Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It brought a liveliness to our downtown, COVID or not,” said Belfast City Councilor Mary Mortier on the expansion of outdoor dining amid the pandemic last summer. “It brought interactions to our downtown that people are looking for. Other countries have been having streetside dining or cafes for millennia. We’re just catching up.”
What we’re watching today
Maine’s record-breaking U.S. Senate race may be long over, but the effects of its massive spending are still visible. After setting many fundraising records last year, former Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, the Democrat who lost her nationally targeted challenge to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, still has more than $11 million in her campaign account, according to filings reported to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.
Gideon could be holding onto that money for a future run — for Senate again, or for the 1st Congressional District seat if Rep. Chellie Pingree goes elsewhere, though $11 million is already more than any Maine congressional candidate has ever raised — or she could donate it to other candidates or causes. For now, she appears to be keeping her options open with Maine likely to have a Senate seat open in the 2024 election as independent Sen. Angus King said 2018 was likely his last campaign.
It is a reminder of just how much cash — more than $200 million in total — flowed into the state to fund constant advertising on most Mainers’ televisions during the highly nationalized election last fall, though the bulk of money here was actually from outside groups, not via Gideon or Collins.
A report released Friday by American Promise, a nonpartisan advocacy group focused on money in politics, found that the two largest outside groups in the race — the Democratic-affiliated Senate Majority PAC and Republican Senate Leadership Fund — collectively spent 98 percent of their funds here on attack ads. By comparison, half of Gideon’s campaign ads were negative and 36 percent of Collins’ ads were.
It is a level of spending that few Mainers — short of those at TV networks — would like to see again, though experts say it could be a sign of things to come in an increasingly nationalized environment. Next year’s potential race between Gov. Janet Mills and her predecessor, Paul LePage, also figures to be a target of national importance.
In other campaign finance news, Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat and a perpetual target for Republicans in the purple 2nd District, pulled in more than $500,000 during the first quarter of 2021, a strong showing for this early in the campaign cycle. Collins, who is not up for reelection until 2026, raised just over $300,000 during that period.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Houlton man charged with hate crimes in burning of Black church in Massachusetts,” Alexander MacDougall, Bangor Daily News: “Dushko Vulchev, 44, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who had been living in the Houlton area for several years, when he traveled to western Massachusetts sometime in the late 2020, according to court documents. In the days preceding the arson at the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Vulchev also allegedly slashed the tires of several vehicles in the general vicinity, most of which had Black owners.”
— “Maine regulator who fought for utility customers is stepping down as public advocate,” Christopher Burns, BDN: “During his time as public advocate, [Barry] Hobbins has been a vocal critic of Central Maine Power after a series of scandals involving the utility’s billing practices, disconnection notices and customer service. He also threw his support behind Maine’s pioneering a la carte cable law, which a federal court struck down earlier this year.
Hobbins’ retirement will end a long career in public service that took a strange turn. The 70-year-old Hobbins served a total of 13 terms in the Legislature beginning when he was sworn in at age 21 in 1972. In a fresh suit, he looked so young that the infamous House dean at the time, Rep. Louis Jalbert, D-Lewiston, mistook Hobbins for a page and asked him to deliver documents, he told an interviewer in 2003. The Democrat became public advocate in 2017 after a surprise appointment from LePage, replacing Tim Schneider, whose appointment LePage called “the worst decision of my life” after Schneider’s office put together a compromise solar bill that the Republican governor detested. Hobbins got the nod despite voting for it.
— “No-appointment COVID-19 vaccines could soon be offered in Maine,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Appointments have been the only guaranteed way to get a shot in Maine so far, as supply has remained constrained despite increasing availability in recent weeks. State officials allowed providers to give doses to people outside the eligibility parameters when doses were limited to certain age ranges, but those were in rare cases where appointments were canceled or doses were left over.”
Neighboring New Hampshire will lift its mask mandate today. The reversal will make the Granite State the only New England state to not have the policy after it was the last to adopt it. New Hampshire is one of the few states where Mainers are allowed to travel to and from without needing to quarantine. Here’s your soundtrack.
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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