Maine governor: Reports of my political demise 'greatly exaggerated'
AUGUSTA, MAINE >> Amid political pressure and calls for his resignation, Republican Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that he wants to make amends with the Democratic legislator he targeted in an obscene voicemail message, but he tweeted that any reports of his "political demise are greatly exaggerated."
Speaking on WVOM-FM radio, LePage apologized for his tirade last week toward Rep. Drew Gattine and said it was "unacceptable and totally my fault."
He said he's going to meet with family and close advisers to decide what to do next. He initially declined to say whether he would serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in 2019.
"I'm not going to say I'm not going to finish it," LePage said. "I'm not saying I am going to finish it."
LePage said he still has the energy to tackle issues like wait lists for state services and solar policy. But, he said, if he has lost his "ability to convince the Maine people that's what we need and that's the type of people we need in Augusta, you know, maybe it is the time to move on."
But a tweet from the governor later Tuesday seemed to specifically rule out resignation.
"Regarding rumors of resignation, to paraphrase Mark Twain: 'The reports of my political demise are greatly exaggerated,'" he wrote.
His representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. A message left for Gattine wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.
Democratic lawmakers have warned that LePage is coming unhinged, and they called for a political intervention. Some also sought his resignation and said Maine's government is no longer functional.
On Friday, LePage apologized to "the people of Maine" — but not to Gattine — a day after he left a voicemail message that said, "I am after you" and then told reporters he wished he could challenge Gattine to a duel and point a gun "right between his eyes." He also called Gattine a vulgar name related to oral sex.
LePage accused Gattine of calling him a racist. Gattine denied it, and Maine Democrats called for LePage to stop repeating the claim.
The governor has been accused of making racially divisive comments before, most recently on Aug. 24 at a town hall in North Berwick. He said he keeps photos of drug dealers charged in the state in a binder, and claims it shows that 90 percent of them "are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut; the Bronx; and Brooklyn."
LePage told reporters last week that his repeated mentioning of the race of drug traffickers is relevant because when you go to war, "you shoot at the enemy."
"And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin," LePage said. He later said that minorities are bringing in heroin while whites are largely responsible for methamphetamine crimes in Maine.
LePage on Tuesday said the photos in his binder come from press reports of drug arrests, not scientific data. The Associated Press has requested a copy of the binder.
In 2014, according to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service, 1,211 people were arrested for selling or making drugs in Maine. Of those, 170 — or 14 percent — were black.
There are signs of exasperation with LePage's conduct among Maine Republicans and Democrats alike. But any possible ramifications against LePage — who has repeatedly avoided punishment and retained his base of political support — are unclear.
Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette met with LePage at the Blaine House on Monday night. The two had earlier called for "corrective action" but didn't elaborate on what that might be.
House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, a Democrat, said that LePage has crossed a line but that he and other lawmakers may reconsider their calls for resignation if the governor agrees to seek professional help and outlines a treatment plan.
Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill questioned LePage's governing ability by pointing to the governor's comment Tuesday that being called a racist made him "so angry I literally couldn't breathe.'"
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.