The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
July is typically a time of vacations, cookouts and baseball. This year, many summertime activities are on hold or have been modified for safety because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a few days, there’s another essential activity that we hope hasn’t escaped your attention: An election.
Maine’s primary election, originally scheduled for June 9, was moved to July 14 to give officials more time to develop safety guidelines and give voters more time to request absentee ballots during the pandemic. A record number of Mainers have requested absentee ballots to participate in this election. If you haven’t requested an absentee ballot, you can do that at your town office through Election Day. If you haven’t returned your absentee ballot yet, it must be returned by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Many communities have boxes outside city hall or town offices where ballots can be securely dropped off.
Many voters, especially in Maine’s more rural 2nd Congressional District, appear to want to vote in person, which is still an option. Wear a mask to the polling place on Tuesday, and remember to keep their distance from other voters and poll workers.
All registered voters can cast a ballot on Questions 1 and 2, bonds for investments in broadband infrastructure and transportation projects. Voters in Penobscot County are asked about a $6 million bond for upgrades to communications systems for emergency dispatch services, Question 3.
Democrats statewide will be choosing their candidate for U.S. Senate, who will challenge Sen. Susan Collins and several independent or third-party candidates in November.
Republicans in the 2nd Congressional District will pick their candidate to challenge Rep. Jared Golden in the fall.
“We endorse candidates because we have been given unusual access to them and we have the time to dig deeply into and challenge their ideas,” writes the BDN Editorial Board.
Here is a recap of our recommendations:
Question 1 would authorize borrowing $15 million to invest in high speed internet infrastructure, also known as broadband. It would be used to match as much as $30 million from federal, local and private sector sources. We recommend a yes vote.
This would be the first-ever bond investment of its kind in Maine, and given the long standing and increasing need for better internet connectivity — particularly in rural areas of the state, and as the coronavirus pandemic has underscored the importance of remote services — it is a both overdue and timely investment.
Question 2, which we support, is a $105 million bond for transportation infrastructure, mostly road work. It would be used to match about $275 million from the federal government and other sources.
Maine has an annual funding gap of over $230 million between transportation construction needs and available funding. That shortfall has only been worsened with a reduction in traffic because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which translates into a reduction in revenue from the gas tax, the primary source of revenue for Maine’s highway fund. Beyond the bond, Maine is long overdue for diversifying its transportation funding, a problem the Legislature has failed to address for too long.
As Maine’s Democratic voters mark their ballots in the July 14 primary, their choice is between a moderate with a lot of lawmaking experience in Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon and two progressive activists in business owner and long-time lobbyist Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman.
Given Maine’s political landscape, the more moderate route makes the most sense. That’s why we recommend ranking Gideon as the first choice on the Democratic ballot.
The Republican primary in Maine’s 2nd Congressional Districts features three candidates — former lawmakers Dale Crafts and Eric Brakey and Adrienne Bennett, a spokesperson for former Gov. Paul LePage — who are trying to outdo each other in claiming allegiance to President Donald Trump and in their opposition to Gov. Janet Mills and her policies to slow the spread of coronavirus in Maine.
Unfortunately, this leaves many of the district’s Republicans without a moderate candidate who truly reflects their views and priorities.
That said, Crafts, a Lisbon businessman who served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives, has the most extensive experience and matches the district’s brand of conservatism. We believe he deserves the first choice ranking of the 2nd District’s Republican voters.
Whatever your preferences, it is important to turn them into votes. So make sure you cast a ballot by Tuesday.