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Political Brew: The Senate race, peoples' vetoes & CMP

Fmr. Sen. Phil Harriman (R) is joined this week by a one-time State House colleague, fmr. Sen. Jerry Conley, Jr. (D), who is subbing for John Richardson


Speaker of the House Sara Gideon has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) next year. Several national organizations, including Emily's List and the National Abortion Rights League, quickly gave their endorsements to Gideon.

Phil Harriman says the Democratic establishment is sending a message that they are endorsing Gideon, "and anybody else is thinking of joining in, you're not going to get our support."

There are already two other announced Democratic candidates, activist Betsy Sweet, who finished third in the gubernatorial primary last year, and Bre Kidman, an attorney from Saco. Some observers feel a candidate, particularly one who is not well known statewide, can benefit from a lively primary.

But Jerry Conley says the party establishment is smart to rally around one candidate. He says "No Democrat is going to take (Susan Collins) lightly. Still I think she can be beat, and I think Sara Gideon is the person to give her a good race."


The legislature and the Mills administration have enacted several new laws covering very emotional issues, including using taxpayer money to pay for abortion services for low income women, eliminating religious exemptions for having children vaccinated, and an assisted suicide law.
Some opponents of these new laws are considering launching Peoples' Veto campaign. Both of our analysts believe those efforts face an uphill battle.

Harriman says new rules on disclosing who is paying for petitions to be circulated could have an impact. And he adds that with these emotional issues, "It's going to be tough to get 60,000 or 70,000 people to sign those petitions and actually get them on the ballot."

Conley agrees, and says "These are rights that the legislature has passed, that people want to have, and polls bear that out. The groups that will be trying to overturn these laws, I don't think they have the strength to do it."


In the wake of a Maine Sunday Telegram report on ongoing Central Maine Power billing problems, Public Advocate Barry Hobbins has asked the Public Utilities Commission to conduct more tests on the system. It's yet more bad publicity for the state's largest utility. But our analysts think it's unlikely to affect whether the controversial NECEC transmission line project ultimately wins approval.

Jerry Conley, Jr. says "It's not good for CMP, let's not kid ourselves. But I don't think it's going to bring that project down."

He and Phil Harriman agree on that, because the matter is up to regulators, not the governor or the legislature. Harriman says they have "this power that we call the bureaucracy. They ultimately go onto her going to decide that transmission corridor."

Harriman and Conley also offer their thoughts on the Democratic presidential debates, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on allowing political gerrymandering of Congressional districts.

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.

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