In this May 16, 2020, file photo, former Gov. Paul LePage, sitting in a Lexus SC 430, talks to supporters at a rally against coronavirus orders by Gov. Janet Mills in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Young people used to get away with a lot more than they do now. When they were fooling around and blowing up mailboxes, people did take it as a prank,” Jimmie Oxley, a chemistry professor and explosives expert at the University of Rhode Island, said after the Bangor police twice called a bomb squad over abandoned items in a Walmart parking lot that turned out not to be dangerous. “Now, our mindset has changed. This is domestic terrorism.”

What we’re watching today

A move by the Maine Republican Party shows there was never really a viable alternative to the former governor’s return bid. Former Gov. Paul LePage will effectively begin campaigning for his old job — assuming he runs against Gov. Janet Mills in 2022 — as the Republican nominee after the Maine Republican Party waived a rule to allow the National Republican Committee to begin coordinating with the governor as soon as he launches a bid.

The step comes after LePage teased a run against the Democratic governor even before he ceded office to her while term-limited in 2018. While he has long said he is “99.9 percent” certain to run, he has teased potential campaigns in the past. Even as he has dropped public and private hints at a 2022 run, some in the grassroots have wondered if he would do it. Brent Littlefield, LePage’s strategist, said he had “no announcement to make” on Monday.

But LePage’s hold on the conservative base and the state party — which has long sold memorabilia bearing the former governor’s face saying “Miss Me Yet?” — has virtually left him alone in even considering a run. Kevin Hancock, the president of Hancock Lumber, told the Bangor Daily News in February that he was approached about running but declined, citing a desire to “work on ideas that benefit everyone” while saying that is difficult in politics.

It means the two parties will likely slug it out in a nationally targeted race featuring two older candidates. At 72, LePage is nine months younger than the 73-year-old Mills, who served as the Republican’s foil as attorney general during their overlapping terms. But the former governor still has to declare. If he surprises us by not doing so, things are going to change quickly.

The Maine politics top 3

— “A trooper hit his wife. The Maine State Police sent him to rehab.Matt Byrne, Portland Press Herald: “[Amy Burns’] account provides a rare look into the state police’s handling of a report of domestic violence among its ranks and illuminates how even severe misconduct can be kept out of public records and, therefore, the public eye. The Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald exposed Cooley’s case as part of a joint investigation into the Maine State Police’s secretive handling of officer misconduct.”

— “Janet Mills may shift state borrowing plan amid influx of federal money,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “While the Democratic governor is examining the $1.9 trillion stimulus package Congress passed in March and to see if it can “replace” some of the bond spending, [Department of Administrative Services spokesperson Kelsey] Goldsmith said, states are still waiting for guidance on how that money can be spent. Questions about how much money would go to Maine in President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package remain.”

Maine’s junior senator said a meeting with Biden about the potential infrastructure bill was “productive.” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was one of a bipartisan group of 10 members of Congress to meet with the Democratic president on Monday. On Instagram, he said Biden asked him to manage the discussion and he reported bipartisan agreement on the need for a package but disagreement about what should be included. Republicans are balking at a corporate tax hike proposed by the Democratic president and the size of his proposal.

The Legislature’s budget committee will begin hearings on myriad bonding proposals today. A lengthy list of projects lawmakers want money for will be heard over the next week. You can tune into the first round today starting at 10 a.m. in the budget committee. Listen here.

— “New Maine consumer-owned utility plan would ask voters to pick its managers,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “Spokespeople for the two utilities said the government still would be involved in at least initiating their replacement. It would cost $13 billion to acquire CMP’s infrastructure “with no guarantee of improved reliability or service,” said utility spokesperson Catharine Hartnett. Versant spokesperson Judy Long said a takeover would threaten the state’s ability “to keep pace with an evolving energy landscape.”

Maine surpasses 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given

As of the end of the day Monday, Maine has administered 1,002,350 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with more than 623,000 adults having received at least one dose. Maine has been among the national leaders in terms of vaccinations so far, leading all states in terms of the share of its population that has received a final dose, according to The New York Times.

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...