From left: Candidates Lisa Savage, Max Linn, Sara Gideon and Susan Collins at the Decision Maine debate in Portland on Friday. Credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

Good morning from Augusta. There are 50 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It took a long time to persuade my team to let me do this on my own,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, told the Los Angeles Review of Books about running his own Instagram account, where he regularly posts photos with extended captions. “But I really appreciate that chance to share what I’m thinking and what I’m seeing.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The first Maine U.S. Senate debate proved fiery at times, though it did not provide new information about the frontrunners. There was no clear winner of the Friday debate hosted by News Center Maine, the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and her Democratic challenger, House Speaker Sara Gideon, went after each other on issues including health care, judicial appointments and Collins’ refusal to say whether she supports President Donald Trump this year.

Collins, an experienced debater, was steady throughout and has clearly decided that not committing on her 2020 presidential vote is her best move. She said she was not asked about the president on a recent bus tour and later that she thought Mainers did not need her advice before voting. She went after her Democratic opponent on health care and campaign finance.

Gideon managed to bring several questions back to Collins’ silence on Trump. She mounted clear attacks against the Republican senator over the 2017 Republican tax bill and Collins’ votes for judges deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association, though the Republican incumbent turned that latter argument around, momentarily stumping Gideon with a question about whether she would have voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005.

One independent largely refused to engage with questions, while the other presented a solid case for why she is the most progressive candidate. Bar Harbor businessman Max Linn clashed with moderators early and erratically in the debate, saying he needed to work “outside the box” to counteract big spending as he tried to talk about issues including the Central Maine Power corridor rather than answer debate questions. In a viral moment, he told a moderator “request denied” after she asked him to stay on topic.

But Lisa Savage, a former Green running as an independent, laid out clear pitches for progressive ideas including Medicare for All, the universal health care plan championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and a Green New Deal to address climate change. Her performance was widely praised next to the volatile Linn and sparring frontrunners.

The candidates will meet again — there are at least five more debates in the works between now and the November election. Friday’s event hit many of the major issues, but candidates will have to address others including taxes, the opioid epidemic, immigration, foreign policy and gun control. An hour was not enough to cover that ground.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Reopening politics play differently in Maine and NH, but early recoveries are similar,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has not weathered nearly the same level of criticism from opponents and tourism officials. New Hampshire is widely seen as being less restrictive than Maine. The difference may come down to how the two leaders communicated during the pandemic and what reopened faster, though polling shows residents in both states largely approve of how their governors have performed.”

— “5 deaths now linked to Millinocket-area wedding, including 4 at Madison nursing home,” Lauren Abbate, BDN: “The virus was introduced to the facility after a staff member contracted it from a parent, who caught it from another child who attended the early August wedding in the Katahdin region.”

— “Pandemic-induced remote worker boom creates state income tax confusion,” Tux Turkel, Portland Press Herald: “Several states have issued guidance on how to tax income earned in remote locations. Maine Revenue Services is in the midst of such a review as part of a broader examination of tax policy during the pandemic. Its recommendations ultimately will be forwarded to Gov. Janet Mills.” Here’s your soundtrack.

Commission on racial inequity expected to make recommendations after weeks of study

Criminal justice, education and basic needs and rights are expected to headline the special commission’s slate of bills, although the future of any legislation remains uncertain. The Permanent Commission on the State of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations got a funding boost to study hundreds of bills that could tackle issues of criminal justice and health care inequalities in the state after disparities were highlighted due to the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality

It seems more likely that any recommendations will have to be taken up next session. There is no word on a special session after two attempts to return to Augusta were scuttled by minority Republicans in the State House. Any bills that are not taken up this year will die, but lawmakers can always reintroduce them next time around.

Maine congressional candidate takes to the skies for charity event

In terms of eye-catching campaign escapades, skydiving might be the highest you can go. Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Dale Crafts — perhaps looking to shake up a thus-far quiet race — will be jumping out of a plane Friday afternoon in Millinocket to raise funds for the Pine Grove Programs, a nonprofit that provides free outdoor experiences to veterans. 

That demographic is central to the political brand of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat and Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and it will be a key group for Crafts to court if he wants to compete. The trip is even more notable since Crafts uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed from the waist down in a 1983 motorcycle crash.

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 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...