Members of the Milford community debate the pros and cons of a universal mask mandate during a Milford School Committee meeting inside the Dr. Lewis Libby School on Aug. 12, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / The Penobscot Times

Good morning from Augusta. There are five days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You can absolutely have horned goats, you just have to understand horned goats,” said Crystal Lewis of Blue Tin Farm in Edgecomb, about how to manage horned goats that sometimes attack people or their fellow barnyard companions. “It’s a solution for some but not for all.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The pandemic and how to teach children about race are emerging as driving issues in some communities ahead of Election Day. There are not many examples going into Election Day in Maine, but the national conversation around the pandemic and critical race theory — an understanding of how systemic racism has shaped policy — is making an appearance in some communities. It is a sign of a national trend spurring some people to become involved in their local communities, even as many local offices see dearth of interest.

In Hampden, school board candidates are fielding questions about critical race theory. Two conservative activists — former Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Bradley, and Shawn McBreairty of Maine chapter of the national No Left Turn in Education — questioned board members about whether the practice was being taught in the middle school, based on test scores and a reading list that promoted authors of color and LGBTQ authors.

In Ellsworth, the question of whether the school should continue to have mask requirements is a driving issue in a three-way race for an open seat. The community is also facing legal action from a woman who claims the school board is lying about approving the teaching of critical race theory in the district. A Minot woman likened requiring children to wear a mask to human trafficking during a recent school board meeting.

The election next week happens as people nationally have been more aggressive about disrupting local board proceedings, something that has become enough of an issue that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered the FBI to investigate it. It has caused the Rockland school board to cancel an in-person meeting due to a social media post calling for people to crash the meeting to promote “medical freedom.” 

It is all part of a national effort by conservatives to energize people to get involved in their local elections.  But the issue is likely to not go away after the election — COVID-19 cases are still high in the state, and school boards will likely be wrestling with outbreaks for the next few months as children aged 5 to 11 become eligible to get vaccinated.

CorrectionShawn McBreairty lives in Hampden. An earlier version of this item was incorrect.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Cops, prosecutor and selectman among 13 charged in massive Maine pot operation,” Judy Harrison, Bangor Daily News: “The documents detail a far-reaching scheme in which the head of the conspiracy, 41-year-old Lucas Sirois of Farmington, allegedly gave cops ownership interests in his company and brand new ‘company’ cars in exchange for confidential information that he used to benefit his business. He also learned about the federal investigation into his illegal business dealings through the officers’ networks, according to the documents.”

— “Odd political alliances define late fight over Maine’s low-key ‘right to food’ referendum,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The low-key right-to-food referendum has become a Rorschach test for disparate groups interested in food policy in the waning days of the election. It reflects diverging attempts to weigh potential harms of future attempts to restrict local food production and consumption with the possibility of unintended legal challenges to current laws that few disagree with.”

— “More than 70 test positive in COVID outbreak at Aroostook County Jail,” Alexander MacDougall, BDN: “There are a total of 72 cases associated with the jail, with 12 cases among staff members and 60 cases among resident inmates, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said during a Wednesday press briefing. The jail has 101 inmates and 29 staff total at the facility, not including medical personnel.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper and edited by 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.