Chris Lyons, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Maine, during a registration drive in 2017. Credit: Contributed photo

Good morning from Augusta, where Libertarians are no longer recognized as an official political party in Maine because their voter enrollment numbers are too low.

The more than 6,000 enrolled Libertarians lost their status for not meeting a state law enrollment threshold in November, which requires that more than 10,000 voters in each registered political party cast ballots in a general election, said Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Registered Libertarians were considered unenrolled Dec. 4. As a result, the number of political parties officially recognized in Maine has dropped to three: Democrat, Republican and Green Independent. Libertarians, along with voters belonging to any other party, are considered unenrolled. The latest development is perhaps proof of a point Libertarians have been arguing since 2015 — the system for establishing a new political party in Maine is so hard it’s unconstitutional.

Libertarians first earned their official party status in the summer of 2016 after winning a court appeal that allowed them to extend their enrollment drive. But a few months later, after the November 2016 general election, their status was revoked for the same reason — not enough registered members cast ballots.

They earned it back, put forward a handful of their own candidates in 2017 elections, and drafted a bill, LD 295, to stop the back and forth and secure them permanent party status, but it was killed in committee.

Libertarians are fighting the move by trying to re-organize. Since Libertarians lost their standing again earlier this month, they’ve filed a renewed declaration of intent to form their party and must collect at least 5,000 signatures by January 2020.

Chris Hallowell, secretary of the party, wrote on its Facebook page Monday that the group intends to file a legal injunction. He called on legislators to change the state’s “arbitrary laws” that continue to disenfranchise Libertarian voters by “denying [them] the right of choice and affiliation.”

LePage says his political group will be active into 2019

The outgoing Republican governor says the group that pushed his agenda will be ‘boisterous’ during the new Democratic governor’s tenure. Maine People Before Politics, the nonprofit group that spun out of Gov. Paul LePage’s transition to office after his 2010 election to advocate for the governor’s policies at key moments of his tenure, will remain active after Gov.-elect Janet Mills, a Democrat, takes over for LePage on Jan. 2.

Maine People Before Politics’ president is Charles Gaunce, the owner of Central Maine Motors in Waterville and a LePage friend. It was run at different times by Jason Savage, who is now the executive director of the Maine Republican Party, and Lauren LePage, a Republican operative and the governor’s daughter.

It played a key role in the 2015 budget debate, placing robocalls into the districts of Republican Senate leaders hammering them for “working behind the scenes with liberal Democrats” to oppose LePage’s tax proposals.

The group has ramped down public activity since then, with assets dwindling from $194,000 in 2015 to $37,000 in 2017, according to IRS filings, but LePage told The Howie Carr Show on Monday that the group will be “very boisterous over the next four years.”

LePage also said he’s raising money for 2022, but it’s unclear what he means. The outgoing governor has said repeatedly that he’ll run against Mills when she’s up for re-election 2022 if she doesn’t manage the state to his liking. He told Carr on Monday that “we have started raising money for 2022,” though it’s unclear what he means by that.

Brent Littlefield, his political adviser, declined comment. LePage could open a campaign account in Maine and raise money to keep his options open during the next few election cycles, but he hasn’t yet. He would be 74 at the 2022 election and he is nine months younger than Mills.

Reading list

— The incumbent who lost his re-election bid in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will continue his court fight. Departing U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said Monday that he will appeal U.S. District Judge Lance Walker’s resounding rejection of his legal challenge to ranked-choice voting. Last week Walker rejected Poliquin’s legal team’s arguments that ranked-choice voting, which was endorsed twice by Maine voters before being used for the first time in last month’s Maine congressional elections, is unconstitutional. Poliquin received more first-choice votes on Election Day, but lost by more than 1 percentage point to Democrat Jared Golden in the next round of ranked-ballot tabulation. There is little evidence to suggest that Poliquin’s claim will fare better in the 1st Circuit, where a group of three judges would eventually hear the case. The 1st Circuit is seen as the second-most liberal circuit court in the country, according to a Pratt Institute database.

— Maine’s next governor has nominated another potential Cabinet member. Mills Monday named Kirsten Figueroa as her nominee for commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, the state agency that handles budgeting and contracts. Figueroa had held a similar position for Mills in the attorney general’s office. A legislative committee will interview Figueroa and make a recommendation on her nomination to the Maine Senate, which must vote to confirm her.

— At least two Democrats want the party’s nomination to run for a vacant Bangor-area seat in the Maine House of Representatives. Sarah Nichols, who chairs the Bangor City Council, and Joe Perry, a former legislator and Bangor city councilor, have expressed interest in running for the seat made vacant by Aaron Frey’s election to be Maine’s next attorney general. Frey won a fourth term last month but was not sworn in on Dec. 5 with other legislators because he was the presumptive attorney general. A special election to fill his seat will likely occur in February, and party caucuses will pick their nominees. The seat is considered safe for Democrats, who hold a solid majority in the House. Frey beat Republican Daniel Lapointe of Orono with 63 percent of votes in November, and Democrats hold a seven-point registration advantage over Republicans in the district.

— The mother of a Maine toddler who went missing seven years ago is suing the girl’s father for wrongful death. Trista Reynolds, mother of Ayla Reynolds, a 3-year-old whose disappearance spurred an exhaustive search and investigation that has yielded no answer to her whereabouts and no arrests, filed the civil suit Monday against Justin DiPietro. On Dec. 17, 2011, DiPietro reported Ayla missing while she was staying with him, his sister and his girlfriend at a home in Waterville. He told investigators his daughter must have wandered away from the house on her own or been abducted in the night, but police later said they had ruled out those stories and that the girl’s disappearance was the result of “foul play.” Reynolds has long claimed that DePietro played a role in their daughter’s disappearance. The girl was declared legally dead last year, making it possible for Reynolds to file the civil suit against DiPietro.

Naughty Christmas songs

There’s been much discussion lately about why it’s been so long since a new Christmas song has earned a spot in the pantheon of timeless classics. Conventional wisdom seems to hold that the newest classic Christmas song is Mariah Carey’s “ All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which dates to 1994.

That’s a long time to go without a classic, especially when you consider that great new holiday hits with enduring value seemed to hit the airwaves almost every year between the mid-1940s and the 1960s. “Airwaves” is probably the operative word there, as radio played a much more prominent role as a conduit for music and popular culture during those decades. It’s just harder now to get your music to enough ears to make it a classic in our age of niche playlists and personal streaming.

In the vein of niche playlists, I have been focusing my holiday ear on songs that highlight the naughty side of Christmas. Of course, there is the silly “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” done most creepily by a young Michael Jackson with the Jackson 5. After making him sing that at such a young age, no wonder Michael grew up to be such an odd and interesting adult.

A promising new entry this year is “Bad Kid” by JD McPherson and his band.

But the all-time best classic Christmas song about holiday misbehavior has to be the uncredited work of Thurl Ravenscroft, whose great name is only surpassed by his even greater voice. 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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