A man wearing a union T-shirt listens to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak at a rally at the State Theater in Portland in September 2019.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They bring the life into the place. They get everyone going,” said Jerry Goss, the co-director of the Maine high school basketball tournaments in Bangor, of the school pep bands playing at the games. “It does not feel like the tournaments until the bands start playing. It’s really the thing that gives it the kind of energy you expect.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

As the presidential primary nears, this weekend is a pivotal one for Democratic campaigns organizing in Maine. Eight active candidates will be on the Maine primary ballot on March 3, though only four — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana — have a significant presence in the state.

Sanders, who won Maine’s caucuses in 2016 and was leading by a nine-point margin in the only primary poll released in the state, seems to have canvassing operations in the most cities and towns of any candidate, while Bloomberg has by far the most staffers of any campaign, with 20.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who hadn’t set up a Maine campaign but will be having events next week, has started running TV and radio ads over the past week after a surprising third-place finish in neighboring New Hampshire. Billionaire Tom Steyer and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have also run a few ads, while former Vice President Joe Biden has had little presence in the state at all.

It’s not surprising that Maine has taken a back seat in the primary, as it holds its contest on Super Tuesday with more than a dozen other states. With limited resources — campaign finance reports last night showed that both Warren and Buttigieg spent more than they raised in January — candidates are prioritizing states that send more delegates to the Democratic convention.

There’s no indication now that Maine will get more visits from presidential candidates between now and March 3. Warren’s dog (and son) will be on the campaign trail in Brunswick this afternoon. Here’s your soundtrack.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Paul LePage might run for governor again in 2022, but he isn’t running yet,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “Former Gov. Paul LePage may well run against his Democratic successor to take back the Blaine House in 2022, but he isn’t running yet despite a Thursday comment to a Presque Isle TV station that prompted confusion and overstatement.”

LePage has been consistent on this point: He’s not going to announce until after the November election. That’s what he told the Bangor Daily News in August, and he hasn’t really deviated from it, often joking that he needs to get his wife on board first. LePage has long said he would consider running if he didn’t like how Gov. Janet Mills governed, and she’s made a point of undoing several of his policies, though he said this week in a radio interview that he may not attempt a return if the Central Maine Power corridor is defeated.

The former governor could run again because term limits in Maine only apply consecutively. He’d have to become a Maine resident again after moving to Florida last year and LePage has a habit of saying he’ll run for offices he ultimately doesn’t pursue. He has said he would be a Maine resident again by Election Day 2022. We’ll wait and see.

— “Maine wants to expand broadband, but expense and rural buy-in stand in the way,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The head of Maine’s broadband agency says accessing federal dollars and convincing communities of the importance of high-speed internet could prove to be impediments to expanding the expensive infrastructure to rural areas even if more funding is approved.”

ConnectMaine Authority wants Maine to invest $200 million in the next five years to meet its goal of bringing high-speed internet to the majority of the state. That’s also a major goal of Mills’ economic plan, but proposals in the Legislature don’t come close to hitting the mark the authority recommends. Even if they did, the authority’s executive director, Peggy Schaffer, said accessing federal dollars for rural areas might be difficult — and building out into those communities will be a challenge, if the population doesn’t see the need for the infrastructure.

— “Penobscot County DA seeks to dismiss ex-cop’s lawsuit, citing 1992 case against predecessor,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “Michael Cunniff, the Portland attorney who represents [an officer identified by the pseudonym of Roe in court documents], is asking U.S. District Judge Lance Walker to rule that Maine police officers are entitled to due process, including meaningful notice of the allegations, when prosecutors deem them potentially unreliable witnesses and decline to prosecute cases involving them.”

The case stems from a 1989 Maine Supreme Court case brought by a former Old Town police officer against a former district attorney. Officer Norman Harrington was named as being allegedly involved in a child sex ring in Bangor, but was never charged. He was ultimately suspended from his job and reinstated after a costly legal battle and a judge finding his constitutional rights had been violated. Despite that, the district attorney refused to prosecute his cases and that was found to be within his authority by a federal court in 1992.

U.S. Senate candidate releases tech regulation plan

A former Google executive is turning to his tech career in a bid to gain traction in the Democratic U.S. Senate race. The 10-point plan from Ross LaJeunesse, who worked for more than a decade at Google, was promised in early January after he spoke to The Washington Post about human-rights concerns that he had while working at the company. It centers on calls for legislation clarifying that individuals “own their own data” and making online political ads subject to the same disclosure provisions as TV and radio ads. 

He illustrated his plan with a “deepfake” video showing Sen. Susan Collins announcing she would vote to convict President Donald Trump on an impeachment charge (she voted to acquit) while arguing that deepfakes should at least be barred from political advertising.

LaJeunesse is in a four-way June primary with House Speaker Sara Gideon, progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet and lawyer Bre Kidman for the Democratic nomination to face the Republican incumbent in 2020. Gideon was pegged as the prohibitive primary favorite in a poll released this week that LaJeunesse registered virtually no support in, even as he has succeeded in gaining national attention for his outspokenness on tech issues.

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

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...