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Political Brew: The race for governor, Biden's vaccine mandates, and 'social infrastructure'

This week's analysts are former state senator and mayor of Portland, Democrat Ethan Strimling, and former Republican state senator Phil Harriman.

MAINE, USA — Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage will formally launch his campaign for a return to the Blaine House later this month. Some new poll numbers released this week by the progressive organization called Swing Hard, Turn Left, indicate many Democrats are unhappy with some of the vetoes in the last session by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

"I don't know if anybody would challenge her in a primary, it just weakens her base a little bit. Democratic support is softer than it should be. She needs to solidify that," Ethan Strimling, who is the president of the group that sponsored the survey, said.

Phil Harriman believes there is an opening for LePage if he "demonstrates that he's going to focus on the policies that he championed as governor, and he's going to be more of a diplomat than a firebrand, I think Janet Mills has got a very tough road ahead."

But Strimling adds that while Mills' support among Democrats may be soft, "Paul LePage is a great uniter for Democrats, so they will come home and do everything possible to defeat him."

President Joe Biden has imposed new measures designed to boost vaccination rates and blunt the impact of the delta variant of COVID-19. His orders include mandatory vaccinations for federal workers, people at companies with more than 100 employees, and all health care workers.

Harriman thinks the president's goal is admirable, but he thinks because of scattershot policies, the administration has "lost the credibility amongst the people who are most vulnerable, who should get vaccinated because they haven't convinced them that they know exactly how to attack this virus."

But for Strimling, it's the right move at the right time.

"This is normal operating procedure for a country that wants to be healthy," he said.

Strimling also believes this could take some pressure off of Gov. Mills, who has faced pushback over her own order that all health care workers in Maine get vaccinated.

But Harriman said, "It's not whether it's the state government or the federal government, it's about what is going to work for America."

Democrats in Washington have begun crafting details of the so-called 'social infrastructure' bill, which is likely to cost $3.5 trillion. The aim is to create a package that can pass without any Republican support if necessary.

But there is dissension among Democrats themselves.

Strimling said the priorities it will address are important for Americans. 

"These are really important initiatives that will impact Americans' lives across the spectrum, working-class Americans, low-income Americans who desperately need his help."

He adds that if Democrats pass it, it will be helpful for the party in next year's midterm elections.

Harriman said he doesn't think such a massive spending package will sit well with taxpayers, especially coming on the heels of another trillion-dollar infrastructure package that had Republican support.

"There are some Democrats in the House and the Senate who feel this is going too far, and they're going to have a lot of influence on what this final package looks like," he said.

Our analysts also discussed the campaign by former Rep. Bruce Poliquin to try to recapture his seat in Maine's second Congressional district, the new abortion restrictions in Texas, and whether they spell the end of Roe v. Wade, and the political fallout from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

NEWS CENTER Maine's Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.