This Week in Maine Politics: Oct. 23, 2022

Photo by Caitlin Andrews.

Today, we continue a periodic compilation of reporting on the state’s politics leading up to the Nov. 8 elections.

Abortion rights spending way up

The Monitor’s Caitlin Andrews finds that Planned Parenthood New England’s political action committee has spent what appears to be a record amount in independent expenditures to influence this year’s elections.  

Most of it went to support Democrat Janet Mills and oppose Republican challenger Paul LePage, though some of the money also went to a few key state legislative races. 

Read Caitlin’s story here.

Democrats are emphasizing the threat to abortion rights this fall in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.

Spending by all outside groups has exploded in recent weeks, reaching some $13-million, according to Maine Public. 

In a newsy roundup of the campaign season, Maine Public’s political team notes that outside groups have spent more than $2 million on state legislative races in Maine this season.

Issue: the defense lawyer shortage

Monitor reporter Samantha Hogan, who has uncovered systemic shortcomings of legal representation for indigent clients across the state, looks at how LePage and Mills have addressed the problem and how they might if elected. 

Read Samantha’s story here. And here’s a quick recap of the situation:

Dozens of defense lawyers have temporarily or altogether stopped accepting new court-appointments to cases, which threatens an actual denial of counsel in some counties. The courts are facing a possible multiyear backlog of cases. And recent pleas for a special session of the Legislature to approve emergency funding have gone unanswered.

“Neither governor has demonstrated any understanding whatsoever of the magnitude of the crisis,” James Howaniec, a Lewiston lawyer, told The Maine Monitor. 

Issues: housing and immigration

Local housing officials rebuked Republican congressional candidate Bruce Poliquin for a story he’s told on the campaign trail claiming that a homeless woman told him she was bumped from a housing list by undocumented immigrants.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the Maine Association of Public Housing Authority Directors issued a statement that did not name Poliquin but clearly was aimed at his campaign trail tale.

“Such misinformation erodes trust in the public housing system on which so many individuals and families depend for safe, quality affordable housing, and it cannot be left uncorrected,” read the statement, according to the BDN.

The Border Patrol Union has endorsed Poliquin as part of a national campaign. 

Meanwhile, Maine Public’s Steve Mistler provided a look at LePage’s shifting rhetoric on immigration.

Poll results

A new poll put economic issues ahead of abortion as the top issue among Mainers, according to the Portland Press Herald.

“When Roe was overturned, it kind of threw a bunch of things into flux and abortion kind of sucked up all of the energy in the room and that gave a lot of Democrats some hope,” Mark Brewer, the chair of the political science department at the University of Maine in Orono, told the Press Herald. “But once we have gotten further away from that, the things that were concerning voters before Roe was overturned seems to have pushed their way back to the top of the list.” 

In the race for governor, the poll put Mills ahead of LePage. US Rep. Jared Golden was leading Republican challenger Bruce Poliquin.

Find the poll by Pan Atlantic Research here.

More debates ahead

From Maine Public: “The WGME/BDN debate will take place Monday, followed by a News Center Maine/Maine State Chamber of Commerce debate on Thursday. The final gubernatorial debate will be hosted by WABI-WAGM on Nov. 3.”

 

David Dahl is the editor of The Maine Monitor. He can be reached by email: david@themainemonitor.org.

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