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Politics

Maine Politicians Agree: LePage Remarks Should Have Ramifications

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MPBN file
Gov. Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage’s obscenity-laden voice mail rant aimed at state Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook continues to rock Maine’s political landscape. Members of LePage’s own party are also responding.

On Friday the Governor apologized to the people of Maine for losing his temper and using obscene language in his voice mail. But he refused to apologize to Rep. Gattine who he had been told called him a racist, which Gattine denies.

Throughout the weekend members of the legislature of both parties were on the phone and exchanging emails over how to handle the calls for impeachment or censure or removal from office. Republican leaders gathered at a hastily called meeting in the State house.

Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, the senate President, said, “I think there is absolutely nobody in my caucus that thinks what has transpired is appropriate and folks will work hard to make sure we respond in an appropriate fashion. Look, if anybody did this that was an employee of any corporation in this state, there would be ramifications.”

Thibodeau says that the Governor needs to take appropriate corrective action, but declined to identify what that might be. House Republican leader Ken Fredette of Newport says his members are meeting in Augusta Tuesday evening to discuss the Governor’s comments and the growing public backlash at LePage and members of his party.

“It’s important that Republican leaders and caucuses get together and talk about where they are at,” says Fredette. “Then there is a conversation we need to have with the Governor and then we have to get back together as republicans.”

But while the republicans are talking about corrective action, democrats are more blunt. Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland says LePage’s actions, including the voice mail, show he is not fit to govern.

“When you hear that you starting thinking to yourself, as well as I, everyone, that this guy is not in the right state of mind,” says Alfond. “He is unfit to serve. And what hope Governor LePage is doing right now is coming up with a graceful transition to resign from office.”

Democratic leaders say they want to give their Republican counterparts the opportunity to talk with their members and the Governor. Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport says, “It’s hard for me to know what corrective action means. I think what’s clear is they have not had a chance to speak with the Governor yet. That certainly needs to happen.”

Over the weekend the cascade of editorials, national talk show discussions and hundreds of thousands of comments on social media continued. Outrage at the Governor’s use of obscene language was the major theme. Some critics are planning a rally in Augusta’s Capitol Park across from the State House Tuesday evening. Longtime political activist Betsey Sweet is organizing the event.

“To stand up and say you know this is not acceptable, we as Mainers don’t represent these values and we want people to see and know that is not who Mainers are,” says Sweet. “That’s number one.”

Like Alfond, Sweet hopes the Governor will voluntarily resign. That is unlikely, given his responses to date.

Maine has no constitutional provision, like some states, that would allow the voters to petition to recall the Governor. He could be impeached, or censured by the legislature. But it would take a vote of the majority of party members in both the House and Senate to call themselves into session. That won’t happen without significant Republican support which is not yet apparent.