Good morning from Augusta.
What we’re watching today
A key lawmaker’s resignation shook up politics in a battleground coastal area. Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, a longtime chair of the voting and gambling committee, stepped down on Tuesday for a federal job. A special election will likely come in March, followed by the regular November one.
Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, immediately announced plans to run for the seat. It’s unclear whether any other Democrats are mulling a run. Republicans are likely working double-time to convince former Sen. Brian Langley, a moderate Ellsworth restaurateur who held the seat before Luchini, to run for it for the sixth and seventh time since 2010.
Hancock County is the clearest example of the rare area in Maine’s more conservative 2nd Congressional District that has shifted toward Democrats in the last decade. But geography also matters in the district, where Luchini was able to flip the seat while running out of Republican-leaning Ellsworth instead of the Democratic stronghold of Mount Desert Island.
The calculus is different for McDonald, a lobsterman who won her safe Democratic district unopposed in 2020. She has been a consultant for an offshore wind project that has become controversial among some fishermen amid Gov. Janet Mills’ plans to expand the industry.
The Maine Republican Party called McDonald “not right” for the district, while she retorted that fishermen “care deeply about our marine ecosystem.”
What we’re reading
— Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage posted healthy fundraising figures during the second half of 2021, with the former on the high side of $1 million and the latter on the low side. It wasn’t as high as hauls in other states seeing major gubernatorial elections and is an example of how the race between two known quantities may be a bit longer in taking off.
The Daily Brief reader to get closest to LePage’s total was Michael Hein, with a guess of $775,000. The former governor generally overshot expectations.
— And the parent of Central Maine Power Co. is still spending millions on Maine politics. Avangrid poured $3 million into a group spearheading the fight against a quasi-public takeover of Maine’s two major utilities that would put the system in control of an elected board. That referendum is not likely to be on the ballot until 2023, but CMP is gearing up fast.
— State officials vowed to fix issues cited by consumers and brokers in the first year of Maine’s health care marketplace rollout, while saying the 2021 launch of CoverMe.gov was largely successful with 10 percent more Mainers getting plans in the most recent enrollment period.
— Read this Q&A from the BDN’s Josh Keefe, who spoke to Cheryl Quint, a nurse at Houlton Regional Hospital. She and her colleagues are “physically and mentally exhausted.”
Follow along today
— 9 a.m. The Legislature’s labor panel will hold hearings on a raft of public-sector labor bills and the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee will take testimony on proposals affecting the adult-use marijuana market. Watch here and here, respectively.
— 10 a.m. Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, will make the case to the Judiciary Committee for a constitutional amendment limiting the governor’s pardon power. Watch here.
— 10 a.m. through the afternoon, the same committee will continue confirmation hearings for Mills’ judicial nominations and re-nominations.
The Daily Brief is written by Bangor Daily News politics editor Michael Shepherd and made possible by BDN subscribers. Enjoy unlimited access to all we have to offer by subscribing.
Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up for free.
Want to get texts tipping you off to major political stories before we break them? Get Pocket Politics. The service is free for the first 14 days and $3.99 per month if you like it.
Do you want to advertise in the Daily Brief? Write our sales team.