Susan Collins (left) and Sara Gideon are pictured at the Decision Maine debate in Portland on Sept. 11. Credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

Good morning from Augusta. There are 32 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” said President Donald Trump in a tweet shortly before 1 a.m. Here is more on the positive tests for Trump and his wife, Melania Trump.

What we’re watching today

Maine’s U.S. Senate race really is the most negative, according to a new report. Nearly two-thirds of TV ads aired between Sep. 5 and 27 were classified as “pure attack” ads, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, a greater percentage than in any other competitive Senate race.

The race between Sen. Susan Collins and House Speaker Sara Gideon, which also features independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn, has already set records as the most expensive in Maine’s history. More than $13 million was spent in Maine during the period the report studied, ranking seventh overall in TV ad spending, behind Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Arizona and Montana. Overall, outside groups in the race have spent $54 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Nearly half of Gideon’s ads were negative, according to the report, compared with 35 percent of Collins’ campaign ads. Outside groups, which account for about 40 percent of the ads during the period studied, were even more likely to go negative. Three of the four biggest outside spenders are Republican groups, according to federal data, though that does not include dark-money spending, which was a bigger factor against Collins earlier in the race.

Updated fundraising figures are coming and Gideon looks primed to put up a big number. Senate candidates will have to report in mid-October how much they raised and spent over the third quarter of 2020. Democrats in other top-tier races have reported eye-popping figures of late, including Cal Cunningham, who is facing Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, and announced that he raised $28.3 million in the past quarter. 

If Gideon, who is boosted by a $4 million crowdfund transferred to her campaign in July, raised that much, it would be $5 million more than was spent by the candidates and outside groups in the 2018 election in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which was the most expensive race in the state’s history before the record was quickly shattered by this one. Gideon and Collins raised $40 million by June’s end.

The Maine politics top 3

— “How to request an absentee ballot in Maine and make sure it is counted,” Christopher Burns, Bangor Daily News: “Absentee ballots will be available from city and town clerks starting Friday, Oct. 2, which is also the day that they will be sent to many of the voters who requested them early. Absentee ballots can also be cast in person at municipal offices beginning on Oct. 5 in most places until 5 p.m. on Oct. 30.”

The BDN is rolling out its voter guide earlier than usual this year because of the prevalence of absentee voting. On Saturday, we will release our 2020 guide to the Maine election. We have summarized the positions of candidates in top-tier races on many of the issues you told us you care about and put the same set of questions to every legislative candidate. We will also compile all the information you need to know to cast your ballot.

— “Most Mainers facing eviction in pandemic are only 1-2 months behind on rent,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “Nearly half of Maine renters — 46 percent — who received eviction notices in the first half of 2020 were late by less than a month. In a large majority of cases, Mainers were behind on rent for less than two months and owed between $1,000 and $1,500, the study found.”

— “After wedding outbreak, Millinocket area has gone over a month without a new virus case,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “State and local officials think the quick decisions by people in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway to close down businesses and organizations in the immediate wake of that outbreak, and to step up mask wearing, probably helped to bring it under control.”

Reactions to Trump’s positive test are starting to come in from Maine politicians. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, said on Twitter he is “adding my prayers alongside many others for the President and First Lady’s good health and full recovery.” His Republican opponent, the Trump-endorsed state Rep. Dale Crafts, said Trump and his wife are “the ultimate optimists” and that “Mainers send their prayers for you both.”

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, tweeted that his thoughts were with the president and the first lady and he “wish[ed] them the best as they begin their recovery process.” Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, said she wished the pair a full recovery and was “thinking of them and the millions of other Americans who are currently battling this horrible virus.”

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...