Good morning from Augusta. There are 60 days until Election Day.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I am concerned that if we do not get a grip on what’s going on in York County, it has the potential to spiral and start affecting adjacent parts of the state in the not too distant future,” Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s director Nirav Shah said of the rising case counts in Maine’s southernmost county.
What we’re watching today
Maine’s first-term Democratic congressman is running a series of ads showing the tightrope he is walking in his swing district. The 2nd Congressional District race may be off to a quiet start, but U.S. Rep. Jared Golden has so far focused on running a positive campaign that focuses on his achievements and relatability — and Mainers in iconic industries — while only lightly referencing Republicans.
An early spot featuring Golden’s wife, Isobel Golden, touched briefly on attack ads from two years ago. An ad on Golden’s 9-hour commute to Washington, D.C., by truck says he does not make the journey for “partisan fights.” One released this week features friends said to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum. It ends with one saying Golden’s “draining the swamp,” a clear and almost affirming reference to President Donald Trump’s slogan.
It is well known that Trump carried the district by 10 points in 2016. Golden, who portrays himself as a centrist, is staying away from issues that might rile his base, while backing former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. But while the congressman has taken progressive stances on issues like health care and campaign finance, he also has a B rating from the National Rifle Association.
Still, the gun-rights group endorsed his opponent, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, a Republican, this week. Crafts’s first ad of the general election is also positive and meant to introduce voters to the businessman. He is behind Golden on TV and in early polls with two months left until Election Day, but his name is only beginning to get out there.
Outside money has still yet to play a role in the 2nd District race, though both candidates have begun to coordinate with national parties. There’s still no major super PAC ad buys, but both Crafts and Golden are getting help from their respective party committees, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to recent federal filings.
Party committees are allowed to “coordinate” up to $51,900 in spending with House campaigns each cycle. At least some of that money appears to be going to TV ads, but we’ll learn more when candidates file their campaign finance reports at the end of the month.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine university retirees worry cost-cutting shift could jeopardize health care,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The university system is promoting the change as a way to save money while providing retirees with more options and cheaper care by allowing them to be part of a bigger risk pool. But some retirees say the shift has introduced uncertainty around their health care amid a pandemic that has claimed nearly 185,000 lives in the U.S.”
The change is not part of the state’s cost-cutting effort, but it was driven by the coronavirus pandemic. The shift opposed by faculty and employee unions is expected to reduce retiree benefits costs by $2.5 million — or 34 percent — annually. It came after roughly $20 million in estimated and relatively immediate budget hits to the University of Maine System from the pandemic, but it was separate from Gov. Janet Mills’ order to most state agencies to find ways to cut spending by 10 percent by mid-2021.
— “Maine’s high court under time crunch to rule on newest ranked-choice voting case,” Andrews, BDN: “At stake is not just whether Maine voters will get the opportunity to overturn the law that expanded ranked-choice voting to presidential elections here, but also whether the method will be used in the 2020 race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. If the challenge makes the ballot, ranked-choice voting won’t be used in that race.”
— “Deadline shifts, but state says new hemp regulations remain confusing,” Jennifer Mitchell, Maine Public: “It’s going to be a process of learning for all of us, and we’re going to be very understanding,” state horticulturalist Gary Fish said. “And if there are situations where crops are not necessarily in full compliance we’re going to try and find ways to mitigate those crops so they can still be used and not have to destroy those crops.” Here’s your soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. 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.