Maine Delegation's Guests to Trump Speech Reaffirm Their 2019 Priorities

By Acquisto, Alex | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), February 5, 2019 | Go to article overview

Maine Delegation's Guests to Trump Speech Reaffirm Their 2019 Priorities


Acquisto, Alex, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


Good morning from Augusta. It's customary for congressional delegates to invite guests to State of the Union addresses -- tonight will be President Donald Trump's second.

These gestures often serve as symbolic attempts to curry favor with constituents, or in the case of at least one of Maine's delegates, an opportunity to buck Trump. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, Maine's most liberal delegate, has invited climate change whistleblower Joel Clement, the former U.S. Department of Interior official who was demoted last year after filing a complaint against the Trump administration for ignoring the effects of climate change on Alaska natives -- a move Pingree called "powerful and courageous."

"Since the administration wants to stifle expert voices like Joel's, we stand ready to give them a pulpit," Pingree said of her guest. Under Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, expect Pingree to be more brazen in her call for climate change action, like her vow to support firebrand freshman New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's "Green New Deal," which would make the country carbon neutral by 2030.

Last year, Pingree invited Christian Castaneda of Portland, who is one of 800,000 people caught in the middle of a debate about the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals program. At the time, Pingree and minority House Democrats were sparring with Trump and majority Republicans over the fate of people like Castaneda.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, the Democrat who ousted Republican Bruce Poliquin in November, campaigned on representing working-class voters and supporting labor unions in Maine's rural 2nd District, which has some of the state's lowest unemployment rates and backed Trump in 2016. His guest will be Cynthia Phinney, who's been president of Maine's largest labor federation, AFL-CIO, since 2015. It represents more than 150 local unions with 40,000 members.

Maine's senators' choices largely reflect where they are in the six-year election cycle. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who's quietly gearing up for what could be her toughest re-election campaign in 2020, has invited Maine House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford.

During the next year and a half, Collins will need to take hard aim at all brands of Maine Republicans, including those moderates and independents who've supported her in the past, but especially those who backed former Gov. Paul LePage, who often criticized her while in office. Dillingham represents this choice.

Collins' pick is perhaps also a not-so-subtle flex at House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, Dillingham's chief voice of opposition and, so far, Collins' biggest 2020 rival.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who in November 2018 won re-election to his second and likely final term, invited Margo Walsh, founder and owner of MaineWorks and co-founder of the Maine Recovery Fund. The organizations work in concert to find jobs for economically vulnerable Mainers, including those recovering from substance abuse disorder. It's a largely apolitical pick highlighting King's focus on collaboration among government and local entities to address the nation's opioid addiction epidemic.

Today in A-town

-- A lawmaker is rolling out a bill that would reverse a state crackdown on using a hemp compound as a food additive. Last week, the administration of Gov. Janet Mills began telling stores to remove certain products containing CBD, the non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp that has skyrocketed in popularity as a purported way to treat diverse ailments from epilepsy to inflammation (scientific evidence is only really there for epilepsy so far).

That call from state health inspectors went only to stores that don't sell medical marijuana and were selling CBD in an edible form -- including foods, tinctures and capsules -- because the compound isn't a federally approved food additive. Stores can continue to sell CBD in smokable, inhalable and topical forms. …

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