Clockwise from top left, Chellie Pingree, Jared Golden, Susan Collins and Angus King. Credit: Composite photo | BDN

Good morning from Augusta. If you haven’t already, please take this survey asking readers to weigh in on issue coverage ahead of the 2020 elections.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I wanted to show up in Washington and say, ‘Hey, I’m not from Manhattan or San Francisco. I work in a warehouse, and this will shrink my business.’” said Ned Swain, the owner of Devenish Wines, a Portland-based distributor, on proposed U.S. tariffs on European wine and other agricultural products.

What we’re watching today

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have decisions to make on limiting President Donald Trump’s power to strike Iran. The Democratic-led House is expected to vote Thursday on a resolution that would prohibit the Republican president from ordering offensive strikes against Iran, with a similar measure being proposed by Democrats in the Republican-led Senate, according to the Associated Press. 

The upper chamber was a source of fireworks on Wednesday, when libertarian-leaning Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, walked out of a Trump administration briefing on the strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Solemani and said they supported the war-powers resolution backed by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, voted for a similar failed measure in June. In a statement, Collins said she met with Kaine on Wednesday to discuss the new language, but that she couldn’t take a position until the final text is released.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, has backed the House resolution and called for Congress to take further action to block offensive strikes, while King and Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, are expected to give stances today.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Janet Mills proposal would create Maine-based ACA exchange, stabilize flagging small-group market,” Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The bill would … enshrine a merger of the small-group and individual insurance markets under an existing federal waiver. They served 126,000 Mainers in 2019, with more than 70,000 people in the individual market and nearly 56,000 in the small-group market, according to Maine Bureau of Insurance data.”

— “Top Democratic lawmakers threaten BIW’s $45 million tax break,” Scott Thistle, Portland Press Herald: “House Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson sent a letter to [the shipyard] noting that since the legislation passed [in 2018], the average wage at BIW has declined, the company has hired mostly low-wage scale workers, and that it is planning to hire out-of-state subcontractors.” The shipyard said the wage decline was a result of an “exodus of very senior employees and the disproportionate influx of lower skilled employees.” Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, was “disappointed that this major employer of Maine workers was forced to respond to unfounded allegations and threats” from top Democrats.

— “CMP’s controversial hydropower project passes second regulatory hurdle,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “The approval followed last April’s ruling by the Maine Public Utilities Commission to grant its permit for the $1 billion project. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is the next regulator to review the project. The department is expected to issue a draft decision on the project within the next month, a DEP spokesman said.”

Quick hits

Golden wants House leadership to bring sweeping pro-union legislation to a vote. The freshman led a group of 72 Democrats to sign a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to bring the Protecting the Right to Organize Act to vote. The proposal aims to further insulate union elections from employer influence, alongside other provisions aimed at strengthening unions. It passed a House committee in September, but it hasn’t been voted on in the Democratic-led chamber.

Gov. Janet Mills will give her second State of the State address on Jan. 21. Gideon and Jackson announced that to lawmakers on the first day of the 2020 session on Wednesday. It will be at 7 p.m. in the House chamber as Democrats prioritize health care and broadband while minority Republicans look to hold the line on what they see as runaway spending.

Watching ads

Collins’ 2020 re-election race saw five major ad purchases in the past week. The campaigns of Collins and Gideon were among them, but the three biggest purchases belonged to the Republican dark-money group One Nation and Democratic dark-money groups Maine Momentum and Majority Forward, which have been the two biggest non-campaign spenders in the race so far. It brought total TV ad spending in the race above $9.5 million, according to Advertising Analytics data. (It is only January. Here’s your soundtrack.)

The first TV advertising buy — albeit small — has been made in the Republican 2nd District primary. It was from former state Sen. Eric Brakey. So far, we’re seeing $4,500 ad buy in the Bangor market this week, according to an FCC filing. Brakey is facing Dale Crafts and Adrienne Bennett in a Republican primary on June 9. The ad buy is the first recorded by a candidate in Maine’s 2nd District, though Golden has been the target of outside spending from interests on both sides for much of his term.

The original Massholes

The BDN’s Emily Burnham, in the normal course of her eclectic business, unearthed this state history of road systems from 1600 to 1970. This nugget from the 1600s was the best part.

“There is an early report of the Massachusetts commissioners riding into the district and getting no farther than Wells because of the condition of the roads, Thereupon they ordered the inhabitants of the Saco, Wells, Cape Porpoise area to ‘make sufficient roads within their town so that travelers could move from house to house’ or suffer a fine.”

This had to be the kickoff toward secession. The original Massholes weren’t just bad drivers, they made us build the roads. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon). 

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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...