Dale Crafts (left) and Jared Golden. Credit: Troy R. Bennett and Gabor Degre / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 48 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m glad they got the greatest day of their life,” said Amanda Roy, whose mother contracted coronavirus amid an outbreak at a Madison nursing home traced back to an August wedding in Millinocket. Six people have died at the nursing home. “But it made a nightmare and probably the worst days of some other people’s lives.”

What we’re watching today

Health care topics that were major issues in the 2018 race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District are back in 2020. The race between freshman U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, and former state Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon, has begun rather quietly. But health care remains one of the pivotal issues in campaigns from the presidential race on down. This year, they are repeats of some of the main issues in Golden’s 2018 race with Republican Bruce Poliquin.

A new Maine Democratic Party mailer purports Crafts wants to get rid of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The Republican is hitting Golden for his support of a “Medicare for all” framework that he has backed away from recently and is unlikely to pass no matter whether President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden wins the White House this year.

The mailer against Crafts is likely a reference to his telling ABC affiliate WMTW recently that the Affordable Care Act should be dismantled and replaced with “a free-market system.” In a statement, the Republican said he would support retaining these protections in any replacement plan.

This was a main talking point in 2018 elections after Republicans advanced a replacement plan written in a way that appeared to shield people with these conditions, but experts said could have allowed insurers to raise rates in ways that would have made coverage unaffordable. 

Crafts, meanwhile, has criticized Golden for co-sponsoring a bill in 2019 to implement Medicare for all, a litmus-test issue for some that the congressman included as the final step of a health care “roadmap” released early in his tenure. He has taken a step back on that in 2020 as Biden pushes a public-option plan that would still be difficult to pass through Congress.

The congressman told WMTW that he backs that kind of plan, which would allow people to buy into the system prior to the age of eligibility. A spokesperson for Golden said he backed the measure in support of the goal of universal coverage, but that he would not ultimately support a plan barring private insurance.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Where Maine’s US Senate candidates stand on money in politics and other reforms,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Opposition to ‘dark money’ was one thing Maine’s U.S. Senate candidates were able to agree on in a debate last week. But U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, and independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn — disagree on how to address that and a number of other political reform ideas.”

— “Max Linn’s complaint against CMP corridor shrugged off by project proponents,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “The candidate and nine allies — all but one of whom live outside CMP’s coverage area — are using it in an unusual fashion to ask Maine utilities regulators to halt approval of the project until “scenic and recreational costs” of the project can be calculated and repaid to Mainers, according to the complaint from George Marcus and John Doyle, Linn’s Portland-based lawyers.”

— “Mainers still trust Janet Mills more than Trump on virus, but her approval lowest in region,”  Piper, BDN: “Mainers still prefer Mills’ response to that of the Republican president. Only 40 percent of Mainers approved of [President Donald] Trump’s handling of the virus as of late August, the survey found. Another 19 percent of respondents trusted the president to do the right thing to handle the virus “a lot,” while 36 percent did not trust him on the virus at all.”

Absentee ballot numbers rise past 2012 levels in Maine

Nearly 200,000 Maine voters have now requested absentee ballots ahead of the November election. The latest data released by the Maine secretary of state’s office on Tuesday show the state is only about 1,500 voters away from topping the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2012 presidential election.

Democrats continue to represent the majority of requests, with more than 113,000 requests compared to just 30,000 for Republicans. State and local officials pitched absentee voting as a safer alternative during the pandemic, though worries about delays with the U.S. Postal Service may be pushing voters to request ballots earlier than they otherwise might have.

The Postal Service has recommended that Maine voters mail their ballots seven days before Election Day to ensure they arrive on time. Ballots can also be returned in-person. Absentee ballots requested by overseas voters go out later this week, while the rest of Maine voters will have to wait until Oct. 2 for their ballots to be mailed. Here’s your soundtrack.

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

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

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...