Paul LePage, the embattled governor of Maine
Paul LePage, the embattled governor of Maine | youtube, the commons

Maine Gov. LePage escapes calls for removal

Maine House Republicans blocked a Democratic effort over Labor Day weekend to call a special legislative session to remove Republican Gov. Paul LePage for controversial statements he made in late August.  
At a town hall meeting on August 24, LePage said Maine’s heroin epidemic was caused almost entirely by black and Hispanic drug dealers who live out of state. Maine is 95 percent white, according to Census data.
The next day, he left a profanity-laden voicemail for Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine, who was reported to have called LePage racist after hearing his remarks about drug dealers.
Both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders criticized LePage’s remarks and the voicemail in which he swore at Gattine and said “I’m after you.” But because the legislature adjourned in April, the only way to offer an official reprimand or to move for impeachment would be to reconvene for a special session.
“Under Maine’s Constitution, I asked our Republican colleagues to agree we needed to take some kind of action on Gov. LePage’s repeated, inexcusable conduct – and how he prevents us again and again and again from working on issues important to Maine people,” House Speaker Mark Eves said on Tuesday.
Eves accused Republicans of “enabling two more years of distraction and dysfunction by Gov. LePage.”
Republicans, though, said Democrats were trying to spend taxpayer money to score political points before an election.
“What they’re trying to do is get us to come back and spend a boatload of money to do something meaningless 70 days before an election,” Rob Poindexter, communications director for Maine House Republicans, said. “Nothing that they’re trying to accomplish here is legal or makes any sort of sense whatever.”
The legislature cannot censure a co-equal branch of government, and when Democrats pushed for impeachment in January they did not have the votes within their own party, Poindexter said, so that makes any special session a waste of time.
“We met for almost three hours on Tuesday (August 30th) as a caucus and batted everything else back and forth and decided we are not coming back at a cost of $50,000 a day right out of the chute,” Poindexter said. “That is by no means an endorsement of what the governor said or how he acted or how he reacted.”
Under Maine’s constitution, majorities of both parties must agree to call the legislature back into session. Last week, Speaker Eves initiated a poll of all House members after Republicans announced that they had already polled their caucus and found no support for a special session. Eves gave members until 5 p.m. Tuesday to answer.
According to the speaker’s office, 84 were in favor and 67 opposed, with only four Republicans saying they favored a special session.
The poll question did not specify what action legislators were to take or how long the session would last. It read: “Do you consent to coming in for a special session of the Legislature to take action regarding the governor’s conduct?”
Though the question’s wording was vague, Speaker Eves said Tuesday that the Democrats’ goal was to remove LePage.
“Democrats have been clear: We know the governor must resign or be removed from office to prevent our state from being stuck in dysfunction for the next two years,” he said.
Legislative staffers of both parties said they expect no further legislative action regarding LePage until the next session starts in January.