WASHINGTON — The front of the Capitol is decked in red, white and blue. The crowd-control signs and miles of security fencing are in place.
And hundreds or perhaps thousands of Mainers will be among the massive crowds — albeit less massive than four years ago — expected to cram the Capitol grounds, the National Mall and the parade route to watch President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
They’ll include school groups from throughout the state, including a group of seven Hodgdon High School students, who made the trip from Aroostook County to Washington on Saturday morning.
“It was 16 below (zero) the other night, so this is nice,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, instructor of the politics class, said Saturday as the group enjoyed temperatures in the 50s while waiting for a tour bus. “They are having a great time and are very excited.”
While the Hodgdon group flew to D.C., Great Cranberry Island resident Gary Allen is taking the slower route. He is running from the peak of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to Washington, with a goal of completing his trek Monday.
Allen, a long-distance runner and founder of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, is raising money for the American Cancer Society and the Wounded Warrior Project and to support Sandy Hook Elementary School in Conecticut. More details on his project and his progress can be found at www.maine2dcrun.com.
Several Mainers plan to participate in Monday’s inaugural events.
Bethel resident and official inaugural poet Richard Blanco will stand in front of the crowd to read one of his compositions. Blanco is both the first openly gay and the first Latino person to be named inaugural poet.
A group of young people from Scarborough known as the Gym Dandies Children’s Circus, meanwhile, will pedal their unicycles down the parade route and past the president and first lady.
And several hundred Mainers and guests will get a jump on the inaugural festivities Sunday afternoon at a party at the New Zealand Embassy co-hosted by the embassy and the Maine law firm Preti Flaherty. Many of Maine’s top elected officials — both past and present — are expected to attend.
King to host radio show
U.S. Sen. Angus King is dipping his toe back into the broadcast business.
The news and talk radio station WGAN 560 announced last week that King, who was sworn in as Maine’s newest U.S. senator earlier this month, will host the Saturday show “Inside Maine” once a month. King was a host on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network long before he was elected governor or senator.
King’s first appearance is slated for Feb. 9. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
… and coffee
King is also offering a coffee hour for those planning a midweek trip to the nation’s capital.
Beginning Jan. 23, King will hold “Capitol Coffee with Angus” sessions in his Washington office every Wednesday when the Senate is in session. The “constituent breakfast” event will be held in Room 562 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
King plans to meet regularly with constituents in his district offices in Maine when he is back in the state, staff said.
Collins considered safe in 2014
Political prognosticators and journalists already are gearing up for the 2014 mid-term elections; but so far, they’re not seeing too much excitement in Maine’s congressional races.
On Thursday, the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, appears to be a safe bet for re-election, at least at this early stage.
“Maine Sen. Susan Collins is a Republican in a state that’s not. She’s a moderate and bipartisan in a party that’s not. Yet it would be tough for her to be any safer, politically, as she looks toward re-election in 2014,” the article reads.
The Roll Call piece also quotes Republican consultant and Maine native Erik Potholm as describing Collins as “a political rock star in Maine” who “may be the strongest Republican incumbent in the country.”
Like her recently retired former colleague from Maine, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Collins is well-regarded by many moderate Republicans in the state as well as many Democrats and independents. So the biggest threat probably would come from a primary challenger courting the conservative vote.
Of course, Snowe was pretty much considered a sure thing for Republicans in 2012 right up until the day last February, when she surprised everyone by dropping her re-election bid. Republicans lost that seat to King, an independent caucusing with the Democrats.
Pingree seeks federal ‘clean election’ law
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, is proposing a public campaign financing system for congressional elections that would be similar — in spirit, at least — to Maine’s Clean Election program.
Pingree and Rep. John Yarmuth, of Kentucky, are co-sponsoring a bill to create a voluntary system wherein candidates will receive a 5-to-1 federal match for donations below $100 from residents of their home state. The bill is similar to one Pingree introduced in 2009.
“Clean Elections has worked well in the Maine Legislature and it’s allowed candidates to spend more time talking to the people they want to represent and less time on the phone asking for donations,” Pingree said in a statement. “We should take the lessons we learned in Maine to Washington and create a public finance system for Congressional elections that levels the playing field and focuses on small donors.”
Although popular with Maine legislative candidates from both parties, the Maine Clean Election program has its critics, who disagree with spending public money on political campaigns.
Kevin Miller — 317-6256