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Swing Left Maine: News Digest                          March 16, 2020

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Swing Left Maine’s News Digest. Between now and the November election we will periodically offer concise summaries of news stories related to the state of play in Maine electoral politics, with special attention to the race for the United States Senate seat currently held by Senator Susan Collins. This marquee race will have consequences far beyond Maine and is being prioritized by both the Republican and Democratic parties because control of the U.S. Senate could well be decided by Maine voters. We will also be keeping an eye on how the presidential contest is playing out in Maine, and on the two congressional races, especially the competitive second congressional district currently represented by freshman Congressman Jared Golden.

In each issue, to be distributed by email, we will digest news stories, mostly from the Maine press but occasionally from the national media, that we think will be of interest to those working to help Maine swing left. Each story summary will include a link to the full story so you can easily read more about those that interest you. (Note that you may need a subscription to view the full article depending on the source.)

If we miss a story (we can’t read everything, after all!) that you think should be shared, please email either Tom Redburn at or Peter Zheutlin at and let us know. Thanks!

• A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling shows the likely Democratic challenger for Susan Collins’s U.S. Senate Seat, Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, leading Senator Collins 47% to 43%. A recent Colby College poll shows a slightly tighter race with Gideon leading Collins by a single point, 43% to 42% with 14% undecided. (Portland Press-Herald, March 5, 2020)

• Susan Collins’s vote to acquit President Trump at his impeachment trial appears to have seriously dented her popularity, especially among Maine Democrats and Independents. In the past, Collins has enjoyed high favorability ratings statewide and won reelection by comfortable margins. This year, she is considered one of the most endangered Senators up for reelection. (Salon, March 6, 2020)

• With the oldest average population in the nation, Mainers could be especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, now deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization and spreading rapidly in the United States. Those over 60, especially those with other pre-existing conditions, are considered to be at especially high risk. The virus is already having a profound impact on the presidential race in several ways, including how candidates will campaign, with several large events already cancelled by the Trump, Biden, and Sanders campaigns. The first case in Maine was announced by Governor Mills on the evening of March 12. The patient is a 50 year-old Navy reservist in Adroscoggin County, now quarantined in her home, believed to have contracted the virus while deployed overseas. (Bangor Daily News, March 12, 2020)

• Michael Grunwald, formerly a reporter with The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, and now with Politico, recently recalled his own reporting on the 2009 stimulus bill passed in response the economic crisis that began in 2008. He wrote that in the negotiations over the bill Susan Collins single-handedly killed nearly a trillion dollars in funding for pandemic flu research. (Twitter Post, March 12, 2020) Senator Collins’s objection was that though she supported flu research a preparation, she didn’t believe the funding belonged in a stimulus package, but should go through the normal appropriations process. (ProPublica, April 29, 2009)

• As the Supreme Court considers another case that could erode the abortion rights guaranteed by Roe v Wade, Planned Parenthood and other critics in Maine are accusing Susan Collins of opening a door that she insisted would remain closed even after Brent Kavanaugh joined the Court. (Lewiston Sun Journal, March 4, 2020)

• Democratic turnout in Maine’s presidential preference primary on March 3 exceeded expectation, causing some communities to run short of printed ballots. Turnout exceeded 60% in some towns. Maine has a “closed” primary that prohibits registered Democrats from voting in the GOP primary and vice versa. Undeclared and first time voters are permitted to enroll in a party on election day. (Portland Press-Herald, March 3, 2020)

• Approximately one in five Maine Republicans who voted in GOP primary earlier this month did not cast their vote for President Trump, the only Republican on the ballot, electing instead to leave the ballot blank or write in a candidate. (Portland Press-Herald, March 7, 2020)

• Apart from the campaigns to win office in Washington, perhaps the biggest issue on the Maine ballot is the fight over building a major power line from Canada through central Maine. The project to deliver electricity from Hydro Quebec is supported by Democratic Governor Janet Mills and much of the political establishment, but opposed by several grassroots organizations, including environmental groups and Mainers who don’t want the power lines running through their towns. Both sides are already taking aim at their opponents in a variety of ways. (Bangor Daily News, March 6, 2020 and Bangor Daily News, March 11, 2020)