A.J. Higgins

Statewide News Reporter

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, A.J. served for 13 years as political editor and State House bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News.

He began working for the BDN in 1972 while still a senior at Bangor High School, when his first job was casting the lead plates for the printing presses in the paper’s stereotype department. In the ensuing 34 years, A.J. moved up to the editorial department, where he quickly immersed himself in nearly every facet of news reporting, editing and photography.

In addition to his extensive coverage in the greater Bangor area, he also worked in the paper’s Presque Isle bureau and was named bureau chief of the paper’s Hancock County operations in Ellsworth in 1988. He was assigned to the State House in 1993.

While A.J.’s reporting on Maine Public Radio has largely centered around coverage of events in Augusta, he has turned his reporting chops to issues and topics taking place across the entire state.

A.J. resides in Manchester with his wife, Diane.

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The head of the state agency that would be charged with overseeing marijuana regulation under ballot Question 1 says his department is simply not prepared to take on that responsibility.

Walter Whitcomb, the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, is urging Mainers to carefully consider their support of the citizen initiative. But proponents say Whitcomb’s concerns can be easily addressed.

More than half of the current workforce at the Maine Military Authority in Limestone has been laid off after state officials and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority failed to reach agreement on a compromise that would allow MMA employees to continue refurbishing 21 remaining buses.

MMA authorities continue to refuse to discuss the details of the proposed compromise, which union officials say is unlikely to encourage state workers to remain the in the area for possible recall.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Some polls have shown Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump riding high in Maine’s traditionally more conservative 2nd Congressional District. But at least one national pollster is now saying that recent missteps by Trump are causing him to lose ground in northern Maine.

BANGOR, Maine - Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain said today that Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin let firefighters down when he refused to co-sponsor a healthcare bill for 9/11 first responders.

Poliquin says that he voted for the legislation last December.  But during a Bangor press event, John Martell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Maine and a Cain supporter, said that doesn't matter.

For the last month, about 60 workers at the Maine Military Authority in Limestone have been mentally preparing to enter the ranks of the unemployed while the state attempts to renegotiate a bus refurbishment contract with Massachusetts. Tomorrow was supposed to be the last day on the job for two-thirds of the workforce, but the employees have received a temporary reprieve.

Contents of a recycling bin at the Casella Waste Systems depot in Vermont
File: AP Photo/Toby Talbot

The process has been going on for more than four years, but Casella Waste Systems and the state moved closer today to getting a decision on their planned expansion of the Juniper Ridge Landfill near Old Town.

Spending in a Maine congressional race that was already shattering records edged higher today after Hillary Clinton’s coordinated campaign said it would boost efforts here to elect Clinton, along with Democratic 2nd congressional candidate Emily Cain.

BANGOR, Maine - Hillary Clinton's campaign is boosting efforts in several battleground states, including Maine, where at least one poll shows voter preference tightening in the 2nd Congressional District.

Clinton's coordinated campaign has earmarked $6 million to help down-ballot candidates, including those in the two states that are allowed to split their electoral votes.

BANGOR, Maine - A portion of the Down East coast has been reopened to shellfish harvesting after levels of a toxin that can causes amnesic shellfish poisoning were determined to have declined.

Jeff Nichols, a spokesman for the Department of Marine Resources, says some of the tidal areas between  between Calais and Cutler, and part of the shoreline between Isle Au Haut to Winter Harbor are now open for harvesting clams, mussels and carnivorous snails.

Chelsea Clinton in Haverford, PA
File photo (AP/Andrew Harnik)

During a visit today at the University of Maine, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s daughter urged her mother’s supporters to go door-to-door to elevate the national discussion from some of the crude statements made by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Chelsea Clinton said productive conversations detailing her mother’s civil rights, education and financial policies would be an improvement over the GOP agenda.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

BANGOR, Maine - Supporters of a ballot question that seeks to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next four years released their first television ad today.

Next month’s ballot question that raises nearly $160 million for school funding in its first year is being touted by teachers, unions and several progressive groups.

Supporters of Question 2 say it allow the state to meet its obligations to pay for 55 percent of local education costs, by imposing a 3 percent tax surcharge on incomes over $200,000. Opponents say while they commend the goals, the funding scheme is off target.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

State wildlife regulators are taking steps they say are designed to manage growing populations of bobcat and beaver.

Bobcats, they say, are showing up in areas of the state where they were once rarely seen, while beavers are working to take over areas claimed by humans. Opponents of the expanded hunting and trapping policy say that people are the real problem in the woods.

BANGOR, Maine - The Maine Department of Marine Resources has closed the entire Downeast region's mud flats after routine tests detected the presence of a marine neurotoxin that could affect softshell clams, mussels and mahogany quahogs.

Jeff Nichols, a DMR spokesman, said the department has issued a recall on clams harvested between Sept. 25 through Sept. 30, and that the mudflat closure affects all shellfish harvesting areas between Otter Point on Mt. Desert Island east to the Canadian border.

A new grassroots wildlife advocacy group is opposing a plan advanced by the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to extend the season for hunting bobcats and trapping beavers.

Karen Coker of WildWatch Maine says the department wants to add a week in February to the bobcat season and an additional two weeks to the beaver trapping season to provide more opportunity for hunters and trappers.