Clockwise from left: Lisa Savage, Susan Collins, Sara Gideon and Max Linn. Credit: Composite / BDN

It is the 19th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Here is one story of Mainers who scrambled to the attack sites that day. They first told their stories publicly in 2011.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The idea of those kids sitting in the classroom for six hours with masks on, we just knew we couldn’t do that,” said Margaret White, the superintendent for East Grand School in Danforth, where children partake in an outdoors-based development program. “When they’re out there, they’re working hard, so they are ready to come back and take part in class.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

A tight poll and tumultuous week make the first debate in Maine’s U.S. Senate race one of the most highly anticipated meetings in recent history. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, will meet on Friday for the first time in their massive and nationally targeted campaign in a 7 p.m. debate also featuring independents Max Linn and Lisa Savage. It will be hosted by News Center Maine, the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald. Here’s our preview of the debate and how to watch.

The toss-up seat is among a handful most likely to flip in 2020 as Democrats try to take back the Senate. Gideon has harnessed momentum to race out to record fundraising and a narrow public polling lead in 2020, while Collins is relying more on her party’s base than ever before.

On Thursday, AARP Maine released the tightest public poll of the race since February showing Gideon and Collins effectively tied at 44 percent for the challenger to 43 percent for the incumbent. Savage held 6 percent in the race, showing the likelihood that the two independents are likely to at least own the gap between the party candidates in the ranked-choice race.

It has also been a tumultuous week in U.S. politics. Collins has yet to comment publicly on revelations from an upcoming book that President Donald Trump admitted to initially downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, while Senate Democrats blocked a pared-back Republican stimulus bill on Thursday in a vote Gideon’s campaign said she would have joined.

That leaves plenty for moderators to pin candidates down on and for the candidates to argue out. Gideon will take on a practiced debater in a major test after a light primary schedule. The longshots will look for ways to stand out. We will break it all down tonight.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Travelers likely brought COVID-19 to Maine this winter, Jackson Lab analysis shows,” Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News: “Predominantly, the results match a strain of COVID-19 associated with the spike of cases this past spring in New York, which were genetically traced to cases found mostly in Europe, [Jackson Lab assistant professor Ryan Tewhey] said. A different strain associated with another early outbreak in Washington state has been traced back to Wuhan, China, where the pandemic originated late last year. But other research has found the New York strain to be much more dominant in the U.S., showing that infected people who traveled from New York early in the pandemic likely caused outbreaks in much of the nation.”

— “In York County virus hotspot, some say it’s time to ‘stop fighting science’,” Nick Schroeder and Troy R. Bennett, BDN: “‘Those of us with kids in public schools, at-risk family members, people with underlying conditions and those who wish to protect business incomes, we owe it to ourselves to act much better than this,’ said Sanford resident Matthew Gardner.

The city took steps this week to try and mitigate the spread of the virus. The City Council passed a mask ordinance that requires their use in public places and fines violators $100. The measures come as Pastor Todd Bell of the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford continues to hold in-person services, despite the state investigating an outbreak there. Bell officiated a Katahdin-area wedding that led to the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the state.

— “School committee doubles down on diversity training after Bangor teacher faced backlash,” Eesha Pendharkar, BDN: “‘We must be more accepting and understanding of what it’s like to walk in other people’s shoes. Life is not the same for all of us and the color of our skin, our sexuality and gender all play a part in the opportunities that we have, and how we are treated by others,’ Bangor school committee chair Warren Caruso said.

The diversity training was one of the five commitments the Bangor School District made after Black students shared their experiences with racism at school. A middle school teacher received hateful comments over the weekend after her lesson on race was shared by a parent to a pro-Trump Facebook page by a parent, who recorded it.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd 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...