Portland City Council at-large candidates Roberto Rodriguez (left) and Brandon Mazer prepare to put their names in a random drawing to determine a winner on Thursday morning Nov. 4, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. The U.S. House is expected to approve a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $1.85 trillion Democratic spending bill today. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District is one of a few likely Democratic holdouts on the latter.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I remember driving all the way to Bangor to buy my first ever copy of Out Magazine at what was then a Borders bookstore — and then they didn’t even sell it! I had to wait until I could travel to Portland to get one,” said Geo Neptune, a non-binary and two-spirit Passamaquoddy artist named one of the most influential LGBTQ people in the country in Out magazine. “If, back then, someone had told me that my Downeast Queer self would one day be featured in one of the magazines that helped me realize I wasn’t alone in this world — well, I just wouldn’t have believed you.”

What we’re watching today

Portland’s tied at-large council race was the latest example of a rare outcome in Maine under the relatively new voting method. After City Clerk Katherine Jones pulled his name from a wooden bowl she brought from home, planning board chair Brandon Mazer was declared the winner of a tied ranked-choice voting election over former school board chair Roberto Rodriguez on Thursday outside of City Hall. 

The runner-up requested a recount next week that is likely to find a winner and make both the tie and the drawing little more than fun pieces of political drama, but it underscores a wild few years with ranked-choice voting in Maine. It is the first of more than 400 ranked-choice races in the U.S. that ended in a tie that Rob Richie, the CEO of FairVote, a group that advocates for the voting method, has ever heard of. (He is the guy who would have heard of it.)

Ranked-choice voting has been in use in Portland since the city went to a popularly elected mayor in 2011. Maine became the first state to adopt the method in a 2016 referendum and began using it in 2018 for state and federal primaries and general elections for Congress. Portland expanded it to council races in 2020. Westbrook adopted it for city races on Tuesday.

Perhaps the nation’s most famous ranked-choice race was in 2018, when then-Rep. Bruce Poliquin held a narrow lead over Golden in the first round of voting. But the Democrat overwhelmingly won the second-choice votes from two independent hopefuls and ousted the Republican incumbent. That result prompted an unsuccessful legal challenge from Poliquin and that outcome was rare enough — first-round leads are usually safe in ranked-choice races.

If Mazer wins the Portland seat, he will have both flipped a first-round lead and been through an even rarer initial electoral tie. The more Maine uses ranked-choice voting, the more we should be used to these rare results. But they are happening early in our time with it. 

The Maine politics top 3

— “Religious exemption in Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate will challenge Maine hospitals,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “The new OSHA rules allow for a testing exemption for unvaccinated workers. The CMS rules do not, in line with Mills’ mandate. But the CMS rules allow for a religious exemption that Maine does not, muddying how health care companies will allow qualifying employees to decline vaccines. The new rules could spur legal challenges to both them and Maine’s vaccine exemption law, legal sources said on Thursday.”

— “Corridor opponent asks Maine to halt construction after CMP’s referendum loss,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “The move opens up another front in a complicated legal battle over the corridor. CMP and its affiliates have been at work on the project since a Tuesday election in which 59 percent of Maine voters passed a ballot measure aiming to kill the 145-mile transmission line that would bring Quebec hydropower to the regional grid to fulfill a Massachusetts clean-power request.”

Corridor opponents are putting on a public-relations blitz to urge CMP to stop construction. It will not happen unless a court or regulator orders it in one or more of the myriad proceedings over the project, but CMP’s rivals are trying to leverage anger with the continued construction after the resounding vote on Question 1 with a noontime virtual news conference featuring opposition leaders Sandra Howard and Tom Saviello, as well as Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, and Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth.

— “Critical race theory and mask mandates were losing issues in Maine school board races,” Lia Russell, BDN: “In Hampden, Ellsworth and Windham, candidates who either ran on similar platforms or received support from activists who loudly opposed mask mandates or teaching critical race theory all lost their races, according to unofficial results. The head of the state’s largest teachers’ union said such candidates were part of a ‘loud minority.’”

Voting advocates said Portland should have publicly announced the race’s outcome sooner. The city ran a ranked-choice tabulation late on Tuesday but did not release those results until after it had run its algorithm and notified candidates Wednesday afternoon. The League of Women Voters said the count should have been conducted in public so people could observe the city’s process and feel confident in the results. Official runner-up Roberto Rodriguez has requested a manual recount, so the drawing does not really end the race.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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 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...