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Republican Lawmakers Split on Whether to Censure LePage

Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks during a conference on August 26, 2016.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks during a conference on August 26, 2016..

Gov. Paul LePage gave up on finding common ground with Democrats a long time ago, but he’s always been able to rely on the support of most Republicans in the Maine House. Now, as some Senate Republicans are eying a censure penalty, LePage will need the support of house Republicans to achieve any of his policy goals in the next legislative session. Some House Republicans say they need to need to hear more from LePage.

First term state Rep. Karl Ward says he had to reschedule some business appointments to make sure that he would be present for the evening meeting of House Republican lawmakers. But the chief executive officer of the Nickerson & O’Day construction company in Brewer also says the GOP meeting may dictate whether House Republicans will be working with the governor — or without him.

“I think a lot of how this is going to go is going to be dependent on how the House Republicans are going to come out of that room and what they think,” Ward says.

House Republicans say they aren’t as concerned about a splash back effect from LePage’s rant against Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine as they are about their ability to actually work with the governor in the next legislative session. Rep. Stacey Guerin, a Glenburn Republican and prominent conservative, says that even while the governor has flirted with the idea of resignation, the real issues for her and others are credibility, leadership and ironclad assurances that the next two years are going to look markedly different than the last two.

“I would want to have more input from the governor’s office on what his ideas would be on a different direction that he might be willing to take,” Guerin says. “And I think the idea of some kind of mediation, first-hand with the caucus, with the Republican caucus. The Republican caucus that I am in, we do not condone that kind of language, that kind of aggressive behavior.”

While some House and Senate Republicans are not ruling out a censure vote to condemn the governor’s behavior, others say LePage’s levels of sincerity and authenticity will help them make up their minds about whether the governor is ready to change his ways. Sen. Paul Davis of Sangerville is a conservative who thinks LePage has to make an honest effort at conciliation with Gattine before anything can happen.

“If he’s sincere in his apologies and with his meeting with Rep. Gattine, if he is sincere, then I don’t think we need to bother with the censure,” Davis said. “I think we should move on and do the people’s business.”

Rep. Deb Sanderson, a Chelsea Republican, says she has seen her share of misbehavior among Democrats and Republicans and that the Legislature’s focus should be on moving forward — not condemning the governor.

“You know I think what we need to do, instead of looking at punitive action toward the governor is to try to build a bridge between the governor and the Legislature — especially the Republican legislators who are maybe feeling like outcasts from the governor right now,” Sanderson said.

But privately, some House Republicans concede that it’s hard to build bridges with a governor who excels at burning them down.