This pair of 2020 file photos shows incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, right, who are running in the Nov. 3, 2020, election to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate. Credit: AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 19 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “None of us should have to [weather] this pain alone,” said Jeff Buckwalter, co-owner of the lauded Holy Donut chain, about having to close its Old Port location. “We all share in this pain together.”

What we’re watching today

Maine’s U.S. Senate candidates will face off for their third debate tonight as their campaigns are set to report massive fundraising numbers. Today marks the third-quarter federal campaign finance deadline, where campaigns have to report their fundraising totals from July through September. Expect to see massive totals from House Speaker Sara Gideon and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in a race that has already set Maine records for total fundraising.

Competitive Senate races in other states have attracted truly eye-boggling numbers. In South Carolina, Sen. Lindsay Graham, a Republican, raised a whopping $28 million in the third quarter, which would have been an impressive sum except that his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, raised $57 million, setting a record for the most raised by any U.S. Senate candidate in a quarter. Expect Gideon to post a huge number as well given what we have seen with other Democrats facing well-heeled Republican incumbents across the country.

Through the end of June, Gideon had raised $24 million in total while Collins had raised $16.7 million. The latest numbers are likely to show them adding substantially to those totals, as well as burning through cash to try to sway voters — all the TV and digital advertisements Maine voters have been subjected to cost a lot of money.

Those fundraising numbers may come around the same time as the candidates face off for their third U.S. Senate debate. The event, featuring Collins, Gideon independents candidates Max Linn and Lisa Savage, is hosted by Maine Public and will live air on TV and online at 8 p.m.

The first two U.S. Senate debates did not seem to move the needle much — though the candidates clashed over issues including health care and the Supreme Court, neither major party candidate came away as a clear winner or loser. With nearly a fifth of likely Maine voters having already cast their ballots, candidates will look to gain momentum any way they can.

Collins said ranked-choice voting is ‘strange,’ mirroring her party’s concerns about the system. The senator has not discussed the voting method that will decide her race much on the campaign trail so far, but she used a familiar Republican line on it in a Wednesday interview with Seacoast Media Group. Collins said the system is “strange” and unfair since it allows people who support longshot candidates to have votes reallocated in a final round.

“But those are the rules,” she conceded. “They’ve been upheld by the court. And those are the rules I’ve got to play by.”

Correction: The Maine Public debate will be aired live on Thursday night. An earlier version of this item was incorrect.

The Maine politics top 3

— “These towns may decide a tight race between Trump and Biden in Maine’s 2nd District,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Rumford and towns like it will be crucial to whether Trump can again carry the one elector from the district. He won it by 10 percentage points in 2016, but polls this year have him lagging former Vice President Joe Biden nationally with the two tied in the 2nd District. It is the closest of any race for an elector in the nation, according to a model from Decision Desk HQ.”

We’re closely watching 52 Maine cities and towns that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Golden in 2018. They include bigger ones such as Auburn, Ellsworth and Rumford, plus others around Farmington and in the St. John Valley. These places would be where Democratic nominee Joe Biden must gain ground on 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton if he has a chance to flip the 2nd District.

— “Maine GOP campaign arm paid for shadowy poll hitting Democratic legislative candidate,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “A round of polling against Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, who is opposing Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, drew a complaint from the Lincoln County Democratic Committee in September. The Maine Ethics Commission unanimously voted to investigate the polling days later in the highest-profile ethics case of the 2020 legislative elections.”

— “Maine’s top court mulls post-election counts of absentee ballots,” Mal Leary, Maine Public: “Current law requires absentee ballots be returned to the local clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day. But [Zachary Heiden of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine] said because of mail delivery slowdowns at the U.S. Postal Service, the court should allow ballots received two days after the election to be counted.”

A big debate day as 2nd District candidates meet for 1st time

Thursday’s debate will be critical if the Republican candidate is to gain ground on his opponent. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts has trailed Golden polling and fundraising since winning his July primary, although outside spending against Golden is now close to $1 million. The campaign has been muted compared to the battle for the Senate, with the occasional jabs about the candidate’s views on issues like health care and police reform

While those arguments have mostly played out in ads and interviews with the individual candidates, tonight’s conversation will be the first time the two get to joust in person. The hour-long debate is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m.. It will be hosted by WABI and WAGM and be available for livestreaming on their websites.

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...