From left, Max Linn, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, Lisa Savage and Sen. Susan Collins debate at the Holiday Inn By The Bay on Sept. 11, 2020, in Portland. Credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 14 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “To sum it up, my wife came up with the hashtag, #loveisnotcancelled,” said Chris Bernardini, whose wife, Leslie, is mother of the bride of a couple who found a clever way to get married with family members across the Maine-Canada border. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

With two weeks to go until Election Day, here is where Maine’s biggest races stand. In the highly watched U.S. Senate race, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has a narrow lead over Republican Sen. Susan Collins in the polls, although no independent polls of the race have been conducted in the past two weeks, which amounts to a drought in this high-profile race. Independent candidates Lisa Savage and Max Linn have been polling in the low single digits, but they loom as factors in the ranked-choice voting race.

Money is abundant in the Senate race following Gideon’s record fundraising quarter. The House speaker has raised more than $60 million this cycle and $22 million cash on hand at the end of September. Collins has raised less than half of that, but still had $6.5 million in cash. Outside spending in the race is also nearing $80 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In congressional races, both Democrat incumbents, Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Jared Golden of the 2nd District, have significant polling leads over their Republican challengers, physician Jay Allen and former state Rep. Dale Crafts. Pingree and Golden also have significant fundraising leads.

The next few days will be packed with debates. Pingree and Allen will meet for a debate on Maine Public tonight, while Golden and Crafts have debates on ABC affiliate WMTW tomorrow and Maine Public on Thursday. The U.S. Senate candidates will also come together for a debate on Thursday, hosted by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and NBC affiliate News Center Maine.

Not all voters will need to tune in — more than 223,000 voters had already voted as of Friday, according to data from the Maine secretary of state’s office. That amounts to nearly 30 percent of 2016 turnout.

The Maine politics top 3

— “In Maine’s swing 2nd District, Mike Pence says ‘era of economic surrender is over’,” Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews: “The vice president filled his speech with references to the state, firing up an archconservative crowd when he said former Gov. Paul LePage, who introduced him and is chairing [President Donald] Trump’s Maine campaign, was ‘one of my favorite governors’ and ‘he just might be again’ in a reference to LePage’s potential 2022 return bid against Gov. Janet Mills.”

The 2nd Congressional District remains one of the closest races for a presidential elector in the country. Pence was appearing in a district whose one elector was taken by Trump by 10 points in 2016, but Democratic nominee Joe Biden is polling close with him in one of the four races for Electoral College votes pegged by Decision Desk HQ as a toss-up. As it stands today, the BDN’s national election results partner gives Biden the slimmest 51.5 percent chance of winning that elector to Trump’s 48.5 percent. That’s why Maine is under the microscope.

— “Penobscot County ranks 1st for rare fentanyl copycat drugs in nationwide analysis,” Erin Rhoda, BDN: “Rare drugs designed to mimic the opioid fentanyl are showing up more often in urine samples from Penobscot County than any other county in the nation, according to a recent study. The findings are concerning to the authors, they said, since they come at a time when the fentanyl analogs are frequently being added to methamphetamine, creating a deadly combination.”

— “Mayor Snyder talks of the challenges of her first year, and says more are coming,” Randy Billings, Portland Press Herald: “[Mayor Kate] Snyder also acknowledged frustration in the community about the ways the council receives and responds to public input, highlighting opportunities to make changes. One avenue is the council’s rule-making process later this year. Another is through the charter commission, which will be elected in June. She also alluded to an effort to reinvigorate the Portland Alliance of Neighborhoods, a panel of representatives from each neighborhood.”

Senate Democrats to hold press conference on campaign tactics

The rescheduled briefing comes as the role of partisan news sites in the election era is being scrutinized. The high-profile U.S. Senate race has seen most of the attention in Maine elections this year, but top Democrats in the Maine Senate, including Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, are expected to decry the role of the Maine Examiner, a site run by Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine Republican Party. 

Despite the complaints, Democrats look to be in the driver’s seat in the 2020 elections, leading minority Republicans in fundraising and polling so far during the election cycle. The Maine Senate, however, is the most competitive chamber. Ethics complaints have cropped up in some of the competitive races involving big personalities in the Legislature. 

While charges against Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, and House Minority Assistant Leader Trey Stewart have been dismissed by the state’s campaign ethics commission, the panel is still looking into shadowy polling in the race between Dow and Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, after it was revealed the surveying was paid for by the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.

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...