Democrat Sara Gideon (left) and Republican Sen. Susan Collins take their places at the Decision Maine debate in Portland on Sept. 11. Credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

Good morning from Augusta. There are 42 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Talking to the old timers in and around where we live they told us that, ‘Ayuh, there have been mountain lions seen over the years in Jonesboro,’” said Steve Balzer, who is among the Mainers with a tale to tell about a potential mountain lion encounter. Official accounts say the last mountain lion in Maine was killed in 1938, but that hasn’t stopped Bangor Daily News readers from saying they have seen them. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Questions remain on what Maine’s U.S. Senate candidates will support next as Republicans push forward with a Supreme Court nominee. Several more Republican senators indicated support for confirming a nominee prior to the election on Monday, all but guaranteeing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, can get a justice confirmed. It has upended Maine’s U.S. Senate race, which became a major contest after the fraught 2018 confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of only two Republicans who has expressed opposition to the idea, saying the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election should pick the next Supreme Court justice. But Collins has not said whether she will vote for President Donald Trump’s nominee prior to the election if McConnell holds a vote, reportedly engaging in a “testy” exchange yesterday with a reporter who asked her the question in Washington.

Several Democratic senators have floated the idea of adding justices to the court if Republicans ram a nomination through, citing McConnell’s blocking of judicial nominees appointed by President Barack Obama. House Speaker Sara Gideon, the Democrat running against Collins, has not said whether she supports such a proposal. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, hasn’t answered the question either.

Collins is facing a tough environment as she considers her next move. The incumbent trailed Gideon by five points in a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released Monday. A New York Times/Siena College poll released last week found a similar margin between Collins and Gideon but found that Maine voters preferred Democrats to control the Senate in 2021 by a net margin of eight points. Gideon has maintained a consistent public polling lead this year and further nationalization of the race would seem to benefit her over Collins in the late stages.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine judge to rule next week in voting access case that could reshape Election Day,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Experts for the Alliance of Retired Americans, the advocacy group for seniors that sued Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to seek the changes in June, testified during a Monday hearing that the coronavirus pandemic and mail delays would disenfranchise voters unfamiliar with the absentee system and force vulnerable seniors to put health at risk by voting in person.”

Similar lawsuits in other states have succeeded in allowing absentee ballots received after Election Day to be counted. Those measures could lead to days of delayed results, something Maine election officials are relatively certain they can avoid if absentee turnout is high and early. In Pennsylvania, the high court ruled recently that clerks must accept mailed-in ballots postmarked by Election Day as long as they are delivered by the following Friday.

— “Portland Jetport passengers might have been exposed to COVID-19 on Sunday,” Eesha Pendharkar, BDN: “The person who tested positive had been directed to isolate, as had that person’s close contacts. But on Sunday, the Maine CDC learned that the COVID-19 patient and a close contact were at the airport with the intention to fly to Florida. The person who tested positive ultimately decided not to board the plane after communicating with Maine CDC staff.”

— “Janet Mills expands federally funded virus aid program for Maine businesses and nonprofits,” Andrews, BDN: “About 2,100 businesses submitted eligible applications in the first round, according to the state’s economic development department. It anticipates sending out those first awards, averaging around $45,000, in early October.”

First outside money in the 2nd District

The first outside group is getting into the race as Democrats signal confidence in the freshman incumbent. End Citizen’s United is launching a nearly $400,000 TV ad buy this week to boost Rep. Jared Golden, a first-term Democrat. The 30-second spot is all positive about Golden, citing his rejection of money from corporate political action committees and his support for a Democratic-led ethics and political reform bill that passed the House last year.

The timing of the buy stands in contrast to 2018, when outside spending in the race between Golden and then-incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin began in July. Polls this year have shown Golden with a steady lead over former state Rep. Dale Crafts, his Republican opponent. Trump won the 2nd District in 2016, but prognosticators have moved the race toward Golden lately.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports House candidates in close races, recently pulled scheduled ad purchases, according to Medium Buying, likely an indication that they think Golden is doing pretty well on his own.

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

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...