Fred Wiand, pictured here in front of Mount Katahdin, is the first Mainer to file for a 2020 presidential run. Credit: Courtesy of Fred Wiand

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We’re pulling back today to look at the slate of more than 300 people across the country who’ve declared their candidacy for president.

Maine can claim one candidate among that pool, and he resides on a woodlot in China. Fred Wiand, 78, lives on 75 acres in a house he built in the early 1980s when he moved to Maine after serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. At the back of his property, deep in the woods, there’s a monument signaling the intersection of four towns and three counties, he said. For this, he likes to tell people he owns the southeast corner of China.

Wiand is from outside Philadelphia, and his public office experience starts and stops at short stints on the China Planning Board and Board of Appeals. In the early 1990s, he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for state representative, but lost in the primary.

Shortly after that, Wiand realized he was affiliated with the wrong party and had a kind of awakening. In the years since, while he was working toward his forestry degree from Unity College and earning money as a seasonal employee at L.L.Bean, carpenter, and paralegal, he was also fostering his keen interest in evangelizing about the perils of climate change, which is almost single-handedly fueling his run for president. He first started getting the word out by flying a green ecology flag in his yard, which he alternates with an American flag.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that global warming is a result of manmade consequences, and if we start now, we can solve it, but we needed to start yesterday,” he said Tuesday by phone.

“I’m 78, but I’ll tell you what: think about why I’m running for president or what the real impetus is, when I have no children, I don’t live on the coast, and I’m old enough where global warming is never really going to affect me,” he said, adding that because he has no immediate personal stake in it, his candidacy should be a testament to how much he cares about this issue. That, and he wants a Democrat in the White House.

Wiand’s aim to curb carbon carbon emissions and make the country carbon neutral (he agrees with most of the “Green New Deal”) is his campaign platform, which he’ll get to exhibit in full force next month when he embarks on a months-long cross-country campaign tour. It’ll begin with a kickoff party at the China Lake boat landing before he heads down the eastern seaboard and cuts west in his 31-foot motorhome clad with banners that say, “Elect for President Fred Wiand 2020.”

So far, Wiand’s presidential bid is mostly self-financed. Wiand has raised just more than $7,000 for his campaign — most of which is his money — with the exception of a singular individual donation, $140, given by a stranger after Wiand told him of his presidential bid.

The man got a green Fred for President hat in return. On the back, it says “46th,” as in 46th president, but the T and H stand for “truth and honor,” Wiand said — a message he will live up to but is the “antithesis” of President Donald Trump.

Perhaps predictably, Wiand has had trouble soliciting donations from friends, most of whom doubt he’ll win. (He would have to turn in a petition with 6,000 signatures just to get on the ballot in Maine as an indepedent. He could also declare as a write-in candidate here.)

“People are supportive, but I had a very close friend say ‘you just can’t get elected.’ And I understand that. I think they feel it is an exercise in futility. My name’s not out there. I’m really a dark horse,” he said.

Still, Wiand said he plans to campaign for as long as he can, until his winning becomes, by his estimation, too much of a longshot. At that point, his “Plan B” is to get enough name recognition so his endorsement of a better, stronger Democratic candidate will be meaningful.

Mostly, Wiand said he just wants to do his part to incite younger generations to vote and aggressively work to stop the deterioration of the planet.

“Why should people vote for me? This is the little-engine-that-could story. I’m optimistic, and I feel very firmly about the fact that I can lead the country. I think we can reverse global warming, but it’s going to take a worldwide effort. The first thing I would do on Inaugural Day is I would sign the paperwork to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. That’s a very presumptive statement, but that’s what I would do.”

Today in A-town

It’s another heavy day of committee meetings, with a proposal to remove religious or philosophical exemptions from school vaccinations likely to draw attention. Maine is one of 17 states that allows schoolchildren to opt out of required vaccinations because of personal beliefs and the state’s kindergartners had the sixth-highest opt-out rate in the country in the 2017-2018 school year. That exemption — and a nationally common religious one — is targeted by a bill from Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, that is up for a 1 p.m. public hearing on Wednesday before the education committee.

There will also be a public hearing on a climate-change bill being pushed by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and a bipartisan group of sponsors including Sen. Robert Foley, R-Wells, that would set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Several high-profile bills are up for work sessions, including three proposals to raise minimum pay for teachers that would go from $30,000 to $40,000 in Gov. Janet Millstwo-year budget proposal and likely doomed Republican proposals to rein in the referendum process.

Reading list

— A Democrat will fill one of the two vacant seats in the Maine House of Representatives. Voters in parts of Bangor and Orono on Tuesday elected former legislator Joe Perry to represent House District 124. In the special election against Republican political newcomer Thomas White, Perry won 64 percent of the vote, about the same as the 2018 share for Aaron Frey, a Democrat who won four terms in House District 124 but chose not to be sworn in for the fourth term after being elected by lawmakers to serve as attorney general. Perry’s win was no surprise as District 124 has a strong recent history of electing Democrats and voter registration there tilts Democratic. Perry previously served four terms in the House and three in the Senate. A special election to fill a House seat that opened when Rep. Jennifer DeChant, D-Bath, resigned, will be held on April 2. History and voter registration also favor Democrats in that contest.

— A former Republican legislator who got a pardon is charged with fraudulently obtaining hunting licenses. Former state Rep. Jeff Pierce, R-Dresden, will appear in a Wiscasset court on Thursday to answer three misdemeanor charges of fraudulently obtaining licenses, according to the Portland Press Herald. That issue came to light during his 2018 campaign, when the state discovered that Pierce had purchased firearm hunting licenses and tagged game on them despite a 1982 felony drug trafficking conviction. Former Gov. Paul LePage pardoned Pierce of that conviction during his last days in office, but these charges relate to licenses purchased before the pardon and pardons don’t expunge convictions in Maine. Pierce narrowly lost his re-election bid to Rep. Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich.

— A Maine state senator’s push to tighten campaign finance laws is advancing through the legislative process. Maine Public reports that the Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, that would prohibit state legislators from using money donated to their political action committees to provide loans to businesses they own. The proposal is, in part, motivated by the discovery two years ago that former Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Newport, had used thousands of dollars donated to his PAC to pay off debts incurred by businesses he owned. During his three previous terms in the Legislature, Chenette has worked — with limited success — to tighten Maine’s rules related to political action committees, campaign fundraising and lobbying.

— School districts in an economically troubled Maine county risk losing more than $2 million in state aid because they cannot agree on where to put a vocational school. The Maine Department of Education awarded the Washington County districts the grant in January, and the school systems — which represent nearly 20 towns stretching from Milbridge to Whiting — have been looking for a building to buy and renovate to house vocational programs. But the districts have yet to agree on a location. Failure to do so by the end of March would likely cost them the state grant. If the districts don’t agree and they lose the grant, it would be a painful repeat for many of what happened more than a decade ago, when several districts had picked a location in Jonesboro for a proposed career and technical education center. That project, and the associated state funding, fizzled amid the contentious statewide school district consolidation debate.

— Two Canadian brothers with a wacky plan and 21 jugs of gasoline nearly caused a border crisis. The Washington Post shares the tale of Damien Roy and Bailey Roy, brothers who set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a plan to cross the continent without stopping for gas or showing identification in a car with no license plates. It did not go well. Before the two brothers could even cross the Canadian border, drones, helicopters, police dogs and a SWAT team surrounded their car, closing the border crossing at Houlton for 12 hours.

No small feet feat

A Brooklyn teen named Daniel Rose-Levine recently burned up the internet and bedazzled television broadcasters with his record-breaking ability to solve Rubik’s cube with his feet.

I’ve never seen the point of a Rubik’s cube — whether solved with head, hands or feet. It just seems like a box of frustration in a world that can offer so many more captivating options for self-sabotage.

Then again, I am an English major who eventually became a journalist. So math is foreign and scary and totally unfathomable. It does not compute for me. I only use my feet for walking and kicking. I would much rather solve the pictogram puzzles under a Narragansett bottle cap than try to line up colors on some stupid plastic cube.

The closest I ever got to solving math-related problems with a tool was when my father taught me how to calculate batting averages with a slide rule.

My father, the physics professor, could work magic with a slide rule — although not with his feet. He kept one in his pocket protector and could artistically manipulate its moving parts to show how math unraveled the mysteries of the universe.

I never got past using it to figure out how low my Babe Ruth League batting average had dipped after another 0-for-3 game.

If someone put a Rubik’s cube under my feet, I would just crush it, wipe off my shoe and waddle away. 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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