2016-08-31 / Front Page

House GOP: Gov. Paul LePage ‘sincere,’ in apology

Governor mulls options
By TAMMY WELLS
Senior Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — A Republican leader of the House of Representatives late Tuesday said the GOP House caucus is against holding a special legislative session to look into options of how to handle Gov. Paul LePage’s remarks about drug dealers and an obscenity-laced voicemail he left for a Democratic House member last week.

“No one agrees with what he said but he is sincere in his apologies,” House Republican Leader Ken Fredette told reporters following the caucus. Fredette, in video footage filmed by television news stations, said LePage “is addressing this issue and will have to continue to do so until he has finished his term of office.”

Democrats have another view. House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon issued a news release following Fredette’s remarks Tuesday night.

“Every day, Paul LePage gives Maine people more evidence that he is unfit for office,” McCabe and Gideon said in the joint statement. “The governor is not mentally able to serve and needs to resign. Tonight we saw House Republican leadership turn their backs on their duties as representatives and leaders and ignore the embarrassing events of the past few days. Maine is headed down a very dark road and Republicans must choose common sense and decency over partisan politics. The stakes are too high.”

Senate Republicans on Monday postponed a news conference scheduled for Tuesday to give the House GOP a chance to discuss the situation. Now that House Republicans have spoken, the Senate GOP leadership could issue a statement at any time.

When asked Tuesday morning whether he would finished his term, LePage told radio station WVOM that he was looking at options.

“I am not saying I will finish it or not finish it,” the governor told the George Hale and Ric Tyler Show.

By early afternoon, LePage issued this tweet: “Regarding rumors of resignation, to paraphrase Mark Twain: The reports of my political demise are greatly exaggerated.”

LePage during the radio interview Tuesday, apologized to Maine people, Rep. Drew Gattine’s family and to his own family in connection with the obscenity-laced voicemail he left for Gattine late last week.

He said he had asked legislative leaders to give him the tools to fight the drug epidemic.

“It’s been a rough summer, I’ve lost so much sleep over people dying every day and when people call you racist ... it just got to me,” LePage said. “I make no excuses,” he said, referring to the voicemail. “It is my personal fault.”

LePage was to meet with Gattine this morning.

LePage said he left the voicemail for Gattine after hearing that the Westbrook Democrat had called him a racist, which Gattine has publicly denied. In an email Tuesday afternoon, Maine House Democratic Office Communications Director Ann Kim referred reporters to a television news clip in which Gattine referred to LePage’s comments about drug dealers coming into Maine as “racially charged.” At a town hall in North Berwick on Aug. 24, he said heroin traffickers are mostly minorities while whites are largely responsible for methamphetamine crimes.

On Aug. 25, LePage left a foul-mouthed voicemail message for Gattine that said in part, “I am after you,” and then he told reporters he wished he could challenge Gattine to a duel and point a gun “right between his eyes,” reported The Associated Press.

“This is the one time in my entire life I couldn’t breathe, I was so angry,” the governor told the radio show hosts. “Deep down in my heart I know I am not a racist.”

A rally in Capitol Park Tuesday night calling on LePage to step aside drew hundreds of people, according to comments on the event on social media.

— 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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