2016-08-30 / Front Page

Legislators decry Gov. Paul LePage behavior

Leaders mull options
Senior Staff Writer

WELLS — Since the content of Gov. Paul LePage’s obscenity-laced voicemail to Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook surfaced late last week, Republican Sen. Ron Collins of Wells said he’s heard from constituents by phone, email, and from one woman who knocked on his door. He’s heard from Republicans, Democrats and independents, he said.

“They all want something done. It is the same message,” said Collins Monday. “They feel as if there is something wrong with him (LePage), and they want it addressed.”

So does Collins, though how the matter will be addressed remains uncertain this morning.

“I don’t approve of that kind of vulgar language being used by anybody, legislators or certainly our governor,” said Collins. “I just can’t support the governor on his actions – vulgar language and threats directed at Gattine – I can’t tolerate that.”

Collins said he tends to agree with Republican Sen. Amy Volk of Scarborough, who has suggested censure.

As of press time this morning, no specific path had emerged as Republican leaders try to figure out a fitting punishment for LePage’s racially charged comments and the voicemail. On Monday at a meeting of New England governors and Canadian premiers, The Associated Press reported that LePage repeated claims he made last week when he told the State House News Service that whites from Maine are responsible for methamphetamine-related crime, while out-of-state blacks and Hispanics are responsible for the heroin trade.

While Volk has suggested censure, others say that isn’t enough – Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett has invited folks to a rally tonight in Capitol Park in Augusta, where, he said, “Mainers will cross the street and form a circle around the Blaine House, joining hands in solidarity as they call on LePage to resign.”

According to the AP, Senate President Michael Thibodeau said he hoped LePage would take “corrective action” himself without a formal legislative censure. LePage has agreed to discuss the matter with family and his closest friends, said Thibodeau spokesman James Cyr.

Legislative leaders were meeting with LePage Monday night, Collins said.

Some local Republicans say action has to be taken.

“I absolutely do not condone the governor’s recent call to Rep. Gattine,” said Republican Rep. Karen Gerrish of Lebanon in a message sent from Virginia, where she is attending an education conference. “It’s unacceptable.”

Gerrish said that she had attended LePage’s recent Town Hall forums in Sanford and North Berwick and pointed out that “troublemakers” keep showing up, following the governor from event to event,

“They poke, and agitate (and) accuse him of being a racist, which he is not, this I know,” said Gerrish. “No matter what though, there needs to be some self control.”

“One thing is for certain, Rep. Gattine and the people of Maine deserve a sincere apology from Gov. LePage,” said Rep. Matthew Harrington, a Sanford Republican, in a response to request for comment Monday night. “Our governor is not a politician and he wears his heart on his sleeve, and as such, off the cuff comments like these happen. These comments are fueled solely by emotion. I know I have said things in the past I regret, and as a measure of true civility I think it’s important to remember none of us are perfect. All that being said, we must hold our governor to a higher standard than what we’ve seen recently. I’m confident he truly regrets sending that voicemail and would agree he needs to work on not doing this. I will be working with other legislators to determine the best course of action going forward. The people of Maine should know that we don’t agree with these outbursts.”

Republican Sen. David Woodsome of Waterboro said he’ll hold off on comment until House Republicans have met to discuss the issue – they’re scheduled to do so tonight. Senate Republicans have already met but a news conference that had been tentatively scheduled for today by Thibodeau, the Senate president, is on hold for now, until House Republicans have had a chance to get together.

“This deeply saddens and upsets me,” said Woodsome in a social media posting after the voicemail surfaced. “The governor has jumped off the cliff of professionalism and personal stability.”

Democrat Martin Grohman of Biddeford said he and the governor have worked together on projects like a bill that enabled low income Mainers to finance heat pumps on their energy bills.

“The governor’s recent actions and statements have repeated and escalated a long and disturbing pattern,” said Grohman in a statement to the Journal Tribune. “It is clear to most people now that something is wrong. The questions about his effectiveness and suitability as the state’s highest elected official are now unavoidable, and it would be irresponsible to look the other way and pretend the situation doesn’t exist.”

Grohman said he is concerned about an impact on the state’s economy. And he said he supports a special legislative session or some other, unspecified similar effort to take action on the matter.

Calls Monday to Democratic Sen. Linda Valentino of Saco and Republican Wayne Parry of Arundel were not returned by press time this morning.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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