Good morning from Augusta. State offices and the Legislature are closed today due to inclement weather. Stay safe out there. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “A county government official has this huge incentive to, say, make a public proclamation about how much they hate masks, even if they are not going to be able to affect that type of policy,” Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, said of the role of county governments in this political era.
What we’re watching today
Grassroots pressure is leading the Maine Republican Party toward a censure of the senior senator for her impeachment trial vote. The state party has been relatively locked down since U.S. Sen. Susan Collins voted to convict former President Donald Trump on a Democratic impeachment charge on Saturday. As the Bangor Daily News first reported on Monday, county party officials are discussing a censure of the Maine senator that could come in a special meeting of the state committee by month’s end.
Top Maine Republican Party officials met with county chairs on Monday to discuss next steps. People in the meeting said afterward that they were not at liberty to discuss the meeting. The party bylaws lay out the process to call a special meeting, which needs 17 signatures from committee members from six counties. One county chair said the signatures are in hand, though it is unclear whether censure language has been drafted.
Reporters were copied on emails to the party by conservatives upset with Collins’ vote over the weekend. County Republican chairs said they have been deluged with reactions since Saturday. Conservative radio shows in Maine were jammed on Monday and Tuesday. The Maine senator went on radio host Ray Richardson’s show to explain her decision for nearly a half-hour on Tuesday, restating point by point her stance that the president incited the Capitol riot.
Demi Kouzounas, the state party chair, has not issued a statement since the vote, but she told members in a Saturday email to be ready for a special meeting, noting many “many of you are upset … as are we” over the vote. The state party looks to be responding to the reaction rather than driving itself toward a censure, but the effect may be the same.
“Rest assured, we hear you, we understand how you feel, and we will be having an open and robust discussion about it as a committee,” she wrote.
State committees have historically been full of establishment figures with ties to leading officeholders. Many of the people now on the Republican committee are conservatives who became politically active after 2010 and are most loyal to former Gov. Paul LePage or Trump. A symbolic censure is no mortal threat to the just-reelected Collins, but it is the most outward anger that she has faced to date and it is a sign of how the party has shifted in the past decade.
The Maine politics top 3
— “A Maine sheriff didn’t punish a top officer investigated for targeting employees,” Erin Rhoda, Bangor Daily News: “Kennebec County investigated its second highest-ranking law enforcement officer, hearing from employees who reported he targeted people based on their sex and sexual orientation. But the sheriff has not formally disciplined the No. 2 officer, leaving current and former staff bewildered and dispirited, according to records and interviews.”
— “Tiny Maine community divided as construction on CMP corridor begins,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “As the project starts, emotions about the 145-mile power line formally called the New England Clean Energy Connect, which will take Quebec hydropower to the regional grid, remain high in The Forks and neighboring West Forks. The towns lie at the epicenter of the most disputed section of the project, where a final 53-mile segment of the project will cut through areas with no existing power lines.”
— “Who is lobbying Janet Mills for early COVID-19 vaccine access,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “More than 65 people or groups representing hospitality, transportation, food sanitization, chemicals manufacturers and organ donor services reached out to the Mills’ administration from early December to mid January, according to the documents. Tim Feeley, a Mills attorney, said the documents provided are just a small portion of the 700 emails and letters the governor received from constituents about vaccination efforts in the time frame.”
Kennebec County commissioners to vote on statue of Supreme Court justice
Three commissioners could vote to remove the statue of a Maine-born U.S. Supreme Court justice remembered for upholding segregation. Kennebec County commissioners are meeting via Zoom at 12 p.m. today to consider what to do about the statue of Melville Fuller, an Augusta-born judge who served as chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1888 to 1910, which sits outside the Kennebec County Courthouse in Augusta.
Fuller presided over the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 and signed on to a majority decision saying that separate but equal facilities were constitutional. Andrew Mead, acting chief justice of Maine’s high court, suggested last August that commissioners reconsider the statue, which had been installed in 2013.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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