February 07, 2020
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A high-pressure acquittal vote could be looming for Susan Collins today

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ve never seen a media member hit a baseball,” said Boston Red Sox legend Jim Rice at an event in Bangor on Thursday about the voting protocol for the Baseball Hall of Fame, ignoring many Little League careers. (Here’s your soundtrack.)

What we’re watching today

It looks unlikely that enough Republicans will join Maine’s senior senator to vote for impeachment witnesses, setting up a high-pressure acquittal vote. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, confirmed late Thursday what she has signaled for weeks: She will vote with Democrats today on allowing witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate trial. But it looks unlikely that enough Republicans will join her and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to make it happen. 

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, announced he won’t join them. That leaves Lisa Murkowski of Alaska as the last Republican somewhat likely to join the two in the witness push, which would fail if the effort tied and Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t wade in to break the tie. 

It would set up what could be a swift vote to acquit Trump later today. The president isn’t going to be removed in the Republican-led Senate, but the stakes are still high for Collins. She is one of Democrats’ top electoral targets in 2020 in a blue-leaning state. 

The expected Senate vote against witnesses will lead Democrats to focus attention on her earlier votes with fellow Republicans to quash Democratic bids for witnesses at the top of the trial. She hasn’t announced how she’ll vote on removal, but it will be heavily parsed as well.

What they’re saying

— “What a coincidence! Susan Collins announces her support of witnesses within minutes of Lamar Alexander publicly saying he opposes them. Collins is always ‘bravest’ when her vote doesn’t matter,” tweeted Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC.

— “If the trial ends today, it would not have gone any differently if [House Speaker Sara Gideon, one of four Democratic candidates] had been down there instead. The difference is that you’d have a US Senator who votes for socialism and tyranny owned by outside corrupt special interests rather than one who represents Maine values,” tweeted Jim Fossel, a Republican columnist for the Portland Press Herald.

The Maine politics top 3

— “How Maine plans to shift some rural police coverage to county sheriffs,” Caitlin Andrews and Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “Col. John Cote of the Maine State Police said on Thursday that a yearlong push to alter call-sharing agreements with counties was driven by shortages but not any specific push to save money. The agency plans to maintain a reduced footprint in each affected area and generally handle more serious calls or those requiring specialization.”

— “Maine utilities regulators say CMP must compensate customers for ‘past failings’,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “Maine’s top energy regulators handed consumers a win on Thursday when they ruled unanimously that Central Maine Power must compensate customers who had a billing error — regardless of whether they had previously filed a complaint.”

— “Few sexual assault cases make it to court. A Maine prosecutor wants to change that,” Lauren Abbate, BDN: “District Attorney Natasha Irving says it’s time to reform how the legal system prosecutes sexual assault cases, so victims who come forward know they’ll be supported. Irving says prosecutors shouldn’t decline to prosecute a case just because they ‘think it’s too hard to prove.’”

Golden reports end-of-year fundraising

The freshman Democrat in Maine’s 2nd District, whose seat is a top Republican target this year, had a relatively strong fundraising quarter. Rep. Jared Golden raised $623,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019, bringing his total fundraising to $1.7 million this cycle. He had just shy of $1.3 million in cash on hand at the end of the year — about $600,000 less than what Republican Bruce Poliquin, who Golden beat in 2018, had going into that year.

Golden is one of 31 House Democrats representing a district that Trump won in 2016, and one of 55 who the National Republican Congressional Committee said it will be aiming to flip this election cycle. He’s also been the target of outside spending from conservative dark-money groups such as the American Action Network.

A significant chunk of Golden’s fourth-quarter fundraising — more than $250,000 — came from two Democratic-led joint fundraising committees, House Victory Project and Maintaining the Majority. He raised another $65,000 from PACs, most of that from labor unions.

Three Republicans — former state Sen. Eric Brakey, former state Rep. Dale Crafts and real estate agent Adrienne Bennett, who also served as spokesperson for former Gov. Paul LePage — are competing to challenge Golden this year. Crafts has raised $128,000 so far, according to a report he filed earlier this week. Bennett and Brakey have yet to file year-end reports due at midnight tonight.

A week of criminal justice recommendations comes to a close

It’s been a busy week in the Legislature for criminal justice recommendations. The Judiciary Committee heard from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy this week about how over half of incarcerated children are in custody because the state has no better place to put them. Today, the criminal panel will be told by a commission on improving sentencing practices that it needs more time to craft recommendations to change how Maine incarcerates people. 

They’re calling for leaders from all three executive branches and members of the public to come together to help craft the state’s long- and short-term goals for reform, which may lead to savings for the state. It’s a conversation that has been going on in the State House for awhile

Child ombudsman to brief lawmakers on findings

It comes a week after Gov. Janet Mills vowed to put more resources toward the state’s embattled child and welfare office during her State of the State address. Lawmakers will be sure to have questions about how much work needs to be done after Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi found major issues with nearly 40 percent of the cases it examined before September of last year. The state has made efforts to right the office, from adding staff to changing some of its internal practices, some of which have strained the court system but gave children more protections, Alberi said.

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.


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