QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You can only drive through McDonald’s, nothing open, no restaurants, nothing but gas stations for bathroom breaks,” said Colleen Crimin of her and her husband’s drive to Washington from Iowa, where they were supposed to work as medical professionals before the coronavirus pandemic. They now work at Houlton Regional Hospital.
What we are watching today
Maine and federal elections may be over, but internal politics are afoot for high-profile positions in Augusta. The insular politics that will decide the race for secretary of state and key leadership positions in the Maine Legislature are well under way after Democrats maintained control of both chambers in Tuesday’s election, though they lost 11 House seats.
The race for secretary of state — to replace the term-limited Matt Dunlap — is a Democratic battle royale for a seat elected by the full Legislature in December. Democrats will have to nominate a candidate from a large slate. Outgoing Sen. Justin Chenette sent a news release announcing his candidacy Friday, while Maine Public named several candidates in October, including House Majority Leader Matt Moonen of Portland and Reps. Craig Hickman of Winthrop, Erik Jorgensen of Portland and Janice Cooper of Yarmouth, who are all outgoing.
Things are crowded in the House, though the next speaker is all but certain. No one appears to be running against Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, to replace Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. Vying for House majority leader are lawmakers well-versed in financial issues: Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, who sits on the budget committee; and Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, who co-chairs the Legislature’s health coverage committee.
Looking to serve as the party’s whip are a slate of coastal Democrats — Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, who sits on the Legislature’s health and human services committee; Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, who serves on the health and human services and the judiciary committee; and Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, who sits on the Legislature’s environmental committee. The Republican leadership race could be crowded as well.
Republicans will have to change their leadership team in the Senate. After expanding their majority by one seat in the Senate, Democrats on Thursday effectively re-elected their leadership team including Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash. Republican leadership will change after Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, was ousted by progressive Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro.
It is likely that Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, will step into that role. His current position as the assistant should be contested. Both Sens. Matt Pouliot of Augusta and Stacey Guerin of Glenburn confirmed they are considering leadership runs, but others may jump in.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Janet Mills orders Mainers to wear face coverings in public spaces,” Christopher Burns, Bangor Daily News: “That order comes amid a days-long surge in coronavirus transmission with new cases surging to levels not seen even in the earliest weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the latest move from the Mills administration to tamp down on rising case levels, following the governor’s move last week to push back the reopening of bars and tasting rooms.”
How exactly public settings are defined prompted some confusion Thursday, though the governor’s office has said to wear a mask when in doubt. The order requires face coverings in spaces such as retail stores, gyms and pharmacies, as well as outdoor spaces such as sidewalks, playgrounds and parking lots. But hiking trails do not count as public settings, Gov. Janet Mills’ office said.
— “Maine’s disease investigators could soon be overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “But with a record-breaking spike over the last week that’s pushed the state’s seven-day average of new daily infections to nearly 120 — after it went nearly four months without climbing above 40 — [Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav] Shah cautioned that investigators could have trouble keeping up if new daily cases surpass 200.”
— “Interactive map: See how every Maine town voted in the 2020 presidential race,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Maine is one of two states to award one Electoral College vote to the winner in each congressional district and gives another two to the statewide winner. The state’s two districts saw a massive 30-percentage-point gap between [former Vice President Joe] Biden and [President Donald] Trump as the cultural and political phenomenon of ‘the two Maines heightened in the 2020 election.”
Biden managed to flip back a few Trump towns in Democratic areas, but Trump improved his margins compared to 2016 in many others. The former vice president won Auburn and Sanford, two cities that had gone for Trump in 2016 after favoring former President Barack Obama two years earlier. But he won with even larger leads compared to four years in Presque Isle and Caribou.
The gap between Maine’s two congressional districts grew despite gains for Biden in both. Trump looks to have won by a little less than 8 percentage points in the 2nd District, down slightly from his 10-point margin in 2016. On the flip side, Biden won the 1st District by nearly 23 points, up from a 15-point win for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. 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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