How LePage could (but likely won’t) be impeached today

Good morning from Augusta, where lawmakers will likely consider impeaching a governor for the first time in Maine history.

A group of liberal lawmakers has been talking about their attempt to oust Republican Gov. Paul LePage from office since last summer and all indications are that they will present their order today.

The plan is for the House clerk to read the impeachment order into the official record and then for Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, the order’s primary sponsor, to speak to the order. Debate and procedural motions will follow and the sponsors have said they will request a roll call vote for each one.

The order scheduled for introduction today would create a 13-member committee — which would be authorized to hire a special counsel — to investigate eight alleged acts of misconduct by LePage. That committee would have to report its findings to the House by April 1.

Article 4 of the Maine Constitution says the House of Representatives has the “sole power of impeachment” but that the Senate has “the sole authority to try all impeachment,” suggesting there would be a trial-like proceeding in the Senate if the order makes it through the House.

The Constitution says the Senate’s judgment in an impeachment trial “shall not extend farther than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold or enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under this state.”

Impeachment requires a simple majority vote in the House but a two-thirds majority in the Senate. The impeachment order has been backed mainly by Chipman and Reps. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, and Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell. Six other Democrats are named as co-sponsors.

It’s often been said that the impeachment order has little chance of making it through the House and that is still true.

It isn’t backed by Democratic leaders in the House, who announced Wednesday that they will introduce a resolution that does not name LePage. Instead, it shows “that we stand for the Maine values of civility, progress and respect for diverse ideas and backgrounds,” according to a statement from Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said there are more important issues to deal with than punishing LePage.

“At a time when Maine is grappling with serious challenges, we should come together and remind ourselves and our constituents that we need to rise above partisanship for the people of Maine,” said McCabe.

The developments should come quickly and furiously from the State House. Watch Twitter and for developments.

And here’s a soundtrack for the group of lawmakers pushing for impeachment and one for LePage— Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd

Bernie Sanders opens Portland office

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders opened his Maine headquarters in Portland on Wednesday night. It’s the first presidential headquarters to open in the state in the 2016 race.

Former Maine Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, who introduced Sanders at a Portland rally in July, said more than 200 people came to the event and that the Congress Street office was “completely jammed.”

An investment in Maine makes sense for Sanders: In recent polls, the progressive U.S. senator from Vermont has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, in Iowa and widened his lead in New Hampshire.

In September, I speculated that he’d find similarly high support in Maine. The state’s Democratic electorate is heavily white and liberal, similar to Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa. He led Clinton narrowly in the only public poll of the race in Maine, but that lead was within the margin of error.

It’s still going to be difficult for Sanders to win the two early states: FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 82 percent chance of winning the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa and a 57 percent chance of winning the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

Sanders needs to win both states to stay competitive, but even if he does, Clinton would still be the favorite because of her broader national support on the back of a virtual sweep of major party endorsements.

She has won the backing of most big-name Maine Democrats as well, including U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District, Attorney General Janet Mills, House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond.

But Jackson said a host legislative endorsements for Sanders will come out soon, and Democratic lawmakers were at the office on Wednesday, including Sen. John Patrick of Rumford, Chipman and Rep. Christine Powers of Naples.— Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said it uncovered more than $1.2 million in welfare theft in 2015 in a press release featuring the mugshots of people convicted. It said it got nearly 2,800 complaints of fraud and brought a record 105 cases to Mills’ office for prosecution. But those are a small percentage of transactions: In 2015, electronic benefit transfer cards alone accounted for nearly $312 million in spending.
  • Friday is important for Maine political action, ballot question and state party committees, with a report for the last quarter of 2015 due to the Maine Ethics Commission. Among the expected highlights are updated fundraising totals for the legislative campaign committees and the groups trying to get gun control, marijuana and York County casino referenda on the 2016 ballot. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

We featured a Craigslist roundup just two days ago, and while I like to space these out more, there’s more good stuff today.

  • A woman is very upset with the sartorial sense of Ryan, an employee of a Hannaford store in Portland. She said he just got promoted and “that’s nice,” but it’s “time to start wearing BIG BOY PANTS” because “those oversize jeans are grungy and juvenile.” (I wear these, Ryan. They’re great.)
  • One man who saw a man arguing with another man at a Sanford pet store said the second man is “hot” and should “hit me up.”
  • A new paranormal group is being started in central Maine. The poster urges people to “get in touch with me and I will tell you all about my plans to go on investigations to old and new places to see what spirits and ghosts may linger and get such excitement pumping through your veins.” — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.