Mal Leary

Maine Public Political Correspondent

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.

A lifelong journalist and Maine native, Mal has worked as both a reporter and editor in broadcast and in print, in both Washington, D.C. and in Maine. He has won numerous awards for his reporting on state government issues and politics.

For several years he owned and operated Capitol News Service, which was located in the State House complex providing news coverage to radio stations as well as newspapers.

Mal is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors and has long been an advocate for open government. He is the SPJ Sunshine Chair in Maine and is currently the president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition based at the University of Missouri Journalism School and is a Vice President of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition.

Mal is married with three grown children, several grandchildren and lives in Augusta, within sight of the Capitol dome.

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Next week, Maine voters will decide whether to continue to use ranked-choice voting in future elections. In anticipation of this decision, two very different campaigns are underway, each attempting to shape public opinion in advance of the election.

Supporters of ranked-choice voting are behind hundreds of thousands of dollars of broadcast advertisements urging Mainers to keep the system they will use for the first time next week, including on featuring actress Jennifer Lawrence.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

Representatives from 126 organizations, ranging from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce to advocacy groups for direct care workers, are calling on Maine lawmakers to set a date for a special legislative session to complete their work. 

“Direct care services will be cut by 12 percent on June 30 if the Legislature doesn’t come back and prevent this crisis and fund direct care workers,” said Lydia Dawson, executive director of the Maine Association of Community Service Providers, at an Augusta news briefing Tuesday.

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

Maine independent U.S. Sen. Angus King says he will vote to keep ranked-choice voting in next week’s referendum vote.

“A high number of voters said this is something they want," King says, "and I don’t like the idea that we essentially voided what the voters said.”

King says he was reluctant to publicly comment on the ranked-choice voting referendum because some will say he is doing so to benefit his re-election campaign.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

President Donald Trump has tweeted that he believes he could pardon himself under the broad Constitutional powers granted to presidents. Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine disagrees.

Trump has asserted that he has the right to pardon himself, but won’t use his power to do so since he has done nothing wrong. But King says the implication that a president can never be held accountable for his or her actions is inconsistent with other powers of the Constitution.

The state’s Juvenile Justice Assistance Group is launching a study of the use of school resource officers as one way to improve school safety.

Barry Stoodley, the chair of the group, says the study is important and timely.

“With all of the school shootings and the discussion about arming teachers and more policing in the schools and so forth, the JAG thought it would be advantageous to initiate this study,” he says.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King officially kicked off his re-election campaign at a rally in Brunswick.

King says he is running for a second term for the same reason he ran in 2012: Congress is broken and needs bipartisan leadership to get things done.

“I’m just going to continue to talk about the issues that I talked about this morning about opioids, forest economy, veterans and just go forward and try to convince the people of Maine to hire me for another six years,” he says.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has reported out a "mini-budget" bill that would pay direct care workers at current levels for another year, starting July 1. It would also provide some money for county jails.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee was scheduled to work on bills for a potential special session of the Legislature, but Wednesday, when the leaders of the committee met, it was clear that they are at something of an impasse.

Mal Leary sat in on the meeting of the chairs and party heads of the committee, and he spoke with Maine Things Considered Host Nora Flaherty about the proceedings.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Revenues for the state of Maine came in $55 million above estimates in April, increasing the surplus to nearly $71 million with two months left to go in the budget year.

State officials say Maine companies and individual taxpayers paid more in final tax payments in April than expected, fueling the significantly higher than expected revenues. 

“We are seeing such consistent growth on that line at this point that unless something significant changes in the near future, you can attribute it to real growth in the economy,” says state Finance Commissioner Alec Porteous.

Peter Morrison / Associated Press

The central goal of any political campaign is to identify voters that are likely to support you, and motivate them. While campaign expenditures are still mostly dedicated toward broadcast media, print ads and mailings, the use of social media to target voters is starting to catch on in state campaigns.

Say you’re surfing the internet and land on a post about the race for governor — you read a few lines, then move on to funny cat videos. But then you notice the ad feed on your browser features a candidate for governor. Welcome to the world of data mining for campaigns.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP Photo

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a 2019 Defense bill that includes several provisions that benefit Maine defense industries.

The legislation authorizes more than $5 billion in funding for three new destroyers that will be built at Bath Iron Works (BIW), and it authorizes money to complete the third Zumwalt destroyer, which is currently under construction.

Senator Angus King, who serves on the committee, says the measure also authorizes a new class of frigates that could be built at BIW and keep the work force stable.

The Maine State Police will have extra troopers on the road this Memorial Day weekend, which also marks the official start of the summer tourist season.

Expect to see more marked and unmarked state police cruisers throughout the state in areas that are popular with speeders or known for accidents.

“Speeding, distracted driving, driving while impaired. And a lot of it is trying to target aggressive drivers, drivers maybe that are not showing a great deal of patience,” says acting chief of the state police, Lt. Col. John Cote.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The legislature’s watchdog agency is recommending that lawmakers do a comprehensive review of the state’s bottle deposit law, passed first by voters at referendum in 1976.

The office of Program Evaluation And Government Accountability reviewed the history and operations of the bottle deposit law, and it concluded that lawmakers need to consider several changes to make the law work more efficiently. The report suggests several improvements in data collection and recommends changing language in the current law that it found to be confusing.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press File

With the filing deadline of June 1, it’s not clear whether a record number of Maine independents will qualify to seek office this year. But many of them feel they have an advantage, even though they have to work harder to get elected.

By their very nature, independents are a diverse group ranging in philosophy from more conservative to strongly progressive. And they face several obstacles in getting elected over party nominees.

(ExplainMaine: Why is Maine so Politically Independent?)

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told a meeting of the Senate Health Committee Tuesday that more needs to be done to encourage health professionals to specialize in caring for seniors.

“Within the next two years, our seniors will outnumber our children,” she says.

Collins says the rest of the country will reach that milestone by 2035.