Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ve missed out on a lot of things,” said Jordan Merchant, a University of Maine Orono senior who was among the first Mainers under 50 to take advantage of open eligibility yesterday. “I’m a cheerleader, and our season wasn’t normal. I won’t be having a normal graduation.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The governor’s race has not yet begun, but we are getting an idea of the early battles leading up to 2022. Maine is on a somewhat anticlimactic path to next year’s gubernatorial election. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills recently sent her first fundraising emails since 2019 as former Gov. Paul LePage — who teased a return bid before he left office — has first refusal on the Republican nomination to oppose Mills but has not yet formally entered the race despite saying in June he was “99.9 percent” certain to do it.
Such a race would be difficult for him. During his eight-year tenure, LePage topped out at a 47 percent approval rating in 2011, while Mills has been consistently above that mark during her tenure. She has fallen from 67 percent approval last spring on her coronavirus response to 52 percent by February in consistent polling from Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern universities. All other governors saw slightly larger dips on average.
National Republicans are locking onto the race. Recent emails from the Republican Governors Association hit Mills for her since-reversed plan to tax proceeds of Paycheck Protection Program loans, the Democratic majority budget signed last month and a state rent relief program that had only spent $2 million of $350 million in federal funds as of last week. (The state has a generous program, but it is a massive amount of money with strings attached.)
With no candidate yet on the Republican side, Democrats have not been responding formally, but Mills looks bullish on her pandemic response. In a fundraising email last month, she said the state has “saved lives, kept people healthy and safe, and kept our economy afloat.” Her side is likely to make hay of LePage-era cuts at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which entered the pandemic with 56 more employees than when Mills took office.
That is already happening to a degree. Republicans noticed when Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah told The Hill last month that he spent the beginning of his tenure “beefing up programs that had been left for nothing by the previous administration.” There may be no campaign yet, but the differences between LePage and Mills are stark and the contours are emerging.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Mainers woke up at midnight and lied about ages in race for COVID-19 vaccines,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “[Shah] said Tuesday that the state was monitoring where sustained demand for vaccines were after Northern Light Health still had appointments a week out after eligibility opened up. But he said he did not see many signs of hesitancy in the state so far.”
Maine’s vaccine allocation is likely to drop next week due to fewer Johnson & Johnson doses. Supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is expected to remain roughly the same, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the state is receiving only 2,500 Johnson & Johnson doses next week compared to 20,600 this week. That total will still be supplemented by additional vaccines to retail pharmacies and Federally Qualified Health Centers, but it likely means fewer Mainers will be able to get vaccinated in the state’s second week of universal eligibility.
— “Maine counties chafe at lower-than-expected payments from wind farms,” Bill Trotter, BDN: “But several counties and towns are finding out they are getting less revenue out of the wind projects than they had expected when they were wooed in the 2000s and 2010s by developers looking to erect turbines several hundred feet tall along local remote, elevated ridgelines. In some cases, the developers are arguing that recent advancements in wind turbine technology have made newer models so efficient that older, less efficient turbines erected nearly a decade or more ago have lost much of their taxable value.”
— “Maine man charged in Capitol riot denied bail,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey agreed with federal prosecutors’ arguments that Fitzsimons would be a danger to the community and a flight risk if released on bail. The judge rejected Fitzsimons’ contention that a crowd pushed him from behind into the police line.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews 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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