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 21 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Halloween is one of my favorite holidays,” said Dima Hodsdon, a 16-year-old planning elaborate decorations for his home in Belfast with modifications due to the coronavirus. “It’s pretty wacky. It might terrify small children. That’s kind of what I’m going for.”

What we’re watching today

Maine’s competitive U.S. Senate race is feeling the effect of a contentious Supreme Court fight as confirmation hearings begin in Washington. A Senate panel will continue today with hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, who President Donald Trump nominated to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republicans seem intent on pushing through the nomination before Election Day, except for two senators including Maine’s Susan Collins.

The Republican in a tough 2020 reelection campaign against House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has said she will oppose any nominee who comes up for a vote on the Senate floor in that timeframe. This has not been a comment on Barrett, but on her belief that Republicans should not put a justice on the court in the run-up to a presidential election.

On Monday, Collins said she was “still learning more” about Barrett’s record now that she has been an appeals court judge since 2017. The Maine senator voted to put her in that post, but those comments will set up an interesting — if academic — later discussion around what Collins thinks of the nominee on her merits. Every word she utters will be watched in the campaign.

Her Democratic opponent, meanwhile, has been emphasizing the potential harms of a Supreme Court dominated 6-3 by conservatives. Gideon has made health care one of her central arguments in the final month of the campaign, pointing to the impending case on the Affordable Care Act that the court will hear after the election. She held a Monday campaign event on reproductive rights, where one subject was the potential for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark high court case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Hearings for Barrett continue today. You can watch with us here. A committee vote tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22. A full Senate vote could come soon after that in the last two weeks before Election Day. Here’s your soundtrack.

The Maine politics top 3

— “What it means to be ‘from away’ in Maine’s parochial politics,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “[Messaging against Gideon] is an extension of a long-held debate over what it means to be a real Mainer, an amorphous term that has often excluded people ‘from away’ — or born in other states — no matter how long they have lived here, as well as residents from southern or coastal regions. It comes at a time when many question whether Maine, given its aging population, needs to be more welcoming.”

— “Why some Maine voters are still undecided,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: To understand how voters are feeling, we spoke to four Mainers from much different backgrounds who told us they are still making up their minds in both federal and state races. … We found them largely concerned with what their votes could mean for health care, the environment, political power structures and the future direction of the country.

We will be following these four voters until they make their decision in their respective races. While our group is not representative of all voters, the goal is to better understand this diminishing group of undecided voters and get to the bottom of why people choose to vote the way they do. We will be reporting back on how they end up deciding.

— “Maine legislative hopefuls eye cuts over tax increases to fix $1.4B shortfall,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Eleven of 29 Democrats running for Maine Senate who responded to a Bangor Daily News survey said they opposed tax increases or would consider cuts to the next two-year budget, including some who will hold keys to negotiations. By contrast, 19 of 29 Republican candidates for the upper chamber said the same thing. Just four Senate candidates said they would consider tax increases on anyone.”

Political spending tops $100M

Spending for Maine’s federal races has now surpassed $100 million, according to a report. The highly watched U.S. Senate race accounts for more than $95 million of that, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, while the rest is from the state’s congressional races, mostly in the 2nd District.

The vast majority of that money is from out of state. Both Gideon and Collins have raised the bulk of their money from out of state, with the Democrat raising a slightly larger share from Maine as of earlier this year. Candidates will have to file updated campaign finance reports for the third quarter later this week.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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.