In this June 30, 2021, file photo, Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, speaks in favor of a publicly owned power company at the State House in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s just thick and red and yucky. It’s like thick seaweed,” Stephanie Greco, who has been coming to Pine Point Beach in Scarborough for decades, said of the invasive algae that returns to the beach in late summer. “It gets worse as time goes on, it seems like over the last 10 years. It’s a bummer.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Partisans are signaling restraint as Maine has a short window to come up with new maps for the state’s two congressional districts and legislative districts. Commission members are meeting this morning for the first time since the U.S. Census Bureau released updated population data showing that most of the state’s population growth over the past decade occurred in a few southern counties. Generally, districts in northern and western Maine will need to add land area and population, while districts in growing areas will be further divided.

Whether majority Democrats try to lever those changes remains to be seen. At the congressional level, where there are only two districts to draw and the commission is likely to only make changes in Kennebec County to avoid cutting across additional municipal subdivisions, borders could be redrawn in a way that would slightly advantage Democrats or Republicans or have relatively little partisan effect in the swing 2nd District.

It could be tough to come up with maps that significantly advantage either party. Maine law already requires districts to be contiguous, compact and cross as few political divisions as possible, which limits the use of strangely shaped districts sometimes seen in other states. Maps also require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and will go to the courts if lawmakers cannot reach an agreement, so Republicans will have their say.

“We read horror stories about redistricting and gerrymandering in other states,” said Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, who also served on the redistricting commission previously. “Maine law is really built to avoid that.”

Today’s meeting kicks off the commission’s short timeline before it is required to send congressional and legislative maps to the Legislature in late September. The meeting, conducted remotely, will stream on the commission’s YouTube channel beginning at 9:30.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine Republicans join State House protest against health worker vaccine mandate,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “A few Maine Republican leaders came to Augusta on Tuesday to address the roughly 400 demonstrators at the State House protesting Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ recent mandate that all health care workers get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

That included a York County lawmaker whom Democrats criticized over her appearance at a Belfast event organized by a conspiracy theorist. Dozens of legislative Democrats and one independent released a July 30 letter on Tuesday condemning Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred, for her appearance at an event last month organized by Robert David Steele, a conspiracy theorist known for antisemitic views and Holocaust denial. The letter focuses on Steele’s views, saying Sampson’s presence gave them legitimacy. As the letter was circulating, Sampson defended herself by saying she does not share those views. On Tuesday, Sampson compared the vaccine mandate to the practices of German doctors in the Nazi era.

— “CMP opponents could present 2 different utility takeover options to Maine voters,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Both petitions set criteria for how the Maine Public Utilities Commission would determine if a utility is unfit to serve and needs to be sold. The eight standards go further than previous legislation and aimed at CMP, touching on customer approval, how foreign ownership affects it, how it charges customers to pay for damage created by extreme weather and reliability. If a company meets four of those negative criteria, the PUC must order its sale within two years.”

— “About half of Maine university system students have verified COVID-19 vaccination status,” Robbie Feinberg, Maine Public: “As part of its efforts, the system has been offering scholarships to vaccinated students. It will also be hosting clinics on all seven of the state’s public university campuses. Malloy said the emergence of the delta variant has added a new sense of urgency.”

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...