Former Vice President Joe Biden (left) and President Donald Trump. Credit: File / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 35 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The rule is, nothing can change,” said Linda Breslin, 78, whose island camp on Lake St. George in Liberty has gone unchanged for more than a century. “I think that you never really own a place. You’re like a caretaker for the time that you dwell in it. It’s history. I want to leave it for the next person, and I can tell them about the people who came before and made these contributions.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The first presidential debate kicks off tonight with heavy attention paid to Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which has a relatively large share of undecided voters. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will meet at 9 p.m. in Cleveland, Ohio, for a 90-minute debate moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. Topics include the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and the Supreme Court.

Both Trump and Biden have shown interest in Maine in recent weeks, with Biden’s wife and two of Trump’s sons making campaign stops here earlier this month. Donald Trump Jr.’s visit to Holden seemed like an effort to rally the Republican base, while Jill Biden encouraged Democrats in Orono to get out the vote. But the real target of the upcoming debates might be undecided voters — though that is likely a relatively small group.

Polls have shown Biden with a solid lead statewide, often cracking the 50 percent threshold needed to prevent a ranked-choice runoff. But such a runoff may be needed in the 2nd Congressional District, the former vice president’s lead has been narrower, with neither candidate cracking 50 percent and 8 percent undecided in a recent Colby College poll.

That latter number is striking because recent national polls have shown more people have made their mind up. A Monmouth University poll released this week found 2 percent of voters undecided. Voters in the 2nd District who remain undecided may be watching tonight for clues after Trump won the rural district by 10 points in 2016. 

Both candidates are now on air in the Bangor area, and their messaging is pretty different. The Trump campaign has been running an ad highlighting the pre-pandemic economy and accusing Biden of wanting to raise taxes. The Biden campaign, which launches its first ads today, is running a spot pitching the Democratic nominee as a unity candidate, pledging to “end the division” and “start fresh.”

The Maine politics top 3

— “Mainers could be asked to approve consumer-owned utility at ballot box,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The application filed on Sept. 18 by six Mainers, including former independent Sen. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth and attorney and former lawmaker John Brautigam, is the second referendum effort launched since the state’s highest court struck down an effort to block Central Maine Power’s controversial power line project in August that would target the for-profit utility.”

The move makes it likely that Maine’s relationship with CMP will continue as a top-tier political issue here going into 2021. The utility looked to be largely out of the woods after the August decision by Maine’s high court to remove an anti-corridor question from the 2020 ballot, but corridor opponents came back with a second referendum proposal earlier this month that is intended to motivate lawmakers to use contested power to overturn it. The consumer-owned utility is a long-standing goal of Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, but it has gotten a frosty reception in the Legislature, where CMP has mounted a massive lobbying effort. Other than the coronavirus pandemic, CMP may be Maine’s biggest political issue now.

— “Susan Collins, Sara Gideon clash on high court and pandemic relief in 2nd Senate debate,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and House Speaker Sara Gideon clashed over pandemic relief and the Supreme Court in the second debate of their race on Monday, while independent Lisa Savage highlighted ranked-choice voting and Max Linn theatrically went after both party candidates.”

— “Defiant Maine pastor’s family planning wedding events across state line amid virus outbreaks,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “The gatherings are planned as Pastor [Todd] Bell and his family remain defiant about the coronavirus pandemic and health advisories from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, saying ‘God — not government’ would solve the virus amid outbreaks in York County and elsewhere in Maine.”

Meanwhile, the aftershocks of the Millinocket wedding Bell officiated continue to grow. At least eight people have died — most in a Madison nursing home — and 180 have been infected after catching the virus. None of those who died attended the wedding, according to the state.

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...