Sara Gideon (left) and Susan Collins. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik and Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 63 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I kind of wish the school would have done hybrid and remote rather than all three. It seems like too many choices based on some very hopeful outlook for the pandemic in Maine,” said Bangor parent Amy Roeder, one of the several parents waiting to see if school reopenings in Penobscot and York counties will be affected by the Katahdin-region outbreak. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

It’s September now and candidates are emerging more with nine weeks until Election Day. That means it is crunch time for candidates in the most competitive races in a campaign that has been fundamentally altered by the coronavirus pandemic. But the candidates are picking up their schedules as Labor Day — the milestone date when races typically kick into higher gear — looms at the beginning of next week.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, kicked off a bus tour in Aroostook County on Monday. Her campaign says she will visit each of Maine’s 16 counties between now and Election Day — though she will return to Washington after Labor Day as Congress takes up coronavirus relief negotiations and a new spending bill to ward off a potential government shutdown.

Her Democratic opponent, House Speaker Sara Gideon, is continuing her own campaign efforts, buoyed by socially distant “suppers with Sara” she has held in every county. Independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn have built up their own organizing online — Savage with a series of webinars and Linn via a podcast. The four U.S. Senate candidates will meet for their first debate on Sept. 11, hosted by the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald and News Center Maine.

The competitive race in the 2nd Congressional District has remained quieter, though that could change in the coming weeks. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon is still playing catch-up after winning a competitive primary to face first-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. But with less than five weeks until voters begin voting absentee, don’t expect the race to stay quiet for much longer.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine economists expect bumpy ride through 2020 and beyond, but not all news is bad,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The remainder of 2020 will be fraught with more economic pain and unpredictability, according to six Maine economists and business leaders. Factors include the federal stimulus uncertainty, ongoing pandemic, recession, November election, the regular flu season and cold weather that will force businesses that had expanded outside to move inside. Any one of those could further dampen or potentially buoy the economy.”

Collins said a pared-back relief package backed by many in her party is too small. The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, a deadline that will be critical as Maine faces a $524 million shortfall this year and must decide how to address it. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday a new bill may be coming from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, next week. Republicans have been discussing a $500 billion aid package that Collins said fell short yesterday, according to Maine Public.

— “COVID cases increase at York County Jail, Madison rehab center,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “Maine health officials have identified a dozen new cases of COVID-19 associated with the York County Jail and two more cases associated with a Madison long-term care facility, both of which have been dealing with outbreaks of the disease that are linked to an Aug. 7 wedding in the Katahdin region.

— “60 years ago, John F. Kennedy visited Presque Isle,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “Wednesday is the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s campaign appearance at Presque Isle’s municipal airport — today Presque Isle International Airport. His scheduled appearance was only 45 minutes, occurring months before he was elected president and became an international icon. Yet, all these decades later, he remains among the most famous figures to ever set foot in Presque Isle or Aroostook County.” Here’s your soundtrack.

A scion of the famous family will likely lose a high-profile Massachusetts Senate primary on Tuesday. In one of the most-watched primaries of 2020, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, looks poised to fend off U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a grandnephew of the late president. The Bangor Daily News will carry results from the Massachusetts primary tonight courtesy of Decision Desk HQ, our national partner.

The race began as a generational challenge to the 74-year-old Markey by the 39-year-old rising party star. No Kennedy has lost in Massachusetts. But Markey clawed back with support from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, as Kennedy has struggled to articulate cogent reasons to oust the incumbent. Markey maintains an 11-point polling lead over Kennedy in the race, according to RealClearPolitics averages.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews 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) to subscribe to it via email.

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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...