LePage Supporters Sticking with Gov Despite Meetings With Extremists

Jul 1, 2014

LePage supporter Steve Smith, of Turner, pays for lunch at Simones in Lewiston.
Credit Susan Sharon

Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud, who is challenging Gov. Paul LePage for the Blaine House, says the governor exhibited poor judgment by meeting with members of a domestic terrorist group eight times. And Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler says it's unfortunate that LePage gave them so much time when there are so many real challenges facing Maine. But LePage supporters in his hometown of Lewiston are sticking by him.

Speaking with reporters in Lewiston Tuesday morning, Congressman Michaud says it was wrong for LePage to meet with members of Sovereign Citizens to discuss their allegations of treason by Democratic leaders, yet refuse to meet with Democratic leaders themselves to discuss policy matters.

"It's really concerning to me and it shows a lack of judgment by this governor and how he's governing the state of Maine," Michaud says.

Maine Democrats are now calling on LePage Republicans to denounce the beliefs and threats of the Sovereign Citizens group. Michaud says such rhetoric can incite violence and has no place in politics.

"I have a concern with the seriousness of this issue," Michaud says. "And my colleague, Gabby Giffords, who was shot in Arizona - this type of behavior from this governor encourages that, whether they think it does or not. It does. And it's wrong."

For his part, independent Eliot Cutler said in a written statement, "This is just one more unfortunate distraction from the hard work of creating jobs and getting Maine’s economy back on track. This group is doing nothing to help Maine grow and it is regrettable that the Governor apparently gave them so much of his time."

LePage supporter Karin MacDonald at Simone's in Lewiston.
Credit Susan Sharon

But at Simones Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston, LePage supporters are unfazed by the latest controversy involving the governor. Karin MacDonald, who lives in Lewiston and says she'll vote for LePage in November, is skeptical that LePage ever met with the group in the first place.

"Where would we meet them? We would have known about it," she says. "I mean, with everybody having a phone now with a camera, I mean, it would have come out long before now."

Susan Sharon: "So you just don't believe the story?"

Karin MacDonald: "I don't believe it, no."

A spokesperson for the governor has confirmed that her boss did meet with members of the group. But Mike Cloutier of Greene says the fact that a Democratic activist is the source of the revelations also gives him pause. Cloutier says he voted for LePage in the last election and will do so again. He thinks LePage is being held to a different standard than other elected officials.

"My biggest question would be why, in the state of Maine, the governor does what he does and he gets harassed and bashed. However, the president does what he does and he's looked at as a saint."

"He needs to be a little more careful about what he says sometimes. He's rough as a cob," says Steve Smith, of Turner. Smith says that despite that roughness, he supports just about everything LePage has done in office. He says he's not familiar with the Sovereign Citizens or their beliefs. And whether LePage met with them or not, Smith says it won't change his vote.

"The other two candidates are so far flung from reality of what we need in Maine that I don't think there's anything Gov. LePage could do to make me change my mind in favor of one of the other two candidates," Smith says.

But while LePage doesn't appear to be losing support from his base, at least anecdotally, the latest allegations have only solidified Polly Gosselin's opinion of the governor. Gosselin is a Democrat from Oakland.

"He says things that are just unbelievable. He pushes things to the extreme," Gosselin says. "And he should be embarassed by the way he behaves, by the things he says in public."

In this case, however, it is the things that were said in private that are now up for debate.