QUOTE OF THE DAY: “In Bangor they’ll poison the youth with bad whiskey, to the devil they banish all brandy and ale,” Larry Gorman wrote in his song “The Boys of the Island,” penned around 1885. “And when on the corner they find the boy tipsy, they’ll send for Tim Leary and march him to jail.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Surrogates are hitting the campaign trail ahead of Maine’s March 3 presidential primary — though candidates themselves remain elusive. The founders of Ben & Jerry’s — Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — are in town to host “ice cream socials” for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Augusta and Pittsfield, as well as barnstorms in Skowhegan and Farmington today. Supporters can also catch the pair for ice cream in Portland and Old Orchard Beach tomorrow.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will have national staff in the state today for a bus tour today, campaigning along with Augusta Mayor Dave Rollins in Lewiston, Scarborough and Portland.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said Monday it now has 20 staffers in Maine — matching Bloomberg’s high-dollar operation for now — while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar picked up her first endorsement in Maine yesterday from first-term state Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot. Her campaign also has canvassing operations up and running in Maine this week.
Seven Democrats — Bloomberg, Sanders, Klobuchar, Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana — will be in Charleston, South Carolina, tonight for the final debate before the primaries next Tuesday in Maine and more than a dozen other states. South Carolina, which holds its primary on Saturday, is virtually a must-win for Biden.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Paul LePage says he was paid $7,500 last year to advocate for CMP corridor,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “The Republican said in a Monday statement to the Bangor Daily News that he was paid $7,500 last year by Mitchell Tardy Jackson, a high-powered lobbying firm that has been working for the utility … to fend off legislative proposals aimed at killing the $1 billion proposal. LePage could do more paid work on the corridor in the future.”
— “What you need to know before voting on Maine’s vaccine referendum,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Supporters of the referendum have made a range of arguments, with many saying the law infringes on religious and personal freedom and that children should not be prohibited from school for not having vaccinations. … Opponents of the referendum, including doctors and medical groups, say vaccines are necessary to prevent the spread of preventable diseases.”
Both arguments were on display Monday night during a televised debate on WGME. Lawmakers and advocates on both sides of the issue appeared for a 30-minute debate that later moved to Facebook, according to the Portland Press Herald. Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician from Yarmouth representing the no side, said support from the medical community is “an inconvenient truth” for opponents. At one point, state Rep. Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta, accused Blaisdell of “fear-mongering.” His yes side argued the law is an overreach.
— “Maine considers restoring mental health crisis response system to divert people from jails,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The Mental Health Working Group is now suggesting putting $4.4 million into an existing, state-contracted system for mobile services staffing and peer-support services with the goal of providing more effective treatment and saving money for county jails. It’s wrapped up in long-standing debates over jail funding and criminal justice reform.”
Susan Collins isn’t happy about Trump’s personnel shakeup
— The Maine Republican told Politico on Monday that she thought the director of national intelligence should have experience in that arena. President Donald Trump abruptly dismissed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire last week after conservatives were upset by a briefing from his office on Russian election interference, installing Richard Grenell, a longtime Republican operative who is the ambassador to Germany.
Grenell does not have previous experience working in U.S. intelligence, and because he is working in an acting capacity, he will not face Senate confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who sits on the intelligence panel, said Monday she would have “much preferred” Maguire be nominated for the job, adding “the person needs experience in the intelligence community.”
Amended distracted driving law up for a House vote today
— The law isn’t going away — but the steep first-time offender fine would be. Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, has said he never intended for first-time offenders to face a $230 fine for violating the new law barring hand-held use of a phone while driving. His amendment drops it to $50, but any penalty after that will cost you $250. It also clarifies that ham radio operators can use devices in their vehicles and allows people to text and call from a parking spot.
It seems likely to sail through the Legislature. The amendment seems to have encountered no resistance and has been supported by everyone from the Maine State Police and AAA of Northern New England to Maine’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
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 email@example.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.