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Maine Governor Draws Bipartisan Ire, but Action Not Likely

Gov. Paul LePage at a town hall meeting last month in South Paris.

PORTLAND, Maine - Gov. Paul LePage's latest remarks have drawn bi-partisan criticism. But whether that will translate into action against the governor is less than likely.

The governor's expletive-laden tirade last week aimed at Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine, and his suggested threat of violence, has clearly crossed a line for some, like Republican state Sen. Amy Volk.

"Censure certainly seems like it would be warranted," Volk says. "And I would welcome the ability personally to just officially go on record as being able to say that I disagree with this kind of behavior amongst public officials."

A censure would be an official statement, approved by the Legislature, rebuking LePage.  While it has no practical effect, it would, nonetheless, be a historically rare act, not only in Maine, but anywhere in the country.

But such an act would require a special session of the Legislature.  The governor could call one, but probably won't, for obvious reasons.   The Legislature can summon itself, if a majority of House Republicans, a majority of House Democrats, a majority of state Senate Republicans, and a majority of state Senate Democrats - the four "caucuses" as they're called in Augusta - each agree to do so.

Once convened, such a session could also provide a forum for Portland state Rep. Ben Chipman, a Democrat who has already said he'd like to try again to impeach LePage and remove him from office.  That may discourage Republicans from voting to convene a special session.

Tomorrow evening in Augusta, there's a rally being planned.  Organizer Betsy Sweet says it has three goals.

"One is to stand up to the violence, the bullying, the threats of violence and the racism, and to stand up and say, 'No this is not acceptable.  We as Mainers do not represent these values and we want people to see and know that that is not who Mainers are.' That's number one.  Two, the 'O' in SOS - Save our State - is to offer real support to addicts and to people who are in recovery to stem this terrible epidemic by offering real programs and things that actually work.  That will help people that are in that situation and also help our law enforcement community to do things that are helpful and unite to address this problem.  And the third thing is to ask the governor to voluntarily step aside."

Sweet says it's ironic that this is happening at a time when schools are going to great lengths to stamp out bullying behavior.

"The victims of bullying that I've worked with over the years - hundreds of them - they say the hardest part for them is not actually the event or the bully, but the bystanders who watched and did nothing," Sweet says. "So as citizens, I think we are the bullied, and we are also the bystanders."  

The Maine Constitution does provide a mechanism for the Legislature to remove a governor from office due to lack of fitness to serve, but that would require the approval of the Legislature, which would have to petition the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for approval of its action.

In case you're wondering, Maine has no provision by which voters could recall the governor.  In fact, such a provision was defeated in 1908.   Any such provision would be a constitutional amendment, requiring the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature, followed by the approval of voters in a general election.