U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (right) and State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, a candidate for the 2nd District Congressional seat. Credit: Micky Bedell | Robert F. Bukaty

Good morning from Augusta. We’re now just less than four weeks from Election Day with money flowing into Maine’s two biggest races in 2018 for the nationally targeted 2nd Congressional District and an open governor’s seat.

The race between U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, and Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, is one of the handful of races that could determine partisan control of the House and it may be the highest-stakes Maine race this year.

As of Monday, TV ad spending in the 2nd District reached $14.8 million, according to Kantar Media data cited by CNN. That makes it the fifth most expensive House race. The governor’s race has seen $4.7 million in outside spending so far with millions more likely on the way.

Golden is picking a fight on the airwaves with Poliquin over health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while both candidates are also trying to burnish their reputations with veterans. One liberal outside group is also running a so-called fact-checking website.

Golden and Poliquin are accusing each other of lying about their stances on pre-existing conditions. It’s more complicated than that. That issue was also one of the main sticking points in the candidates’ first debate alongside the race’s two independents on Monday.

Golden released a new ad this week saying “Mainers just can’t afford Bruce Poliquin,” citing his 2017 vote for House Republicans’ plan to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, saying it would allows insurers to “deny health coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.”

Poliquin has dismissed claims like this as lies, but it needs some unpacking. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions are one of the most popular pieces of the health care law. Two Republican attempts to repeal the health care failed, so these outcomes were never tested.

The repeal bill that Poliquin voted for was written in a way that appeared to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But the issue — from health policy experts’ perspective — was that it would have allowed insurers to raise rates in other ways to make coverage unaffordable for those people.

Maine’s two House incumbents are up with ads touting their work on veterans’ issues. Poliquin and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, released similar ads this week on veterans issues. Poliquin is on the committee overseeing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, while Golden is a Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The ads from Poliquin and Pingree feature veterans speaking to their record. Pingree’s independent opponent in the 1st District, state Rep. Marty Grohman, has a similar video that he recently made a small Facebook push to promote. Maine had the fourth-highest share of veterans out of all states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A liberal group is “fact-checking” claims made by their allies in the governor’s race. Rebuild Maine, a group backed by labor unions that has spent more than $500,000 in state races this year, is pushing people through Facebook to a site called “Claim Check.” It looks to be a news site except for the disclosure from Rebuild Maine.

One of their checks handles whether or not Republican gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody said Maine schools were “overfunded” — a remark that has already been highlighted in an ad from a group linked to the Democratic Governors Association. They rate it true, of course.

Questions, anyone?

The Bangor Daily News is trying something new this election season. We know that Daily Brief readers are among the most well-informed political observers in Maine. But that does not mean you don’t have questions about this year’s election — or know someone who does.

Now you have a chance to send us off to answer those questions. Use this handy tool to ask questions about the upcoming general election and we’ll do our best to provide the answers.

For the record, we question ourselves every day. It usually goes like this. But we will try to keep it civil.

Poll problems, anyone?

The BDN and ProPublica have teamed up again to probe election irregularities. As part of the national Electionland initiative, voters in Maine can report problems such as long lines, missing ballots or impediments to the voting process via text or social media. The news organizations will investigate complaints and report on any credible polling-place problems. Click here to find out how it works.

Reading list

— The ad campaign in the governor’s race took a twist on Tuesday. The Maine Republican Party directed about $50,000 for its first attack ad against unenrolled gubernatorial candidate Terry Hayes, an independent, calling her a liberal who supports “far left environmental policies.” The ad, which aired this week, also derides Democratic candidate Janet Mills Hayes as a “career politician,” while praising Republican Shawn Moody as a small businessman. Hayes consistently trails behind Mills and Moody in the polls, but Wednesday’s spending could signify Republicans’ hope that support for Hayes might cut into Mills’ base. Hayes on Tuesday criticized the partisan rancor, and said she has “never participated a negative ad and I never will.”

— The governor’s energy watchdogs are still assessing potential fallout from a refinery explosion in New Brunswick. Monday’s explosion at an Irving refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, holds the potential to disrupt gasoline and heating fuel shipments to Maine, as the state relies heavily on Canadian suppliers. Whether and how the explosion will affect heating and gasoline prices in New England will be determined by the incident’s location in the refinery and its repair, information that should be released in the next day or so, according to Mason Hamilton, a U.S. Energy Information Administration analyst. “If Irving is affected for a long time, the market will adjust. New England will not run out of fuel, but will bring supplies from Europe, and that can impact prices,” he said.

— Another senior member of the president’s administration is leaving. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced Tuesday she would be stepping down from her diplomatic post later this year. Haley made the announcement in the Oval Office sitting next to President Donald Trump, who referred to her as “very special to me,” and “somebody that gets it.” Haley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, offered no definitive reason for her departure, other than a desire to take a break from the position. Quelling suspicion about her next political move, Haley said she would not be seeking elected office in 2020, but would be campaigning for Trump’s re-election. Trump has not said who will replace Haley, but he plans to announce his pick within a few weeks.

— Maine parents whose son died 25 years ago today when an overtired trucker slammed into the car he was in continue their work to make highways safer. Less than a year after the crash that killed 17-year-old Jeff Izer and three other teens, Daphne and Steve Izer of Lisbon learned the driver would not be charged with a crime for the death of their son — not even a traffic ticket. They founded Parents Against Tired Truckers at their dining room table. Since then, they’ve funneled their grief and rage into PATT, lobbying both the state and federal government for changes in trucking regulation, to make the nation’s roads safer. Eight years after its founding, PATT went national under the Truck Safety Coalition. It now has a full-time staff and is based in Arlington, Virginia.

Hunter-gatherer high cuisine

A new take on a really old dining experience is coming to the Big Apple — home of no teams still active in the Major League Baseball playoffs — next week. Bloomberg reports that, beginning Monday, diners at a new Chelsea restaurant called Zaou will be able to “dip a line into a giant tank full of frisky striped bass — plus salmon, fluke, trout, and other fish” to hook their meals.

This latest take on the fresh-to-table trend raises questions. Do you have to tip the person who holds your fishing pole as well as your server? Can you choose between a pole and a harpoon to “order” your meal? If you are more lonely than hungry, can you bring the fish home as a pet?

I also wonder how we could up our fresh-to-table game in Maine, where the “pick your meal” lobster tank has been a staple for decades. Here, we tend to dig for our food. Could some enterprising Maine restaurateur open a “dig your own potatoes” poutine cabin? How about a “dig your own” clam shack along Route 1 — although that low-tide mudflat smell might inhibit appetites?

I buy almost all of my meat at a farm butchery in Topsham. On more than one occasion, I have pulled into the parking lot, looked across the street at the pasture full of cows and thought, “If you only knew.” I’ve been tempted to point out the window at an unsuspecting steak-in-waiting and tell the nice people at the butcher shop, “I’ll take that one.”

I wonder if Until We Meat Again has ever been used as a restaurant name in Maine. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at aacquisto@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@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...