In this March 3, 2020, file photo, election clerks check in voters for the primary election in Lewiston. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. We are holding a listening session for politics readers on Thursday. Register here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Some of it is absolutely gorgeous and some of it looks like it was painted by your uncle,” said Tilly Laskey, co-curator of an exhibition dedicated to paintings created by Camp Houlton prisoners of war during World War II. The exhibit can be seen in Houlton and Portland.

What we’re watching today

Interest is rising in the race to lead Maine’s second-largest city. Current Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer caused a stir in the city’s local politics scene when he announced he would not seek reelection this fall, citing the stress the role put on his family and business. A former police officer, city councilor and school board member, Cayer’s first term was stamped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the city hard. 

It makes the race unpredictable in a city that has been known for tumultuous campaigns. Last cycle’s standoff between Cayer, Tim Lajoie and Charles Soule was civil compared with the drama of races prior. Shane Bouchard resigned in 2019 after racist texts were made public after a second straight loud campaign in the nominally Democratic city that nonetheless elected two conservatives in 2015 and 2017 in fraught races against Ben Chin of the progressive Maine People’s Alliance, who raised nearly $100,000 for his 2015 run.

Four candidates have expressed interest in running so far. Only Ward 5 City Councilor Luke Jensen, a 30-year-old school teacher who works in Auburn and has served on the city’s school committee, said he is “definitely” going to file his papers to run by Sept. 1, the cutoff for when interested candidates need to collect 100 signatures. Jensen, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2015, said he only filed because Cayer said he was not considering a second term and would not have primaried him otherwise.

Other candidates include Ward 6 City Councilor Lee Clement, who said Monday night he is still gauging interest and has filed to run again for his current post. Carl Sheline, who owns a downtown coworking space, is also toying with a run. School Committee member Ron Potvin, who helped run the successful campaign to beat back a Lewiston-Auburn merger in 2017 and also ran for mayor that year, has also pulled nomination papers for mayor and an at-large school committee position.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine hotels and restaurants recover to pre-pandemic sales, but shortages blunt profits,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “Monthly taxable sales for both industries were higher in April and May of this year compared with the same two months in 2019, before the pandemic, according to Maine Revenue Services. Restaurant sales taxes were up 2 percent to $258.3 million in May compared with that month in 2019. Lodging sales taxes were up 20 percent to $108.8 million over the two years.”

— “Professors call on UMaine System to institute vaccine requirement sooner,” Lia Russell, BDN: “One faculty member said the university system’s planned return to normal in the fall didn’t take into account the rapid spread of the delta variant, which has become the dominant strain worldwide. In addition, vaccination rates among college-age Maine residents have been lower than for the state’s population as a whole, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data show.”

— “Environmental group wants stronger water protections for Norridgewock landfill expansion,” Charlie Eichacker, Maine Public: “The facility is expected to fill up in about three years, so its parent company, Waste Management, has proposed an expansion that would allow an estimated 7.5 million additional tons of waste to be buried there over the next decade and a half.”

Maine’s delegation targeted on prescriptions, DC statehood

A group of drugmakers is criticizing both of Maine’s U.S. representatives over a move to ensure prescription information is distributed on paper. Congress has repeatedly used rider in yearly spending bills to block a proposed rule from the Food and Drug Administration that would allow pharmacists to distribute prescription information online, rather than giving patients a print copy when they pick up a prescription. Pharmaceutical companies were trying to block the rider’s inclusion in a 2022 appropriations bill, but appear to have come up short.

A group of drugmakers under the name Alliance to Modernize Prescribing Information is blaming U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Jared Golden of the 2nd District, both Democrats, over the rider’s inclusion with ads set to run on TV and digitally in Maine, Politico first reported. Both representatives defended their stance, with Pingree telling Politico it was “dangerously out of touch” to expect providers to access a database in rural areas that lack broadband access, while Golden said he does not “give a damn what Big Pharma says.”

Maine veterans with the group Defend American Democracy are asking Maine’s independent senator to support statehood for Washington D.C. The call, which comes in the form of a press conference later today and a six-figure TV ad campaign targeting U.S. Sen. Angus King, comes on the week commemorating Maine’s vote to separate itself from Massachusetts on July 26, 1819. King is one of four members of the Senate Democratic caucus who has not supported D.C. statehood, though it is mostly a symbolic gesture as the effort lacks support from Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. 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 candrews@bangordailynews.com, jpiper@bangordailynews.com or mshepherd@bangordailynews.com.