House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, holds a gavel as she conducts business in the House Chamber at the State House in Augusta in this March 17, 2020, file photo. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I mean if they both can be in Westbrook tonight …. ,” tweeted WMTW anchor Steve Bottari after U.S. Sen. Susan Collins challenged House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, to 16 debates and said she would start Wednesday. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Democrats and Republicans are setting up for a fight over reconvening the Legislature. Lawmakers had until 8 a.m. Thursday to respond to a poll from Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, on reconvening the Legislature in August at the Augusta Civic Center. Minority Republicans, however, quickly said they were reluctant to come back without a timeframe and a promise to limit business to emergency or coronavirus-related bills.

Only three Republicans responded to the poll by Thursday. In this case, a special session requires the approval of a majority of all lawmakers in each political party. Legislative Republicans issued a statement late Wednesday saying a majority of the party does not support coming back under those terms.

Gideon shot back with a letter on Wednesday night asking Republicans to reconsider. After the poll closed, Jackson issued a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed in my colleagues and I would imagine Maine people are too.”

The wrangling over a special session could be a high-stakes game for both parties. The poll from Jackson and Gideon put the onus on the minority party to come back after lawmakers adjourned abruptly in March as the virus bore down on Maine. Since then, Republicans have loudly called for a return to affect a virus response largely left to Gov. Janet Mills.

Everyone has reasons to come back. The virus response is becoming a key issue in Gideon’s campaign against Collins. Rank-and-file Democrats want to pass other bills. Republicans want to vote on stripping Mills of her emergency power, a non-starter for Democrats. Lawmakers of all stripes would like at least some input on the virus response.

For now, Republicans are holding hands for leverage over terms with Democrats who are so far unwilling to cede ground on the legislative agenda. They may get back to the capital yet, but the election-year session will likely be as politically charged as the current chatter.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Susan Collins and Sara Gideon come out swinging as 2020 race kicks off,” Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The candidates traded jabs through the Maine press at small events belying major national attention and spending that has flowed into the race long before the primary was decided. Collins and Gideon have aimed their campaigns squarely at each other in the toss-up race since the House speaker joined the race last June.”

Gideon is also set to get another fundraising boost. More than $4 million raised in connection with Collins’ vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will be transferred to the Freeport Democrat’s campaign in the next few weeks. Gideon has already set fundraising records, with more than $24 million raised this cycle, according to federal filings her campaign submitted Wednesday night. Collins has raised $16.9 million, according to her campaign’s latest filings.

— “Maine to use ranked-choice voting in presidential election after GOP veto effort fails,” Andrews, BDN: “Maine will be the first state to ever use ranked-choice voting in a presidential election in November after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap ruled Wednesday that a Republican-led people’s veto effort did not have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.”

— “Kim Rosen beats Larry Lockman as GOP hopefuls backed by LePage lose primaries,” Piper, BDN: “The losses by Lockman, [John] Linnehan and [Doug] Thomas show the limits of LePage’s support when matched against candidates with legislative experience and deep ties to their regions. The former governor, who recently moved back to Maine from Florida, has heavily indicated he may run again in 2022.”

2nd District race shapes up

The results of the Republican primary in the 2nd District are still headed toward a ranked-choice runoff, but it likely doesn’t matter. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey and Adrienne Bennett, who was LePage’s press secretary, have both conceded, effectively handing the nomination to former state Rep. Dale Crafts. Crafts won about 45 percent of the vote in the first round.

Incumbent Jared Golden is paying attention — his campaign account released an ad Wednesday highlighting his historic win over Bruce Poliquin in 2018 and pushing his work in office. 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 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...