LePage: Asylum seekers ‘the biggest problem in our state’

Good morning from Augusta, where Tuesday began with a recognition day for Boy Scouts and ended with a Gov. Paul LePage town hall meeting in Freeport.

It was reasonably hostile territory for the Republican, who gave his normal stump speech on energy, economic, welfare and drug issues. But there were a couple of highlights.

At one point, LePage called asylum seekers “the biggest problem in our state.” That drew harsh reactions from some in the crowd who yelled, “Shame on you,” some of whom walked out of the overflowing room at the town’s library.

He elaborated, saying that Maine often doesn’t receive federal aid to help secondary migrants. Then he doubled down on a past, baseless argument that asylum seekers pose a public health threat, saying they’re bringing hepatitis C, tuberculosis, AIDS, HIV and “the ziki fly,” an apparent malaprop reference to the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus.

The other highlight was when Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, asked LePage how she could collaborate with him to grow Maine jobs, particularly in the struggling biomass industry.

The governor had plenty of answers: He said biomass should be considered to be renewable, but also that if Gideon becomes speaker — “which,” he said, “I hope not” — “do not force your people … (into) voting the way you tell them.”

“That is the worst thing you can do in a democracy,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd. — Michael Shepherd

Correction: This was updated at 10:10 a.m. to reflect that dissenters weren’t escorted out, but left the room on their own.

King: Senate should vote on Obama SCOTUS nominee

U.S. Sen. Angus King said Tuesday that Republican leaders in the Senate should promptly consider President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday.

In a Tuesday statement, the Maine independent stood against Republicans, many of whom have said Scalia’s replacement should be picked by the next president. Still, Obama has said he’ll nominate someone.

King said Obama’s term is “four years, not three years and one month” and “to delay the consideration of a nomination for almost a full year would be nothing more than the cynical politics that people in Maine and across the country are tired of.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, has been mum on the same subject. She has supported Obama’s past two nominees, but she could face pressure from her party to stand against the president here. — Michael Shepherd

Clinton starts Maine mail campaign ahead of caucuses

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is kicking off her Maine campaign in earnest this week ahead of the state’s March 6 caucuses, opening offices in Portland, Bangor and Lewiston and launching a mail campaign.

Clinton spokeswoman Meredith Thatcher said the campaign is targeting prospective caucus-goers statewide with two pieces of direct mail.

She didn’t give the cost or size of the buy, but one mailer highlights Clinton’s endorsements from progressive groups and the other highlights parts of her record as first lady, senator and secretary of state. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Collins will unveil a guide to fighting fraud at an event at the AARP Maine headquarters in Portland on Wednesday. The Republican chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
  • A benefit dinner for 300 laid-off workers from the Verso paper mill in Jay will be held on Saturday by former Gov. John Baldacci and his brother, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci. The spaghetti supper will be at the town’s Knights of Columbus Hall from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain will campaign in Fort Kent in early March around the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race. On the guest list for a breakfast is former Maine Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who lost to Cain in a 2014 primary for the nomination. Cain is consolidating party backing after Joe Baldacci’s exit from the 2016 race. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • “I would like to buy some home-made mincemeat if you have any to spare.”
  • Someone wants to know where you can hot-tub in Bangor, but it has to burn — “ideally a place where they keep it at a hot temp, not just a warm kid-safe ‘hot tub.’ “
  • A Craigslist user has some issues with the site and wishes it would add “add a hooker section, a 420 section, drunk section and so on so we could all narrow down our searches but such is life.” — 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.