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Political Brew: Collins votes to convict Trump, controversies for MaineHealth and CMP, and 2022 races

This week our analysts are former Republican state Sen. Phil Harriman and former state Sen. and Mayor of Portland, Democrat Ethan Strimling

MAINE, USA — On Saturday, just over five weeks after the Senate chamber was ransacked by the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, the men and women who work in that chamber voted to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting the insurrection.

Seven Republicans joined all Democrats and independents to convict Trump, but those 57 votes were 10 short of what would have been needed for conviction.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins was one of the seven Republicans voting guilty. Independent Sen. Angus King also voted to convict Trump.

Phil Harriman said Collins showed consistency with her vote, and that it "keeps her on the path that she has been on since the saga began."

Ethan Strimling believes Collins made the right call but disagrees that she showed consistency.

"She voted not to convict when she was up for reelection and Trump could still do damage to her, but good for her for doing this," Strimling said. "This is the most bipartisan vote for conviction in our country's history far and away. I think the vote she took helped lead the charge."

Strimling applauded the House managers for the case they made, saying, "They really tied Trump very clearly to being the person who invited the people to D.C., encouraged them to charge the Capitol, and continue the violence without him stepping in. The defense basically attacked everything but the evidence."

But Harriman thinks the managers "should've had more clear and convincing evidence of (Trump) being engaged in and coordinating and ordering this assault. They just went through and played on the visuals and the emotions of what happened, but didn't prove that he conspired or incited the behavior."

And Harriman added, "If Donald Trump is responsible for this behavior, they should go into the criminal court system and that's where the decision should be rendered."

Strimling said the verdict sends a sad message "that a president can incite a riot against the Congress of the United States and try to overturn a legitimate election."

MaineHealth, the largest health care organization in the state, drew fire this week for its decision to vaccinate all of its 22,000 employees, even those who did not meet state guidelines for vaccine distribution -- including out-of-state contractors who had been brought in to squelch efforts to have nurses form a union.

Gov. Janet Mills called it "inexcusable."

Strimling agreed, and said the values of Maine Medical Center in Portland, part of MaineHealth, "have been backwards for months."

He says Maine Med refused to give hazard pay to frontline workers, is trying to bust a union, and has now vaccinated people who didn't need to be vaccinated.

"They didn't vaccinate people going into the communities," Strimling said. "They vaccinated the people working at home, people who are sitting at computers. They vaccinated people who are not coming in contact with patients instead of vaccinating patients, our parents, our grandparents, people who desperately need it."

Harriman said MaineHealth has acknowledged it should not have vaccinated the out of state contractors, but he believes the company acted to protect the healthcare system during a crisis.

"Whether you're in the janitorial department or the IT department or in a leadership position, we need the healthcare system from top to bottom to be prepared to serve us," he said.

Central Maine Power found itself in another public relations mess this week. The utility told solar power developers that they may have to come up with millions of dollars for upgrades to utility substations to handle all the incoming solar power.

CMP did a quick about-face, saying there's a fix that would cost hundreds of thousands instead of millions per substation.

Rep. Seth Berry, who wants to see CMP become a consumer-owned utility, said this is another reminder that the foreign-owned company can't be trusted to oversee our energy future.

Strimling said, "CMP has got to realize who they work for. They work for us, they work for the ratepayers ... And they are failing on this front over and over again."

He added, "CMP should be stepping forward and saying, 'We will absorb all of the additional costs. We told you, we had a contract, this is what it would cost to connect to our lines.' But of course, they won't, because they don't feel like they work for us and that's a problem."

But Harriman said the company was trying to focus on safety issues from adding so much new power to the system. He says CMP Chairman David Flanagan has admitted "that they didn't do a good job of thoroughly analyzing the options. They have moved out of the leadership chain and recognized there are less costly ways to ensure that the transmission system has integrity and that it is safe."

The 2022 elections are more than a year-and-a-half away, but there is plenty of speculation about a couple of races. The National Republican Congressional Committee put out a list this week of what it said are 47 Republican pickup opportunities in the 2022 cycle.

Maine's second district Rep. Jared Golden is listed, even though he was re-elected even as Donald Trump won the CD-2 electoral vote.

Strimling said the NRCC list is all about fundraising, and while Golden is in a good position, there are potential vulnerabilities.

"He's got to make sure that he stays close to his constituents," Strimling said. "There will be a backlash against the incumbent president. That always happens in midterm races. But he won a district which Donald Trump won by eight points, and he still won by six, so that's a 14 point swing that Republicans would really have to find a way to shift."

Harriman agreed Golden is in good shape because he has "walked that balance point between his Democrat philosophy and his Republican-leaning district."

Maine will also have a gubernatorial election next year. Gov. Janet Mills told NEWS CENTER Maine she sees no reason why she wouldn't run for re-election. And former Gov. Paul LePage has said repeatedly he intends to challenge Mills.

But neither Mills nor LePage has officially declared anything.

Harriman believes if LePage really intends to run, he's smart not to declare just yet.

"If I'm Gov. LePage," said Harriman, "I'm going to keep a low profile while the Republican backlash from the insurrection in Washington drifts off the front page."

Harriman added that he's "also aware of potential Republican candidates who are preparing so that if (LePage) does not in the run, there will be a viable field of Republican candidates for the nomination.

Ethan Strimling said he doesn't think that LePage will actually run. But he's concerned about the lack of an obvious campaign by Gov. Mills.

"I would hope that behind the scenes she's doing a lot more than she seems to be because she needs to get prepared," Strimling said. "Democrats don't want to lose the seat, we want our nominee to be very strong and very ready for this."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Weekend Morning Report.

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