Good morning from Augusta. There are 16 days until the new Maine Legislature convenes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Folks are saying, ‘Well look, I’m not going to any concerts. I’m not going to any sporting events. I’m not going to any large gatherings, I should be fine,’ but now, of course, we’re seeing that that’s not the case,” Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said of the spread of coronavirus in Maine, which has been driven by small gatherings in people’s homes over the past few weeks.
What we’re watching today
A rumor that one of Maine’s senators is being considered for a Cabinet position set off a wave of hypotheticals about who could rise in Maine politics. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is being considered for a top intelligence position under the new administration of President-elect Joe Biden, Politico reported on Friday. It’s unclear how serious the speculation about King is.
Operatives we spoke to that day were surprised — and tantalized — by the news. If he were selected, Gov. Janet Mills would appoint someone to fill his spot. If they wanted to keep the seat, they would have to compete for the rest of King’s term in a 2022 special election and run again in 2024, when the term expires.
On the Democratic side, there would be big dominoes to fall. Some speculated U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District would be a good candidate, even though he told the Bangor Daily News in a recent interview that he is not thinking about any run for Senate in 2024. His swing support in a district won by Trump this year would make him a solid statewide prospect.
But Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and her daughter, Hannah Pingree, who heads Mills’ policy office, will hang over this conversation as they have with many others about higher positions over the past five years. They would come with financial and political support centered in southern Maine. Wild cards include outgoing House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who is dinged up after her loss to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins but could have millions of dollars left in her campaign account after raising record sums in her race.
Hypotheticals about Golden, Pingree and Gideon reflect that neither Democrats nor Republicans in Maine seem to have a particularly deep slate of legislative candidates to draw from. On the Republican side, former Gov. Paul LePage looks primed to run for his old spot in 2022 while former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin seems to be itching to run for something again.
All scenarios seem improbable for now, however, as King’s age and relatively limited intelligence experience make other candidates more likely. Other names floated for the position include several intelligence officials who served under Biden and former President Barack Obama. King is 76 years old with an intelligence profile only limited to his Senate service. He has not said how interested he would be in such a position.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine’s polarized political shift may survive the Trump era,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The political divide at the presidential level has grown as a smattering of small towns in northern and eastern Maine — including some that were Democratic strongholds just a decade ago — have trended conservative while coastal areas have become more liberal. Inland towns in central and southern Maine generally remain a battleground.”
— “A Black doctor will be 1st Democrat in 30 years to serve a conservative piece of Maine,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “[Rep-elect. Richard Evans] made two uphill bids for the seat, losing to Rep. Norman Higgins of Dover-Foxcroft, who unenrolled from the Republican Party three years ago, by 7 points in 2016 and 9 points in 2018. The 2020 campaign was complicated by a third hopeful — Republican Chad Perkins of Dover-Foxcroft. The state’s political parties did not mount major efforts for the seat in 2020.”
Evans’ lucky victory came as House Democrats’ majority receded significantly in 2020. The Dover-Foxcroft race was a rare bright spot for House Democrats in this year’s election, since they lost 11 seats to Republicans after making big gains two years ago. It reduces their House majority to 80 seats and puts Republicans within striking distance of taking back the chamber for the first time since 2010 in the next election. Much like Republican gains in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, these big gains were largely unforeseen.
— “BIW and union are getting back on same page after strike,” David Sharp, The Associated Press: “Bath Iron Works President Dirk Lesko said Friday that he expects the federally mediated discussions to yield positive results by year’s end, as the shipyard and union embark on a three-year plan to get caught up.”
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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