Good morning from Augusta. The Bangor Daily News is collecting information from readers on the political issues at the top of your minds in 2020. Take our survey here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s pretty clear from all the research that any kind of effective anti-racism work needs to be ongoing and not just a one-off training. It’s got to be a bigger investment than that,” Wendy Luttrell, a professor of urban education at the City University of New York, said of how to address racism at schools.
What we’re watching today
We’ve passed the 100-day mark before the November election, which promises one of the most uncertain environments in history. There are 99 days left until the Nov. 3 election, capping one of the wildest political years in all of our lives. It began with impeachment proceedings from House Democrats against President Donald Trump and has since been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Maine will decide lots of high-stakes races, topped by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ targeted campaign for a fifth term but also including the toss-up 2nd Congressional District, a referendum over the Central Maine Power corridor and the often-competitive battle for the Legislature.
Right now, the situation looks difficult for Republicans. Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in polls nationwide and in many states that should be battlegrounds. History tells us that gaps this large are difficult to overcome, though there are also examples of early leaders (see Michael Dukakis in 1988) falling flat.
Maine has a lot riding on this climate, with Collins, a Republican, running what looks like a close race with House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. But things could change rapidly in our lives and our politics depending on the answers to many questions. Will there be a “second wave” of the virus as many fear in the fall? How will the economy respond? How will Maine’s virus restrictions look with time? Judging by the past few months, it’s hard to know where we will land.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Susan Collins ‘hopeful’ next virus relief package will include state and local aid,” Michael Shepherd and David Marino, Jr., Bangor Daily News: “State and local coronavirus aid is left out of a new pandemic relief package floated by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, but [Collins] said on Friday she is hopeful it will be included in a final measure.”
The White House has indicated that Republicans will roll out their plan today. House Democrats passed their own stimulus package in May, but it was considered a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate. The biggest sticking point has been expanded unemployment benefits, with Republicans generally opposing the additional weekly $600 for every worker. Maine workers receiving unemployment insurance will no longer receive the expanded federal benefit this week for the first time since mid-April.
— “Machinists union president rallies striking BIW workers,” David Sharp, Associated Press: “Robert Martinez Jr. delivered a message of unity to Machinists Local S6 during a strike that passed the one-month mark this week. He accused the shipyard, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, of ‘corporate greed.’”
The union and the shipyard may meet via a mediator this week. Both Local S6 and BIW have been meeting separately with a federal mediator, but there have been no formal talks since union members voted overwhelmingly to strike in late June. That could change this week as the union requested on Friday that the two sides meet. Here’s your soundtrack.
— “Maine lawmaker reins in public power proposal, asks for new study of the plan,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “A controversial bill to create a public electric utility was set to face its first vote on Friday, but its backer watered it down at the last minute and convinced the Legislature’s energy committee to study the plan again.”
Federal judge pushes for quick resolution to visually impaired voters case
— With the general election less only 99 days away, the clock is ticking for a federal case charging that Maine is failing to provide safe and secret absentee ballot options for visually impaired voters in the state. It seems like U.S. District Judge John Woodcock wants a quick resolution — last week, he ordered the Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, the voters represented by Disability Rights Maine and the municipalities named in the lawsuit to come up with a proposed settlement or a scheduling timeline by Aug. 10.
Disability Rights Maine has suggested a few ways the state could meet its obligations. It could use electronic ballots provided to overseas voters. Attorney Kristen Aiello also pointed in the initial complaint to online marking systems such as Prime III, Democracy Live and Voting Works by Enhanced Voting as potential solutions.
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.