In this Oct. 7, 2020, file photo, a voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 11 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It gets me out of the house, it’s great exercise and I just really love finding these old relics that people have lost or thrown away,” Shane Houston said about the metal detecting hobby that helped the North Carolinian find a 222-year-old penny in Maine. “And it’s cheaper than therapy.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

There is plenty of money left to be spent in the final days of Maine’s U.S. Senate race. Candidates reported their last fundraising update before the election on Thursday, covering the first two weeks of October. House Speaker Sara Gideon, who raised nearly $40 million during the third quarter of 2020, continued on that pace, raising another $6 million in two weeks.

Gideon, a Democrat, spent nearly $8 million during the same period and had $20 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 14, a total that could be hard to spend before the election. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, raised $1.8 million and spent $4 million over the same period, ending with $4.4 million cash on hand.

Those are both significant fundraising totals, though they were dwarfed by candidates in other competitive Senate races. In South Carolina, for instance, Sen. Lindsay Graham raised nearly $15 million, while his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison raised $22 million in two weeks.

The Maine candidates’ spending is accompanied by nearly $80 million in independent expenditure spending from outside groups as of Thursday, as well as more than $10 million in dark money. That kind of money means the abundant TV, radio and online ads are likely to continue through Election Day.

Collins told The New York Times that she considered running for a fifth term as an independent. The idea “crossed my mind,” she told reporter Jonathan Martin for an article released on Friday, but she did not want to turn her back on “the New England brand of Republicanism.” She has narrowly trailed Gideon in public polling throughout 2020 after her approval rating in Maine plummeted on the heels of her 2018 vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but Collins is still within striking distance despite running a campaign more reliant on the conservative base than ever before.

The candidates covered little new ground in the fourth debate of the race and the last to feature two longshots. The Senate race, which also features independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn, has already blown past previous spending records in Maine. Money in politics was among the topics candidates clashed on in Thursday’s U.S. Senate debate. Gideon and Collins also disagreed over issues including party leadership and health care during a mostly sedate debate hosted by News Center Maine and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

The next debate of the race will be next Wednesday on WMTW. Only Collins and Gideon will be on the stage, which drew complaints from the Linn and Savage camps on Thursday. Linn said he was “seeking legal counsel,” but news outlets can invite who they want. Savage is the only independent in the race to register above 5 percent in any public poll to date. She did it once.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Top Maine Democrat’s effort to regulate partisan sites will face constitutional hurdles,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: [The office of Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said] he has submitted a bill to make “fake news” sites disclose who runs and funds them on their homepages, but it did not provide details about how the bill would define those sites. The bill has not been written and would not be considered until 2021.

— “Maine’s faithful fear that second virus outbreak linked to church could force another shutdown,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported that at least 49 cases of the virus had spread from the church outbreak. Three patients linked to the outbreak have been hospitalized. And now religious leaders fear the state could enact another ban on in-person church services if coronavirus outbreaks from congregations aren’t contained.”

— “Jared Golden spars with Dale Crafts over health care and the Supreme Court in debate,” Susan Sharon, Maine Public: “They agreed on [the] need for more pandemic relief, the need to rein in campaign spending and their support for the 2nd Amendment. They disagreed on whether to proceed with a vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the November election.”

Dozens of Mainers take advantage of accessible voting system

A small portion of the record-breaking number of absentee ballot returns have been through the state’s new system for the visually impaired. As of Wednesday, about 50 people had requested ballots and returned 20, according to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office — just a tiny sliver of more than 415,000 people who have requested ballots so far.

The system has been live since Oct. 2 in response to a federal complaint that the state did not supply a safe and private way for visually impared voters to participate in the July primaries. It was up to municipalities to send accessible versions of their ballots 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.

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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...