How Did Mild-Mannered Maine Get America's Craziest Governor?
By COLIN WOODARD - January 08, 2014
By COLIN WOODARD - January 08, 2014
** What better way to start a governorship than to refuse to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast and, when the NAACP complains, tell them, on camera, to “kiss my butt”?
** LePage defended the restoration of BPA in bottles by saying, with a smirk, that the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards.”
** Crowds of protesters were on the steps of the statehouse condemning LePage’s removal of a mural illustrating the history of Maine’s labor movement from the Department of Labor because an anonymous letter writer had likened it to North Korean efforts to “brainwash the masses.”
** LePage threatened to move his office out of the statehouse.
** Refused for months to allow his commissioners to testify before legislative committees.
** Ordered state employees not to speak to the state’s largest newspaper chain.
** He is skeptical of wind power—and sabotaged a $120 million offshore wind investment by Norwegian energy giant Statoil.
** A declared belief that some turbines “have a little electric motor that turns the blades [when the wind isn’t blowing] … so that they can show people wind power works.”
** He has advised students: “If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.”
** LePage said on the campaign trail that the president could “go to hell”.
** Told supporters at a private fundraiser that Obama “hates white people”.
** LePage denounced a Democratic state senator for always wanting to “give it to the people without Vaseline.”
** He has likened the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo.
** Claimed the agency’s enforcement of Obamacare would cause a slaughter comparable to the Holocaust.
** He told schoolchildren that Maine’s newspapers are full of lies and joked about bombing the largest of them, the Portland Press Herald.
LePage’s behavior has been all the more jarring because Mainers have long seen their state as a bastion of practical, common-sense politics.
~Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Angus King, Edmund Muskie, George Mitchell~
** “For decades,” says state Senate president Justin Alfond, a Democrat who often tangles with the governor, Mainers have felt “pride that our politics weren’t like other states. Paul LePage has changed all of this.”
** Republicans are the smallest of Maine’s electoral blocks (28 percent of registered voters) after independents (37 percent) and Democrats (32 percent).
** LePage had the luxury in 2010 of running against not just one independent but three. He won the election with 38 percent of the vote
** He signed a $150 million tax cut, the largest in state history, which reduced the top income tax rate and doubled the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million.
** A five-year limit on welfare benefits was imposed.
** Laws restricting big-box stores and mining were repealed.
** His plan to roll back environmental regulations—including the BPA ban—was rejected by the then-Republican-controlled legislature
** Shortly after he signed a bill to end same-day voting registration, it was overturned in a popular referendum by 65 to 35 percent.
** LePage said he would like to lower the legal working age from 16 to 12.
** Eldest of 17 children in a working-class Franco-American family.
** Fled his tenement home in Lewiston, Maine after his father dislocated his jaw.
** Lived for a time on the streets.
LePage received helping hands from private benefactors:
** Neighbors who took him in.
** The businessman who gave him work.
** Olympia Snowe’s future husband—who got him into Husson College, despite his poor grades, and paid his first year’s tuition.
** His first father-in-law, who put him in control of a family sawmill in Canada.
** LePage worked hard, excelling in college and at business while some of his siblings, by his account, became welfare dependents and, in some cases, criminals. This appears to inform his dim view of social assistance.
LePage’s extreme distaste for environmental and labor regulations follows a career in the resource extraction sector, where he worked variously as financial controller at a large firm and as the court-appointed manager of smaller firms that were in bankruptcy.
** He has blamed such regulations as obstacles to business.
** He embellished them, claiming (erroneously) that the state had once required him to do a wildlife survey of black flies.
** “LePage seems to go out of his way to alienate people who disagree with him,” says Sandy Maisel, chair of the government department at Colby College in Waterville.
** Dan Demeritt, LePage’s former communications director, agrees with that assessment. “LePage seems like the kind of guy who will poke the establishment in the eye, bite the hand that feeds him and refuse to carry water for anybody,”.
** He told supporters that he expects to face a barrage of “vicious” negative ads financed by labor unions “because I am going to be the next Scott Walker in this country, because I am challenging the status quo.”
LePage’s supporters are praying that independents split the vote just as they did in 2010—and that looks like a real possibility.
** LePage is widely seen to have damaged the brand of the Republican Party as a whole in the state.
** State Republicans in the LePage era have been internally divided by an insurgency of libertarian activists who seized control of the last two state party conventions
-- Passing platforms demanding a “return” to Austrian economics.
-- The sealing of the borders.
-- Prosecution of those found colluding in the “global warming myth”.
-- Vigilance against “efforts to create a one world government.”
Democrats are clearly worried about Cutler’s bid, with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, already warning, “A vote for Cutler is a vote for LePage.” One thing is for sure, though: If LePage’s detractors fail to coalesce around a single candidate this November, the governor could be with them for a whole lot longer.
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