Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) may step down following a string of ugly press clippings over his proclivity for racist comments and abusive speech toward his political opponents, the Portland Press Herald reports.
The governor’s quotes in a Tuesday radio interview were ambivalent. “I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it,” he said, adding that “maybe it’s time to move on.”
Even raising the prospect of resignation is a major departure for the belligerent conservative who’s won affection and praise from Donald Trump. The parallels between the two men were audible again in Tuesday’s interview, as LePage explained his most recent outburst. He lashed out at a state representative who had called him a racist because, he said, that charge is “like calling a black man the ’N’ word or a woman the ‘C’ word. It just absolutely knocked me off my feet.”
If LePage does go, however, his recent streak of bad press in August’s dog days should not be his sole epitaph. His time in power — earned without ever winning a majority of Mainers’ votes — has been persistently marred not just by ugly comments and rough politics, but substantive cruelty on a policy level.
Here is a timeline of the lowlights from LePage’s nearly six years in charge of Maine.
JANUARY 2011: Refused the state NAACP’s invitation to speak to prison inmates on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because the NAACP “are a special interest.” LePage claimed he declined the invite because organizers only wanted him to meet with black inmates while he insisted on talking to white ones too. They can “kiss my butt” if they don’t like it, he said. “My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they’d like about it,” he added, referring to the Jamaican man he and his wife adopted as a teenager in 2002.
MARCH 2011: Removed a mural depicting labor history from the state Department of Labor building because he didn’t want businessmen to feel uncomfortable.
MARCH 2011: Imposed higher pension costs for both current and retired state employees — but not for himself. The self-serving move seemed small potatoes at the time. But LePage’s rough handling of public workers had nasty, long-lived effects. In 2014, officers in the Maine State Police told lawmakers they routinely scoop up roadkill to feed their families.
MAY 2012: Said the problem with the state’s job market — where job-seekers outnumbers jobs more than three to one at the time — is that people are lazy. “To all you able-bodied people out there, get off the couch and get yourself a job,” he said.
JUNE 2013: Told a crowd that a prominent Democrat “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”
2013–14: Spent taxpayer money on a large-scale investigation of allegedly widespread abuses of the welfare system, predicated specifically on LePage’s claim that state electronic benefit transfer cards frequently get used in strip clubs and bars. After about a year of scrutiny, investigators found that two tenths of one percent of all transactions fit the governor’s description.
APRIL 2014: Vetoed Medicaid expansion, for the third time. The package would have extended health care coverage to 70,000 of the poorest people in his state.
2014–15: Reinstated food stamps rules that are designed to be suspended when the economy is bad, even though Maine’s economy was still in rough enough shape to qualify; at least 6,500 Mainers were kicked off SNAP as a result.
2014–15: Moved the state Department of Health and Human Services headquarters out of downtown Portland to a suburban locale that’s an 80-minute round-trip bus ride from the old spot, making it harder for the Mainers who use the department’s services to access caseworkers.
APRIL 2015: Added new procedural hurdles and rules to the state’s anti-poverty programs, which were already being delivered extremely slowly. LePage attempted to police poor people’s shopping carts in state law and implemented a new drug testing policy for welfare.
DECEMBER 2015: Slammed by USDA for running a food stamps system so inefficient that it’s illegal, in a letter threatening to yank federal funding if LePage’s administration doesn’t shape up. Under LePage, the state slipped from 36th to 53rd in the agency’s rankings for efficient service.
JANUARY 2016: Expressed disgust at miscegenation while discussing the state’s drug problem. Men with names like “D-Money” are coming up from New York to impregnate white girls and sell heroin, the governor said.
FEBRUARY 2016: Said he opposes letting asylum-seekers into Maine because they bring disease.
APRIL 2016: Used his veto to block access to a life-saving anti-overdose drug, despite claiming to support treatment-based approaches to drug abuse.
AUGUST 2016: Left voicemail calling political rival a “socialist cocksucker” for saying that LePage is a racist.
AUGUST 2016: Defended a rash of racist comments about the state’s drug issues by doubling down: “You shoot the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”
LePage has since tweeted an enigmatic non-denial of the “reports,” which originated from his own mouth, that he might step down:
Regarding rumors of resignation, to paraphrase Mark Twain: "The reports of my political demise are greatly exaggerated." #mepolitics
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) August 30, 2016