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

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.

Nearly 100 so-called cold case homicide investigations could be reopened using cutting-edge forensic techniques, if Maine is successful in its request for federal funding. The Maine Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage approved the creation of a cold case homicide squad within the state Attorney General's Office two months ago, but limited state funds left the proposal contingent on potential federal funding. Now U.S. House Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree want Maine to be considered for a $300,000 cold case grant from the National Institute of Justice.

At around midday today, President Barack Obama announced the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. About 12 hours earlier, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine's 2nd District had joined other lawmakers in calling for Shinseki's departure, as an internal report indicated problems at the nation's VA hospitals were even more widespread than previously thought. Now Michaud's gubernatorial opponents in Maine say he has failed the state's veterans.

Following a private conference with Shinseki, the president spoke with reporters at the White House.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

Following revelations that a controversial consultant hired by the LePage adminstration to study the state's welfare system had lifted segments of its report from the work of a national think tank, Gov. Paul LePage has frozen future payments to the Alexander Group. LePage has also hinted that he may attempt to get a refund for the $500,000 already paid to the firm.

The state Ethics Commission voted unanimously today to fine the National Organization for Marriage more than $50,000 for violating state campaign finance laws. But they could be waiting a long time for the check. NOM'S lawyers say they will appeal the ruling to Superior Court and beyond in order to protect the names of its donors who contributed nearly $2 million in Maine five years ago to the successful campaign to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law.

The national outrage over veterans' health care services took center stage in Washington today, where President Barack Obama told reporters that the allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will be not be tolerated by his administration. The president made his remarks ahead of a Capitol Hill debate on a bill that would make it easier to fire or demote senior VA hospital executives.

It may not have been the shot heard around the state, but the televised attack and counter-attack between GOP primary opponents Bruce Poliquin and Kevin Raye were definitely heard across the 2nd Congressional District. In a television spot that began running this weekend, Poliquin hit Raye with an accusation of being "a liberal." But Raye answered with his own ad that essentially accused Poliquin of being a carpet-bagging tax dodger. A.J. Higgins is ringside.

They relied on a patchwork fix of deep cuts, layoffs and savings, but the trustees for the University of Maine System were still unable to develop a plan that will completely close a $36 million-dollar structural gap in next year's $529 million operating budget. Instead, the board voted to use one-time money from reserve accounts to buy the administration a little more time to develop a budget fix that addresses declining enrollments and higher operating costs at the system's seven university campuses.

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