Democrat Janet Mills and Republican Shawn Moody onstage at a forum in Portland, Oct. 3, 2018.

Good morning from Augusta. Maine’s gubernatorial candidates will share a debate stage for the final time on Thursday evening in a race marked so far by mostly amiable in-person meetings — which may change tonight after the race took a negative turn on Wednesday.

Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, released an ad hitting Republican Shawn Moody on his 2006 settlement with a former employee alleging gender discrimination. The New York Times quoted the former employee in a story last month, but Mills avoided mentioning it in person until now.

On the airwaves, Republicans defended Moody with an ad aimed at women. They have focused on a plea deal between Mills’ office and a former sheriff’s deputy accused of sex crimes against teenagers — without mentioning that he was found not guilty of two charges while a jury deadlocked on 20 others.

Mills and Moody now have more incentive to tussle as the independent candidate seeks any momentum she can grasp. The fighting in this race has largely been done on TV, so it’s hard to know how it will translate to tonight’s debate, which will be hosted by WGME and the Bangor Daily News in the CBS affiliate’s Portland studio. It will be the first and only televised gubernatorial debate since independent Alan Caron dropped out of the race on Monday.

That will give us more time to drill down into policy specifics with the three candidates. The debates so far in the race have been somewhat vague. The candidates have released economic plans largely serving as outlines for how they would approach the Blaine House.

But the attack ads may frame the conversation between the candidates, who will be looking to rebut the negative ads running during the commercial breaks while making their final case to voters. It will be especially important for State Treasurer Terry Hayes, an independent running a difficult and double-pronged strategy to take voters from both nominees.

Mills is also facing a intergovernmental battle with the governor that has escalated over the last two weeks of the campaign. Last week, Gov. Paul LePage said he would appeal a judge’s ruling backing Mills’ ability to weigh in on out-of-state lawsuits to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Then, the Republican hammered Mills over her lawsuit against his administration for withholding millions from her office over billing for state legal services.

LePage announced on Wednesday that his legal team wants an expedited ruling on its appeal in the first case. He told WGAN on Thursday that Mills “hides money.” The governor could be a key bomb-thrower for Moody in the waning days of the campaign.

Recent polling in the race shows Mills with a lead, but it has been rare and uncertain. There have only been three public polls of the governor’s race since August. The last two — at the beginning of October and the end of October — showed Mills up 8 percentage points. The latest was released on Wednesday by Emerson College in Massachusetts.

However, it only polled Mills and Moody by name. The only other candidate choice was “someone else.” Mills has downplayed any edge in fundraising emails, Moody’s campaign has said those results don’t match its polling. Hayes has only gotten as high as 8 percent, but she has used recent polls to say Moody can’t win. We’ll know soon enough.

Reading list

— Officials in one Maine city are not happy that the high school’s logo appeared in a political mailer. A flyer urging Brewer votes to re-elect Republican state Rep. Garrel Craig included the Brewer High School logo. Craig said he was unaware of the flyer, which was paid for by the fundraising wing of the Maine House Republican caucus, until he received it in the mail. Brewer School Superintendent Cheri Towle wrote in a notice posted to the school department’s website Tuesday that the logo was used without permission and that had she been asked permission to use the logo, she would have said no. The image is not trademarked or copyrighted. Craig is running against former Rep. Archie Verow, the Democrat he narrowly defeated in 2016.

— One out of every five Mainers is 65 or older, and one out of every five of them is still working. U.S. Census data continue to sharpen the picture of Maine as an aging state where older residents are less able to count on pensions or retirement income to pay bills. Some 19.9 percent of Mainers age 65 and older are working, with the bulk, 29.3 percent, in the 65 to 74 age group. That matches up with the 30 percent of males and 22 percent of females age 65 to 74 nationally who are working. About 34.4 percent of Mainers age 65 and older have retirement income, with the highest amount, 39.7 percent, among those age 85 and older.

— Police took a man into custody after a lengthy standoff Wednesday in Bucksport. The confrontation, which caused police to block sections of Route 1, began around noon and ended after dark. Officers took into custody a 57-year-old man who had barricaded himself inside a residence.

— The president keeps raising the number of troops he wants to have at the U.S.-Mexican border. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the number of active-duty troops at the border could reach 15,000 — roughly double the number the Pentagon said it currently plans for a mission whose dimensions are shifting daily. The Associated Press reports that Pentagon officials last week were indicating that about 800 to 1,000 might be sent. On Monday, officials announced that about 5,200 were being deployed. The next day, the Air Force general running the operation said more than the initially announced total were going, and he pointedly rejected a news report that it could reach 14,000, saying that was “not consistent with what’s actually being planned.”

Last call for absentee ballots

I like voting on Election Day. I don’t mind the lines. The poll workers at every precinct I’ve ever visited — with one exception — are delightful. And the energy generated by individual citizens coming together to spur the peaceful transition of government leadership makes “democracy in action” feel like more than a catchphrase.

Plus, they give you a sticker.

But if you are not like me — which Maine Public reports to be an increasingly common trend — then you’ll have to act quickly today to manage to vote in a way that avoids Election Day lines. Today is the deadline to request absentee ballots from Maine municipal election clerks. You can find the application form here, but you must get it to your municipal election officials before they close up shop today.

Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, to submit their absentee ballots for this year’s general election. But today’s deadline to request absentee ballots does not apply to voter registration. Mainers can register to vote right up until the polls close on Election Day.

So there really aren’t many valid excuses not to vote in our beloved state.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.

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Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...