In this Nov. 9, 2020, file photo, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks during a news conference in Washington. Credit: Alex Brandon / AP

Good morning from Augusta. The Daily Brief will be off on Friday. We’ll be back Monday.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If there’s one person who is not keeping up their end of the bargain, the problem is going to be an immense challenge,” Griffin Dill, a pest management expert at the University of Maine, said of the rat problem plaguing Milford, partially fueled by a resident who was actively feeding wildlife with a 20-foot wide, foot-deep pile of corn and sunflower seeds. Do your part, everyone. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

A Wednesday fundraiser made for another example of how Republicans are trying to nationalize Maine’s major elections next year. It was a busy day in conservative politics with former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin declaring a return bid in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel in Saco for a fundraiser with the state party featuring former Gov. Paul LePage, their presumptive gubernatorial nominee next year.

Both the gubernatorial and congressional races are expected to attract major national attention, with Republicans already running ads against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat. One report predicted $75 million in ad spending here next year, a record for a midterm election.

In an interview, McDaniel highlighted how the party could approach taking on Golden and Gov. Janet Mills, both of whom still have net positive approval ratings. She pointed to efforts to go after the incumbent on her pandemic response, saying Republican governors had managed to protect vulnerable populations without harming their economies. (The early recoveries in Maine and New Hampshire under Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, were similar.)

“Those are the types of policies that Republicans are going to run on across the country,” McDaniel said. “We have a great way to contrast with Democrats: Look what Democrat governors have done in your state versus what Republican governors have done across the country.”

That Republicans will target Mills over her coronavirus response is not a surprise. But it is a line of attack that could play out differently in Maine than in other places, which has the fourth-lowest COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. and largely managed to keep schools open last year. 

More recently, Republicans have also hit Mills for not stripping enhanced federal unemployment benefits, saying the weekly $300 has prevented people from going back to work, though early data published by economists have since found that turning off the benefits in conservative states did not lead to short-term job growth.

Democrats are more likely to discuss local factors. While Mills and her party flexed muscles to bypass Republicans on budget issues this year, she also blunted many progressive priorities with her veto pen. Golden has taken a number of swing votes that could undercut Poliquin’s hits on national Democrats. We already have a good preview of the lines being drawn.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Staffing shortages keep Maine nursing homes from mandating COVID-19 vaccines,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The ongoing survey from the Maine Medical Directors Association, which had gotten 43 homes to respond as of Wednesday, found 60 percent of those facilities want to require staff to be vaccinated. But long-standing shortages make them wary of implementing requirements as new cases in Maine creep up, driven by the more contagious delta variant.”

— “Half of Maine counties could soon be covered by Joe Biden’s new eviction moratorium,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The new moratorium, announced late Tuesday, links a temporary ban on evictions to local virus conditions, relying on the same U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designations used for mask recommendations, with evictions halted in counties that have seen at least 50 cases per 100,000 people over the past week. In Maine, the counties that meet that designation can change on a day-to-day basis, although more counties have qualified in recent days as cases have risen statewide.”

The metric determining where the new moratorium applies is also the one deciding mask recommendations. With COVID-19 cases increasing nationally, half of Maine’s 16 counties went above the federal thresholds as of Wednesday after Cumberland, Kennebec and Piscataquis counties joined or rejoined the list. Once a county goes over the threshold, evictions are barred for at least 14 days. That federal emergency order is in effect through early October. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, has said the state may break from federal mask guidelines that change daily, but nothing has been announced yet.

— “Maine GOP calls on John Hiatt to resign over child porn charge,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “I am deeply troubled by the allegations against John Hiatt,’ Maine GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas said Wednesday. ‘While John will have his day in court, he should do what is best for his community and resign from all political positions immediately.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

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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...