In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo, a mask-wearing looks at her phone while walking in Portland. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 19 days until the new Maine Legislature convenes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t want to put it on the frontline workers who are often young people working at minimum wage jobs. They’re not the COVID cops, and I don’t want to put that on them,” Gov. Janet Mills said of having store employees enforce her executive order requiring mask usage at all times in public. “But they can call the police, and they can call the local code enforcement or health officer.”

What we’re watching today

Coronavirus cases are surging in Maine while economic indicators are concerning, but there is little indication that Congress will pass a relief bill during the lame duck session. Lawmakers have stalled on an agreement for months, and it is not clear that a stimulus package would be a priority to President Donald Trump during the final months of his presidency.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters in Washington on Thursday that she hoped Senate Democrats would join with Republicans to pass a pared-down relief bill that would then go to conference with the more than $2 trillion package passed by the House earlier this fall. But it is not clear that other senators share that view, or that either party’s leadership has the appetite for serious negotiations right now.

The stalemate comes as coronavirus cases have risen in Maine and every other state. Maine marked a new record with 247 coronavirus cases on Thursday. The state also saw three more deaths from the virus.

Without additional federal aid, the financial consequences for families and businesses could be severe. More than 2,700 Mainers applied for rental relief during the first week of a revived state program. Jobless claims rose last week, driven by a decline in seasonal work that is typical for this time of year, but comes as tens of thousands of Mainers have been unemployed since the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus-related unemployment programs expire in late December, setting up the potential for a several-week period in January before inauguration where benefits would lapse and an agreement would be unlikely. The Bangor Daily News is looking to talk with people who have received federal unemployment benefits this year to tell the story of how these programs have affected Mainers. To reach us, fill out a form here.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Jared Golden won. His DC roommate lost. He says Democrats must show independence,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “In a Monday interview with Bangor Daily News, Golden said poor messaging and believing in polling that ended up missing the mark hampered Democrats. He said politicians who cannot prove to be independent of their party run the risk of being tied to hot-button national issues.”

Golden was able to keep his seat as other Democrats like him lost, including his roommate. The Maine representative’s Washington housemate, Rep. Max Rose of New York, was one of the swing-seat Democrats to lose their seats in last week’s election. The party retained its majority but lost at least six seats on net to Republicans, prompting the internal conflict between more moderate members like Golden and progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York.

— “Long-awaited Maine climate plan leans on existing initiatives, ducks some funding questions,” Andrews, BDN: “The Maine Climate Council was tasked over a year ago by [Mills] and the Legislature with drafting a roadmap to meeting goals of getting 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources and reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The plan members discussed during a Thursday meeting will be sent to her on Dec. 1.”

— “Susan Collins says Joe Biden should get intelligence briefings,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Collins, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is one of only a handful of Republican senators to congratulate Biden on his victory, saying in a statement Monday that the president-elect and vice president-elect ‘should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern” ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration.’”

That makes both of Maine’s senators who are concerned about delays with the presidential transition. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told CNN on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s refusal to share intelligence with the Democratic president-elect was a threat to national security. Trump has continued to deny the outcome of the election.

The year-end Maine political job carousel

Progressive groups want the state’s Democratic congresswoman to be the next agriculture secretary. The name of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District has been put forward for the Cabinet position since the presidential primary. This week, two influential progressive groups urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate her to the position. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp could also be contenders for the job, according to The New York Times.

She would be Maine’s first Cabinet secretary since William Cohen left the Senate to be defense secretary for Bill Clinton. Any opening in her safe Democratic seat would likely attract a crowded party primary. Under state law, Mills would have to call a special primary and special general election “as soon as reasonably possible.”

Six Democrats want Maine’s open secretary of state position. Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, unveiled her bid on Thursday, joining a large and varied field vying to replace Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who is term-limited. Outgoing Sen. Justin Chenette of Saco, House Majority Leader Matt Moonen of Portland and Reps. Craig Hickman of Winthrop and Erik Jorgensen of Portland and former Rep. Tom Bull of Freeport are also running.

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 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...