Vice President Joe Biden will be in Kittery on Wednesday morning to tour the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for “an event to highlight the shipyard’s workforce engagement,” according to a media advisory.
Accompanying Biden will be Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree of Maine, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire.
Biden’s visit has a partisan tinge, coming at a time when political campaigns in each state shift into high gear. On Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to headline a rally for Michaud’s campaign.
Michaud is in a tight gubernatorial race against Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, while Shaheen is looking to fend off a challenge by Republican Scott Brown, who according to his campaign website was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1959. Brown won a special election in Massachusetts in 2010 to replace U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, after he died 2009.
The visit also comes as elected officials in Maine and New Hampshire are awaiting word about whether they will receive a federal grant to help rebuild the rail portion of the Sarah Long Bridge, which connects Kittery to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who is supporting LePage’s re-election, and Independent Sen. Angus King, who recently endorsed Cutler for governor, have not announced plans to attend Biden’s visit, even though both have lobbied the administration for federal funding for bridge project.
In a statement from her office, Collins said she is hopeful the visit will cause the Obama administration to abandon a proposal for another round of military base closures. The Portsmouth shipyard narrowly escaped shutdown in the last round of closures.
Maine’s Democratic representatives both issued written statements ahead of Biden’s visit praising the quality and importance of the work done in Kittery.
– Randy Billings
PAC DEBUTS ATTACK AD ON LEPAGE
Maine Forward, the political action committee backing Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in his gubernatorial bid, released online Tuesday a TV ad attacking Republican Gov. Paul LePage and extolling Michaud’s virtues.
The 30-second spot, titled “Unite,” will make its TV debut Wednesday.
“Governor LePage has gotten Maine way off track,” an unidentified woman says in the ad’s voice-over.
“His policies just don’t work for the middle class,” continues an unidentified middle-aged man, standing in front of a complex of mill buildings, before the ad cuts to muted, desaturated footage of the governor speaking.
“LePage’s behavior and crude comments are a national embarrassment,” an unseen announcer intones. “His divisive politics are hurting Maine’s families,” and slams LePage on his economic record, citing rankings by CNBC and Business Insider that put Maine near the bottom of the nation for business and economic development.
Contrasting LePage with Michaud, the ad then offers comments from several Mainers who praise Michaud, saying he would unite Democrats and Republicans and be a governor “Maine can be proud of.”
The Maine Forward PAC has been funded by several labor unions, left-leaning interest groups and the Democratic Governors Association.
– Matt Byrne
CUTLER AD FOCUSES ON TAX REFORM
Independent candidate for governor Eliot Cutler touted his property tax reform plan in a 30-second television ad that will begin airing this week.
It’s the second ad featuring Cutler to hit the airwaves in the last couple weeks.
In addition, the campaign on Tuesday released a 60-second radio spot that highlights last month’s endorsement of Cutler by U.S. Sen. Angus King.
“These ads highlight an endorsement I am very proud to have and an issue that I think is very important to Maine people,” Cutler said in a statement. “I’m not hiding behind negative ads paid for by political parties and special interest groups – I’m speaking directly to Maine people in my ads and talking about what I plan to do as governor.”
The centerpiece of Cutler’s tax plan, released in April, is a major expansion of the state’s homestead exemption from $10,000 to $50,000.
Paired with the expanded homestead exemption, Cutler wants to increase revenue sharing to municipalities from $85 million in 2015 to $185 million by changing the program to a revenue rebate that he says would better target benefits to Maine towns. Communities with lower property values per capita would get more revenue sharing.
While that change would likely result in modest increases in property taxes in communities, Cutler said it would be more than offset by the increased homestead exemption.
In the ad, Cutler calls property taxes, “one of the worst tax burdens in Maine.”
To pay for these changes, Cutler said he would increase sales taxes and has offered two options that he estimates would each generate about $180 million in annual revenue to offset the property tax reduction.
The first option would increase Maine’s sales tax from 5 percent to 7 percent from May 1 to Oct. 30, the block of time when more tourists visit Maine. That option also would make permanent the 8 percent tax on meals and lodging that was passed temporarily earlier this year to help pass the state budget and would eliminate sales tax exemptions on amusement and recreational activities such as golf, skiing and movie theater tickets.
The second option would be to simply increase Maine’s sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.
Any tax reform plan would face a significant fight in the Legislature. Many efforts have tried and failed over the last several years.
Cutler has acknowledged that his plan would meet resistance but said he’s the only candidate who has offered a property tax reform plan and a way to pay for it.
– Eric Russell
RGA TAKES AIM AT MICHAUD
Maine U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud would dole out millions of tax dollars to immigrants in the country illegally if elected governor, the Republican Governor’s Association tells voters in a television ad that began running Tuesday.
For months, Gov. Paul LePage has hammered his Democratic opponent on immigration, touting his directive that cities and towns not provide welfare benefits to those who can’t prove they are living in the country legally.
In Congress, Michaud supported the 2010 DREAM Act, which would have granted legal status to hundreds of thousands of immigrant students. Michaud also opposed the 2006 Border Security Bill, which would have built a 700-mile fence along the United States’ southern border.
Republicans said Michaud favored immigrants over Maine residents.
“Do you think Maine’s cities and towns should continue to use your tax dollars to pay welfare benefits to illegal immigrants?” the 30-second ad’s narrator asks. “Mike Michaud does.”
Michaud’s campaign said the ad is rooted in politics, not facts.
“It is a distortion of the congressman’s record and it’s untrue,” said David Farmer, a senior adviser to the Michaud campaign.
“They can’t improve Paul LePage with positive ads. Voters here in Maine have a low tolerance here for negativity.”
Michaud’s campaign is on the air with two positive ads highlighting the congressman’s life story and his work to help New Balance, a New England-based company.
Campaign Notebook is a compilation of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram political blogs, Open Season and Capitol Ticker. Press Herald/Telegram staff writers Steve Mistler, Randy Billings, Eric Russell, Kevin Miller and Matt Byrne and Kennebec Journal reporter Michael Shepherd contribute to the blogs.