Good morning from Augusta. This is the last Daily Brief until Jan. 4, 2021. We can’t say we’re sorry to see the year go. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I guess we’ll have to see how the vaccine works out,” said Travis Cote, a Celtic pub singer and bagpiper who lost most of his gigs due to the pandemic. “But whenever this ends up being over — that party — it’s going to be huge.”
What we’re watching today:
The governor will likely run for a second term, but says she has not given it much thought. After going abruptly from a good-times governor to one managing the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Janet Mills says she has not had time to consider a reelection run in 2022 or ramp up a campaign. But she told the Bangor Daily News on Monday that she is “certainly likely” to run again, setting up a potential showdown with former Gov. Paul LePage, who has teased a return bid since before he left office.
Mills filed to raise money for a 2022 run after taking office last year — yes, it was only last year — but has not reported much activity. She has raised and spent just over $2,000, money that has gone to small events and professional services.
When asked about it on Monday, the Democratic governor said she has been “so singularly focused on trying to save lives” as virus cases continue to climb in the state that she has not had time to consider a second term. But she should not be counted out.
“I can’t give you a reason not to right now,” she added.
Mills has taken criticism from Republicans over her handling of the virus but has seemingly remained popular. Those attacks have mostly focused around what opponents have characterized as an uneven approach and a desire to rein in the emergency powers granted to her by the Legislature as they adjourned in mid-March. Restrictions — including a recent curfew and a stronger mask mandate — have been criticized by business groups.
But Mills’ profile looks somewhat resilient. One survey in late August pegged her approval rating relative to the pandemic at 54 percent. Things are about to get harder, however, with the Legislature set to return in early January while facing down a historic revenue shortfall.
It’s unclear what the political environment will look like in 2022, which is set to be a midterm year for President-elect Joe Biden. A strong, fast recovery could return Mills to better times, but if the pandemic recovery stretches out, it could look a bit like 2010 — the year LePage and Republicans swept the State House.
The Maine politics top 3
— “$900B stimulus deal won’t be an instant remedy for Mainers,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The agreement follows months of gridlock and comes as the virus has surged in Maine and across the country this winter. Economic circumstances have grown more dire over the past few months with economists and industry leaders warning that recovery could stall if Congress does not provide additional aid. Nearly a third of Maine households are struggling with basic household expenses, according to Census data.”
Although the package, which passed late last night, extends unemployment programs, benefits might still lapse as the state waits for guidelines. In the meantime, 40,000 Mainers currently receiving unemployment benefits received a one-time $600 payment from the state Monday night with benefits set to expire this week. That is in addition to a separate one-time $600 check most Mainers will receive from the federal government as part of the stimulus, which will likely arrive in a few weeks.
— “Customers: Don’t let Central Maine Power disconnect homes during pandemic,” Josh Keefe, BDN: “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in March the Maine Public Utilities Commission instituted a moratorium on electric utilities disconnecting residential customers or sending disconnection notices for a lack of payment. But in September, the commission wound down the moratorium, and allowed disconnections and disconnection notices to resume on Nov. 1.”
— “Maine hasn’t joined regional effort to curb and price vehicle emissions,” The Associated Press: “In a Monday interview, Mills said that one of her main hesitations on the initiative was what she saw as a lack of specificity, saying it was still a “theory.” She cited ‘continuing concerns’ about potential effects on the price of gas, an issue she said would burden low-income Mainers.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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