Good morning from Augusta. With the New Hampshire primary behind us, there are now 20 days until Maine casts its votes for a Democratic presidential candidate.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’ll tell a joke, and I’ll look at the students. They are the toughest crowd in the world,” said Dan Cashman, the host of the regional late-night show “The Nite Show,” now in its 10th year. “If you can make them laugh, you’re doing it right. And that’s incredibly gratifying.”
What we’re watching today
The Democratic presidential race is unsettled coming out of New Hampshire. A lot may change by the time Maine votes in early March. It wasn’t convincing, but Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire went to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He edged out former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana by less than 2 points, according to our partners at Decision Desk HQ. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar stormed to a third-place finish.
After their close race in Iowa, Sanders and Buttigieg are essentially tied in the race, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden were the big losers in New Hampshire, where they finished in single digits and won no delegates.
New Hampshire and Maine — which votes with more than a dozen other states on March 3 — are similar in many ways given their geography and homogenous population. Their polling pictures were different when Maine was last surveyed in October. Warren outperformed Sanders here, while they were virtually tied with Biden there. That doesn’t mean much now.
Sanders is entering Nevada and South Carolina as a narrow overall favorite. Biden must win in South Carolina. This week, Warren hopes to rebound by Super Tuesday. We saw new Maine ad purchases for her on Tuesday and her campaign was among the first to organize here in 2019. Sanders won Maine’s 2016 caucuses and will be a favorite here as well.
There is a wild card. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is entering the race on Super Tuesday and betting markets favor him as the second-likeliest candidate to win the nomination. He has prioritized Maine in a megabucks campaign that could pay off with upheaval that looks possible between now and early March.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine House upholds Janet Mills’ sports-betting veto,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “The measure would have allowed mobile, online and in-person betting on sporting events. Casinos, tribes, commercial tracks and off-track parlors would have been able to apply for in-person licenses with revenue taxed at 16 percent for mobile and online betting and 10 percent for in-person betting.”
— “Gridlocked Maine panel could punt transportation funding fix to 2021 — or to voters,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Members of the bipartisan commission, which includes trucking and construction interests, have agreed on a goal of finding $160 million more a year for the system that with the idea that federal dollars would make up the rest. They have not firmly agreed on much else.”
— “Maine DOE warns state could lose more than $1 million in federal grants for rural schools,” Robbie Feinberg, Maine Public: “For 16 years, the state said it has been given flexibility to measure poverty levels in school districts by the percentage of students who get free lunch. But the state received notice that it will now have to rely on U.S. Census data instead, which it said will make more than 100 districts ineligible for one of the grants, from the Rural and Low-Income School Program.”
An update on boards and commission vacancies
— Maine has hundreds of vacancies on boards and commissions, which can be important on some boards with regulatory power. Today, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap will be giving a legislative committee on state and local government an update on Gov. Janet Mills’ progress at filling empty slots. Some boards can find themselves at risk of not having a quorum if members are absent or recuse themselves.
One example is the Maine Ethics Commission, which has been one member short since March 2018, according to the Portland Press Herald. Some appointments can be made by the governor, while others require legislative approval. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.