A Governor’s Mouth

By Jean Webster

Soon after Paul LePage was sworn in as the new governor of Maine last month his name and picture made the national news and Stephen Colbert’s program.

The reason? LePage told the Maine Chapter of the NAACP that he was too busy to attend one of the half dozen Martin Luther King breakfasts in Maine. Then, in response to media criticism, LePage said that the NAACP can “kiss my butt.”

He still wasn’t through. He then said he wouldn’t be held “hostage by a special interest” group, and if the NAACP “wants to play the race card, it’s not going to work” because “I have a black son.”

One of the many “open mouth, put foot in it” remarks by the new governor.

That LePage has a black son is a blatant lie. Devon Raymond, 25, is a native of Jamaica, not Maine. The LePage family met Raymond when his father was caddying for Paul LePage during a Jamaica vacation. But, he was not adopted by the LePages, nor does he live with them, although they are helping Raymond through college, and sometimes invite him to their home for special occasions.

That LePage would call the NAACP a “special interest group” is beyond insulting. How would he then characterize the Right to Life rally where he spoke the same weekend as the breakfast he would not attend? Were they holding him hostage? What power do they have over him?

During the campaign last year, LePage showed why he was backed by the Tea Party. In a speech to a group of fishermen and media he said, “When I’m your governor you’re gonna be seeing a lot of me on the front page saying, ‘Governor LePage tells Obama: Go to hell.’ ”

This shocked even the state’s Republicans who have voiced their concern about their new governor’s tactless remarks.

This is not the way most Mainers behave. Most of us have a more congenial way of looking at the world, our lives, and our politics. There is a kind of civility here. As a transplanted New Yorker married to a “Maine-iac” I’ve learned that people here are more laid back and, in many instances, more tolerant. For the most part, natives and newcomers respect each other, the land, the lakes and the ocean, which is not only our state’s neighbor, but its benefactor.

Perhaps it’s this mystique that has attracted tourists and “people from away.”

Paul LePage grew up in Maine but he never learned civility. For example, during the campaign, there were questions about his family’s homes, one in Waterville, Me. and one in Florida. LePage had turned the Florida home over to his wife, Ann LePage, a few years ago, but press reports revealed that Mrs. LePage was claiming residency in both states, violating tax laws in Maine and Florida. It was resolved recently, when she paid what she owed.

Then, after pledging to do away with cronyism, LePage hired his daughter for a $41,000-job as assistant to his chief of staff. Lauren LePage, 22, was a biology major who graduated from Florida State University last June. Her only work experience has been as a clerk in a variety of stores, including Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, the business her father has managed.

Governor LePage just keeps going. Now, he’s saying “go to hell” to the environment. In order to make Maine more business-friendly, LePage proposes that all of the state’s environmental laws conform to the less stringent federal standards. In a recent report, LePage addressed vernal pools, commenting that “if vernal pools are intermittent and dry up after a rainfall, I’m going to recommend that we ignore them.”

He’s obviously ignorant about the very definition of vernal pools, which fill in springtime and are breeding areas for frogs, salamanders, spring peepers, and other spring creatures important to woodland life. Yes, they dry up when the weather warms. But by ignoring them, we ignore the life of our woods, one of the principal attractions that draw visitors, and their dollars, to our state. Significant vernal pools are protected by the 2006 Natural Resources Act shielding the land around them from development.

The fact is that Paul LePage was elected by 38 percent of the voters, who were thrilled to throw out the Democratic governor and Legislature. Now we’ll see if Maine can attract tourists and new business with a head of state who can’t control his mouth, or his principles.
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Guest writer Jean Webster is a poet, public relations consultant and freelancer. She has worked for newspapers such as the Times Herald-Record and the Boothbay (Me.) Register. She lives in Maine year round, where she and her husband John operate Orne’s Candy Store, a seasonal business in Boothbay Harbor. She can be reached at guestwriter@zestoforange.com.


3 Responses to “A Governor’s Mouth”

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    this type of behavior is being encouraged by the right wing and we’ve seen the sad consequences in tucson. words can – and do – inflame. great piece, jean.

  2. Bonnie Spiegel Says:

    He’s an embarassment to most everyone in Maine…except for the minority that by a fluke got him into office. We’re counting the days till we can vote him out. Nice article Jean.

  3. Anita Page Says:

    Great post, Jean. After reading it, I was curious about voter turnout, and found this in a November piece in the Augusta paper:

    “Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says he expects 50 percent to 55 percent of eligible Maine voters to go to the polls Tuesday, based on history and other open-seat gubernatorial elections.”

    If the numbers really were that low, LePage’s 38% is really 38% of 50%, which means he was elected by approximately 20% of eligible voters. A painful lesson regarding the consequences of voter apathy.

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