Political news

AUGUSTA, Maine - In the wake of the recent Orlando shootings, gun legislation continues to dominate the headlines in Washington D.C., and in Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage is campaigning hard to defeat a fall ballot question that would require criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm through a private sale.

During a well-attended and supportive town meeting event in Richmond Wednesday evening, LePage said the focus of the gun debate is misdirected. But the governor's critics say he has waffled on gun control and needs to check his facts.

RICHMOND, Maine - For Gov. Paul LePage, a federal policy that permits food stamp benefits to be used to purchase sugary drinks, candy and junk food is just another example of what's wrong in Washington these days.

Gov. Paul LePage continued his assault on one of Maine’s premier conservation agencies Wedensday night by blaming the Natural Resources Council of Maine for keeping the state’s property tax rates among some of the highest in New England. During one of his regular town meetings in Richmond, LePage said the state’s property tax woes could be summed up in four letters.

Democratic leaders in the Maine Legislature say lawmakers have done their work in passing four bills that Gov. Paul LePage has raised concerns about – and that now it’s up to the administration to implement them. LePage failed to persuade Democrats to return to Augusta for a special session during a half-hour meeting Wednesday that was also attended by Republicans. The governor told a gathering in Richmond Wednesday evening that lawmakers simply refuse to work with him.

The latest skirmish between Gov. LePage and the federal government over food stamps has taken another turn. The feds now say that more than 195,000 Mainers who receive food assistance could lose it if Gov. Paul LePage follows through on his threat to stop administering the program. There is no backup if the state bows out.

John Lewis

Democrats in the U.S. House literally took the floor Wednesday morning, staging a sit-in to demand a vote on proposed gun control legislation. Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree was one of the first involved.

BANGOR, Maine - Maine's largest coalition of labor organizations will gather for a political convention this week. Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director Matt Schlobohm says his group sees the convention as necessary - beyond the standard partisan political conventions - to highlight labor concerns.

BANGOR, Maine - Maine 2nd District Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is planning a town meeting next week focused on drug addiction.

Poliquin says the meeting will provide prevention and intervention strategies, and other information about addiction, support and recovery.

The Penobscot County Sheriff's office will also be on hand to perform a drug take-back, where people can dispose of unwanted medications.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The federal agency that oversees and funds state food stamp programs says Mainers receiving food assistance could lose it if the state relinquishes administration of the program.

The statement, provided to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, is in response to Gov. Paul LePage's threat to end the state's administration of a program that last month provided benefits to more than 195,000 Mainers.

"So states have the option of running a SNAP benefits program, but if a state decides not to, the federal government cannot step in and do this," Pingree says.

The LePage administration continues to tangle with the federal government for greater control over its welfare programs. Now the governor is threatening to give up administration of a $250 million food stamp program if the federal government doesn’t allow Maine to prohibit the purchase of sugary snacks and drinks with benefit cards.

Kirk Francis, Penobscot Nation Chief
United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.

A year ago, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe pulled their tribal representatives from the Maine Legislature in protest of being marginalized by state government for decades.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Penobscot Nation is formally vacating a seat it has held in Maine's Legislature for more than 150 years as tensions between the state and American Indian tribe continue.

The tribe will instead select an ambassador to work with state and federal governments. The Portland Press Herald reports that the change is a symbolic, historic shift rooted in chilled relations between state officials and Maine's federal recognized tribes.

Gov. Paul LePage is continuing to pressure lawmakers to call a special legislative session, even though he can call one himself.

The governor wrote to legislative leaders to say he is “disappointed, but not surprised” that they haven’t reconvened the Legislature to fix what he calls budgeting gimmicks in four bills that became law earlier this year.

LePage has reiterated his assertion that the bills have funding flaws that constitute the need for an emergency session.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

The polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but the question of who will represent Republicans this fall against incumbent U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree remains open.

Mark Holbrook is currently the unofficial winner of the GOP 1st District primary, with a 55-vote edge over Ande Allen Smith. But at a State House press conference Friday, Smith told reporters that he has asked the Maine secretary of state for a recount. A final determination in the race could be weeks away.

Mark Holbrook, a conservative professional counselor from Brunswick, has emerged as the apparent winner in Maine’s 1st District Republican primary, securing his party’s nomination by a mere 55 votes.

Holbrook says he was notified of his unofficial victory Thursday evening by Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

“They called at ten minutes of five and explained that all of the results were in and that they had certified them and the official number was that I had won by 55 votes,” he says.

Holbrook credited his staff with propelling him across the finish line.