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.

Ways to Connect

A dozen soldiers from the Maine Army National Guard's 133rd Engineer Battalion arrived home to their families today in Augusta. They are the first members of a survey and design team that's been serving in Afghanistan since last fall.

Republicans would like to walk away from a federal probe into the internal workings of the state Department of Labor. But Democrats on a government watchdog committee are refusing to let the issue die. Today they were able to convince one Republican to support a plan that will allow further monitoring of the department, following allegations last year that Gov. LePage pressured hearing officers to be more pro-business.

Yarmouth businessman Steve Woods says Democratic Party leaders conspired against him in this past state primary election. And today, he asked the state Ethics commission to investigate. The panel agreed, but not for the reasons Woods had raised.

Mal Leary

Gov. Paul LePage is stepping up his efforts to convince Maine cities and towns to deny General Assistance benefits to undocumented immigrants.  This week, municipal leaders got letters from the governor, who says he will withhold all General Assistance reimbursement to communities that refuse to follow his directives.

Maine Democrats are taking issue with a telephone survey that they say tries to test possible vulnerabilities of gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud on several key issues. It's not clear yet whether the survey crosses over into a so-called "push poll," but the Michaud campaign says the line of questioning is clearly negative and distorts the candidate's record. But Michaud's political foes say his record is still his record.

Maine's latest crime statistics show an overall  decline of more than 9 percent last year in nearly offense category. But despite the largest crime drop in more than 20 years, Gov. Paul LePage says the state must do more to curb the significant increase in drug activity that he says is being driven by an influx of out-of-state drug dealers setting up shop in Maine. 

Members of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee had to hoped to get an update today from Maine's Department of Health and Human Services on why the state is continuing to pay a transportation contractor with a long record of poor service.

Earlier this month, the state announced it would not renew its contract with the Connecticut-based Coordinated Transportation Solutions - or CTS - which brokers rides for patients in Maine's Medicaid program, known as MaineCare.

Tom Porter

There are no new citizen initiatives around the issue of abortion this year in Maine, and no pending legislation - or even any discussion of new proposals. But those on the opposing sides of the abortion issue are becoming increasingly energized.  Dozens of anti-abortion activists packed a reception for 2nd Congressional District Republican nominee Bruce Poliquin last week and now, pro-choice advocates in Maine are endorsing the candidacy of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Michaud. Pro-choice advocates say they're taking nothing for granted this election year.

From the day it was announced that the state's nearly $1 million contract with the Alexander Group to study Maine's welfare system has been under fire. Six months later, reports of inaccurate projections and allegations of plagiarism increased the volume on Demcrats' calls for terminating the contract. Now Republican Gov. Paul LePage has done just that - but the state is still out more than $400,000 dollars.

Mal Leary / MPBN

The political landscape in Maine's 2nd Congressional District is still shaking, less than 24 hours after the polls closed on Tuesday. Former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin defeated veteran politican Kevin Raye in a bitter GOP primary that many predict will make unity in November a difficult task. Still, some gubernatorial candidates see opportunity in a divided Republican house.

Patty Wight / MPBN

The Republican battle between a pragmatist and a partisan ended with a whimper less than three hours after the polls closed when former GOP Senate President Kevin Raye called Bruce Poliquin to concede the 2nd Congressional District race. Poliquin, a former state treasurer and self-anointed "true conservative" in the primary, promised not to compromise on core Republican values while Raye had emphasized his willingness to collaborate on partisan issues.

If you're talking politics in Maine's 2nd Congressional District and someone mentions how they've never seen two Republicans go after each other with such a vengeance, you might assume they're referring to GOP rivals Kevin Raye and Bruce Poliquin. Unless, of course, you happened to be in Piscataquis County - the site of an intense primary battle between two conservative Republicans vying for a state Senate seat. The race in District 4 between incumbent Doug Thomas of Ripley and challenger Paul Davis of Sangerville has turned decidedly negative.

Mal Leary / MPBN

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud says he would create an Office of Inspector General for the state Department of Health and Human Services to identify waste and fraud. Michaud says that under the administration of his Republican rival, Gov. Paul LePage, Maine's largest state agency has been mismanaged, and mired in scandal. Michaud's Blaine House opponents say the plan would simply increase the size of government bureaucracy with no guarantees of greater accountability.

The contentious campaign to unseat Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce today entered a new arena - the state Ethics Commission. Joyce filed a complaint with the commission asking the agency's staff to investigate whether his Democratic opponent, Michael Edes, coordinated his campaign with the activities of a political action Committee called Citizens for a Safe Cumberland County. The PAC has paid for numerous mailings and radio ads targeting Joyce and supporting Edes.

The re-election campaign of Maine Gov. Paul LePage was in the pits today - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In this case, the setting was a gravel pit filled with supportive construction workers, as LePage accepted the endorsement of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine. The Republican governor used the event to promise to help Maine workers get the skills they need to earn a livable wage. But the governor's critics point to LePage's veto of a bill to raise the state minimum wage, as proof that he's not serious about improving Mainers incomes.

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