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

The recent announcement that a Pittsfield nursing home will have to close because of low MaineCare reimbursement rates is re-igniting a political fight at the State House.

An international Web site with more than a half-million members around the world has a comparatively high following in Maine, according to a study undertaken by a Harvard economist.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority appears to be unswayed by opposition to a planned $16 million layover facility in Brunswick. Opponents, including state lawmakers and local residents, say the facilility will generate noise, and say Brunswick is not the best site.

Mal Leary

Two major political groups are deploying significant assets in Maine, vowing to make this year's gubernatorial race a top priority. The Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association both see Maine's close three-way race for governor as a challenge and say they will pull out all the stops to ensure a victory.

Supporters of independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler have filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Portland, challenging state policy governing contributions to non-party candidates. The suit alleges that the restrictions are unconstitutional.

In an effort to clarify how he really feels about Social Security, Gov. Paul LePage launched a series of robo-calls to targeted voters this week.  This follows a press reolease he issued last week that defined Social Security and Medicare benefits as "welfare." LePage now says that's not accurate. But instead of issuing a correction, the governor is blaming the media for the snafu. And his opponents are dismissing it as too little, too late.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randy Liberty is recounting his meeting earlier this year with Gov. Paul LePage, and three members of a group that critics say is tied to a right wing extremist movement on the FBI's watch list.

The LePage administration confirmed today that Gov. Paul LePage had several meetings with members of a group tagged as a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI. The Sovereign Citizens, whose members reject taxes, U.S. currency, and believe that the U.S. government is illegitimate, say the governor met with their representatives for 16 hours during several sessions last year.

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.