Jared Golden, the Democratic candidate in Maine's 2nd District, stands outside the polls in Lewiston in June.

Good morning from Augusta. Maine’s congressional candidates gave the public one of the final looks at their fundraising books on Monday, with the Democratic challenger in Maine’s 2nd District riding a wave of individual donations to his first money lead of the race so far.

Things are tightening in that race between U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden, while little changed in the state’s other congressional races, where independent Sen. Angus King and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree are favored to win.

More than 88 percent of Golden’s money came from individuals, while Poliquin has gotten more than half of his money from political committees. Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston, accrued more than $3.9 million during his campaign, raising $2.7 million of that alone between July and September’s end as his challenge against Poliquin, a two-term Republican, has gained in national prominence.

He has now slightly out-raised Poliquin in the race after trailing him all along, and the two candidates have now raised more for the 2018 campaign than the record haul two years ago from Poliquin and two-time Democratic challenger Emily Cain.

More than 88 percent of Golden’s haul has come from individuals. While Cain relied heavily on individual donors during her last race against Poliquin, Golden is outpacing her with them and relying less heavily on political committees.

For example, $1.9 million alone has come in to Golden through ActBlue, an online platform that works as a conduit to shuffle money from small-dollar donors to certain candidates. He has gotten more than $111,000 from the Serve America Victory Fund, which is run by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts, a fellow Marine veteran who helped recruit Golden to run.

Poliquin has been slightly more reliant on political committees in 2018 than he was during his last race. More than 55 percent of his $3.8 million haul has come from them. Maximum donors during this last period included the accounting giant Deloitte, the National Association of Realtors and the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Nothing happened in the money race to change the hierarchy in the other races. King, who caucuses with Democrats, has raised six times more than his challengers, state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and Democrat Zak Ringelstein of Yarmouth, and had more than 20 times the money left in his campaign fund than they had combined as of September’s end.

King has gotten roughly three-quarters of his $5.3 million for 2018 from individuals, while nearly all of Brakey’s $708,000 has come from individuals. Ringelstein has raised $127,000 for his campaign, but he has also agreed to pay back $197,000 in other campaign debt.

Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, isn’t breaking much of a sweat in fundraising this year, raising $671,000 in her campaign against independent state Rep. Marty Grohman and Republican Mark Holbrook, with 37 percent of that coming from committees. Grohman has raised $328,000, though $200,000 of that was personal money. Holbrook has raised $86,000.

There are signs that the 2nd District race is tightening. The toss-up race may be getting tighter. Two of the three models used by FiveThirtyEight to project House races now favor Golden over Poliquin, though only slightly. They’re based on polling, fundraising, incumbency, district partisanship and other factors.

The New York Times and Siena College also began polling the district for the second time on Monday night. Poliquin had a lead when they last examined the race in September.

Debating how often to debate

It happens every election cycle. Challengers complain that incumbents won’t debate them. But, except in rare circumstances when incumbents become unusually vulnerable, they only have to debate often enough to show voters that they aren’t afraid of their challengers. That usually translates to no more than two or three times.

Brakey, who trailed King badly in the only public poll on this year’s U.S. Senate race, is perhaps the candidate complaining the loudest this election cycle. On Monday at an impromptu news conference in Bangor, Brakey criticized King’s decision to only debate at the tail end of the campaign. King has scheduled five debates between Oct. 22 and Nov. 1, his spokesman Jack Faherty said.

In contests for open seats — such as this year’s governor’s race — more debates means more access to voters, which is why the four Blaine House candidates are roaming the state for at least 10 debates. Four years ago, incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage agreed to debate five times.

Incumbents, by definition, have access to voters through constituent services and other perks of holding public office. For incumbents, more debates mean more opportunities for challengers to chip away at the advantage incumbency gives them. So they tend to limit those chances.

Poliquin, the incumbent Republican in Maine’s 2nd District, has only agreed to two debates this election cycle. In the race he won for an open seat in 2014, Poliquin debated Cain and independent Blaine Richardson four times. Two years later, with incumbent Poliquin facing Cain again, the pair debated three times. Poliquin is not scheduled to debate Golden or his two independent challengers after tonight.

A similar limited debate schedule occurred in 2014 for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, whom she debated three times.

In essence, Brakey is barking at King tactics that are more inclusive than those that have been and are being employed by his own party’s two members of Maine’s four-person congressional delegation.

Reading list

— An allegedly poisoned letter arrived Monday at the Bangor home of Maine’s senior senator. Police and hazardous materials teams swarmed the home of Collins and her husband, Tom Daffron, on Monday after Daffron reported receiving a suspicious letter. The letter writer claimed that it had been contaminated with ricin, a potentially lethal poison extracted from seeds of the castor oil plant. Police closed the road where Collins lives for several hours. Daffron, a family dog and parts of the house were quarantined for several hours as a crime lab inspected the premises. Collins and Daffron were able to stay in their home Monday night. The U.S. Capitol Police will continue the investigation.

— As they prepare for their second and final debate, where do the major-party candidates in Maine’s 2nd District stand on key issues? Poliquin and Golden have spent a lot of time emphasizing the negative about their opponent to voters. The BDN looked past the claims and branding to examine their r ecords on three key issues.

— The woman who engineered a major downsizing of Maine’s social services system now oversees Medicaid nationally. Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for more than six years, started Monday as director of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Mayhew, who finished third in this year’s four-person Republican gubernatorial primary, was the face of LePage’s crusade against Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which was approved by voters in 2017 but has languished unimplemented in a court fight with a pending expansion plan and a request for new Medicaid work requirements sitting before the agency where Mayhew will be a key official.

— In terms of personal wealth, the governor’s race in Maine this year is no contest. Available public records indicate that Republican Shawn Moody’s wealth far exceeds that of his three opponents. In fact. Moody and his wife paid more in property taxes last year than the combined income of Democrat Janet Mills and independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron. As governor, Moody has said he would prioritize lowering property taxes, using incentives for communities and school systems to regionalize services and reduce costs.Federal tax data show that the other candidates — Caron, age 67; Mills, age 70; and Hayes, age 60 — are all relatively well-off compared with the rest of the state, but they are all well above the median age, and none is among the IRS’ highest category of earners making $200,000 or more a year.

— The president won a round Monday in his legal battle with a porn star. A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit from adult film actress Stormy Daniels that claimed President Donald Trump defamed her when he suggested she had lied about being threatened to keep quiet about their relationship. Federal District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles also ordered Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, to pay the president’s court fees, which Trump’s attorney called “total victory.” The ruling is not related to Daniels’ primary case against Trump and his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

Scraper capers

The Farmer’s Almanac says that the first frost in the town where I live usually arrives on Oct. 3.

So we should have been ready. But we weren’t. We never are.

The first fall frost at our home invariably sets off a mad, profanity-laced search for the scrapers we need to extricate our vehicles from their hoary coats so we can get to where we have to be on time.

The defrosters never work fast enough and we can never remember where we left the scrapers after using them one last morning the previous spring, even though I swear I tucked them safely under the seat in anticipation of just such a frenzy as our neighbors witnessed Monday.

I would blame it on frost elves. But I know it really can be traced to my general sense of discombobulation and unwillingness to let go of the last vestiges of summer. 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...