Good morning from Augusta. There are five days until the November election. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He could have left me alone because I wasn’t coming towards him. I was just giving him the finger,” said Peter Beitzell, who was arrested at a Bangor campaign stop in support of President Donald Trump after getting into a confrontation with a person at the event. “He didn’t have to come over. Then I was stupid back, enough to brandish weapons at a guy who could take me apart.”
What we’re watching today
Coronavirus cases are back on the rise in Maine, though the governor looked reluctant to reinstitute back business restrictions. Gov. Janet Mills and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah held a surprise press conference Wednesday after Maine saw the largest daily increase in new cases since the start of the pandemic.
There are signs that the virus is not as abundant here as it was in April, when testing was not widely available. But, concerningly, the current spikes seem to be throughout the state, not just concentrated in urban areas in southern Maine as they were at the beginning of the outbreak. The rate of positive tests has increased in recent weeks.
As rise in cases was long a predictable concern by public health experts as colder weather forces more gatherings indoors. Maine still has among the lowest case rates of any state, and officials would like to see it head off the current spike before cases continue to escalate.
After an absentee voting push, many people have shifted to in-person early voting and drop boxes in the days leading up to the election. More than 417,000 voters had already successfully cast their ballots as of yesterday afternoon, accounting for more than half of 2016 turnout. Clerks in some towns began processing the record numbers of ballots yesterday.
Clerks in many towns say requests for absentee ballots by mail have largely dropped off in recent weeks as more people either use an in-person option or drop off their ballots if their municipality has that option. Peace of mind seems to be the main driver as the U.S. Postal Service has encouraged voters not to mail their ballots within a week of the election.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Judiciary, health care frame final debate between Susan Collins and Sara Gideon,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and House Speaker Sara Gideon took opposing views of the effect of a conservative Supreme Court while dividing on issues including health care in their only one-on-one debate before Election Day in their massive race.”
The race remains tight in the final days before the election, but a new poll shows how ranked-choice voting could favor Democrats. The poll from SurveyUSA for the electoral reform group FairVote showed Gideon with a one-percentage point lead over Collins, a margin that has cropped up in other surveys. But the poll found 55 percent of independent Lisa Savage voters would list Gideon as their second choice — enough to ultimately give Gideon a two-percentage point lead over Collins with supporters of longshot Max Linn behaving less predictably.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had a narrow three-point lead over President Donald Trump in the competitive 2nd Congressional District, the poll found, with third-party candidates receiving a combined four percent of the vote. When those voters’ second- and third-choice preferences were redistributed, it was enough to put Biden over 50 percent.
— “Maine environmental groups sue Army Corps over CMP corridor assessment,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “Three environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming that the Army Corps of Engineers did not fully assess the effects of a controversial $1 billion hydropower corridor and that it coordinated closely with the proposed project’s sponsor, Central Maine Power.”
— “Potato farmers expecting lower revenue for smaller crop amid drought and pandemic,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “The rain that poured across Aroostook County in late September after one of the driest summers on record was too late to save the region’s potato farmers from a smaller harvest — down approximately 20 percent from last year.”
President’s son moves Thursday rally to Orrington church
Trump’s eldest son will greet supporters at a church known for fighting virus restrictions early in the pandemic. The Donald Trump Jr. event scheduled for Hermon on Thursday evening has been moved to Calvary Chapel in Orrington at 5:30 p.m. The evangelical church led by Pastor Ken Graves became one of the early faces of resistance to coronavirus gathering limits before suing Gov. Janet Mills and the state over them in May. The state won that lawsuit initially, though the church has appealed to a higher federal court.
It comes just after the president made a Sunday visit to a Levant orchard amid the close race with Biden for the one Electoral College vote from the 2nd District. It is the second visit to Maine for Trump’s son after a rally in Holden last month.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.
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