaigns have until Jan. 31 to submit filings to the Federal Election Commission. A few are turning them in early — or releasing topline fundraising numbers in advance of the deadline, led by House Speaker Sara Gideon, one of four Democrats seeking the nomination to challenge Sen. Susan Collins later this year.

Gideon raised $3.5 million during the final quarter of 2019, according to her campaign, though she spent nearly that much over the period as well. That brings her total fundraising for the year to $7.6 million, still shy of the Republican incumbent’s total from the last quarter. 

The Democratic hopeful was also slapped with an ethics complaint by the Maine Republican Party on Tuesday over ads from her state-level political committee in 2018. The complaint goes to the Maine Ethics Commission, which enforces state campaign finance laws.

Among other Senate candidates, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse, who jumped into the Democratic primary race in November, announced earlier this month that he raised $600,000 for his bid, though more than half of that was his own money, Politico reported. Green candidate Lisa Savage, a teacher and activist from Solon, filed her campaign finance report last week. She raised just shy of $25,000 during the fourth quarter. Saco lawyer Bre Kidman, who is also running as a Democrat, raised $1,871 during the fourth quarter, bringing total fundraising to $16,207.

Fundraising numbers in the 2nd District race have been relatively low so far. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon Falls raised $128,000, according to a report his campaign filed Tuesday. He also loaned his campaign an additional $47,000. Crafts picked up an endorsement from former Gov. Paul LePage in the fall, but his fundraising numbers are relatively weak compared to what we know about his Republican competition so far. 

Former state Sen. Eric Brakey raised $338,000 in the third quarter, though the Auburn resident has yet to release year-end numbers, while Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s former spokesperson and the third Republican in the race, hasn’t had to file disclosures yet.

We’re also still waiting on year-end numbers from incumbent Democrat Jared Golden, who had raised just shy of $1 million through the third quarter. He should still have a lead on the Republicans, but he was short of what former Rep. Bruce Poliquin had by that point in 2017.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Too dangerous for hospitals, he gets psychiatric care from an unusual place — a Maine prison,” Callie Ferguson, Bangor Daily News: “Maine is increasingly relying on the prison to care for people like [James Mayo] who are sick and aggressive, and whose cases are pending, instead of Riverview Psychiatric Center, the hospital in Augusta that has historically been the primary place for treating those involved in the criminal justice system.”

— “Maine’s chief justice asks for full-time courthouse security and pay raises for judges,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “Leigh I. Saufley also told a joint session of the Legislature that the need to expand community-based services to address ‘the sadness and despair related to drug and alcohol addiction and [the] mental health crisis in Maine’ is as important this year as it was when she last addressed the body.”

— “Maine lawmakers agree on need for broadband expansion but not on how to fund it,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Efforts in the Maine Legislature to increase broadband funding — a stalled priority of Gov. Janet Mills — are moving forward in 2020, though majority Democrats are split between borrowing or spending outright with Republicans skeptical of both options.”

Will they or won’t they on witnesses?

The top Senate Republican may not have the votes to block impeachment trial witnesses, though he may have them later. The Republican-led Senate looks to be moving toward a key Friday vote on whether there will be witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and reporting on that issue emerged with different implications late Tuesday. 

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have been leading a push for witnesses that other Republicans have resisted, but it is unclear if two other Republicans would join them and Democrats to win such a vote later this week.

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was signaling that he didn’t have enough votes to block witnesses. The Associated Press filed a similar report. Politico, however, said this “amounted to only an admission that there are several undecided senators, not that the party is on a trajectory to lose the vote.”

The 55 percent question

A leading Democratic lawmaker wants to remove one of two conflicting definitions of the state’s 55 percent education funding target from law. The Legislature’s education committee will hold a 1 p.m. hearing today on a bill from Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, the panel’s co-chair, that would remove one definition of the state’s statutory goal of funding 55 percent of essential K-12 education costs.

This has been a technocratic issue under Mills and her predecessor, LePage. State law has two definitions of the target, with one excluding the unfunded actuarial liability of the state pension system for teachers and one including it. The difference between those two is 50.8 percent and 55.2 percent, respectively.

Governors have used that second definition to argue Maine has met the threshold. Municipal officials prefer the first, which has never been met. Millett’s bill would remove the second, which has been opposed by the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...