LePage revises ‘load up and get rid of drug dealers’ comment

Good morning from Augusta, where most of the interest is around what Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday night during his town hall forum at Biddeford High School.

To get you started, check out my coverage of the event by clicking here. The jaw-dropping news out of the forum is LePage’s statement that Maine is set to lose between 1,200 and 1,500 jobs over the next few months — topping a previous statement that the job losses would be around 900 — but there’s more.

All in all, it was a mostly calm, constructive discussion of real issues facing Maine, thanks to thoughtful questions from the audience and the governor’s willingness to answer with candor. One of the more memorable moments was when a member of the audience asked LePage to explain one of the more shocking things he has ever said to the television cameras: That Mainers should “load up and get rid of drug dealers.” Watch the video by clicking here.

A member of the audience said Tuesday in Biddeford there were drug dealers in his apartment building and that the state’s top elected official making such a suggestion made him feel unsafe. LePage said he was misunderstood when he made those remarks in January during a photo op at Simones restaurant in Lewiston. LePage said Tuesday that he meant Mainers should pick up the telephone to deal with drug dealers, not a gun.

“I do not advocate anybody taking a gun and going to shoot your neighbor for any circumstances,” said LePage. “Get on the phone, call the hotline, report names and addresses and that’s all you do. We take care of the rest.”

LePage continued to say the thrust of the questioner’s question “was something I think he read into it that’s not there.”

Most people would agree that the governor doesn’t really want Mainers to shoot drug dealers, but in reality, that’s exactly what he said. There’s no way LePage — who has also said, jokingly, that members of the Legislature should be publicly executed and that he would like to shoot a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist — meant “get on the phone” during his comments at Simones. Here’s what he said:

“Everybody in Maine, we have constitutional carry,” he said, referring to the 2015 enactment of a bill that allows for the carrying of concealed weapons. “Load up and get rid of the drug dealers because folks, they’re killing our kids.”

I am not here to pile on the governor but I am also not here to let him revise history. Suggestions of violence by our elected officials, even when framed as jokes, have the potential to cause real violence, as we’ve seen hints of in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In this case, as in every other case, what the governor says is important. He brashly dismissed the audience member’s concerns.

“If you’re that stupid, sir, I’m sorry,” said LePage. “I can’t fix stupid.” — Christopher Cousins

Chellie Pingree pecks vote against free speech for chicken farmers

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree on Tuesday took issue with a House Appropriations Committee vote on a bill that would remove protections for chicken farmers who speak out publicly about the mistreatment of chickens or other unfair trade practices. Pingree said that farmers contracted by large chicken processors are punished financially for speaking up.

That punishment was outlawed in 2008 by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, but according to Pingree has been nullified nearly every year since by language inserted into agriculture spending bills. In 2015, the protection for chicken farmers was reasserted but taken out again on Tuesday.

“For years, big multi-national meat processing companies have used unfair, uncompetitive contracts to punish farmers who do something as simple as contacting an elected official or talking to other farmers,” said Pingree in a written statement. “There is a law to protect them from those practices and, just at the moment the federal government was about to start enforcing it, there was this last-minute move to block it.”

Here’s the chickens’ soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins 

Quick hits

  • Republican Ande Smith, who is challenging Chellie Pingree this year for her 1st Congressional District seat, has reported receiving nearly $93,000 in individual contributions to his campaign during the first quarter of 2016. Combined with his personal contributions, he has amassed more than $111,000, which he says shows that his candidacy is keeping pace with Pingree’s. Pingree reported $308,000 in total contributions, about two-thirds of which were individual contributions and $37,000 of were personal contributions.
  • Gov. LePage signed LD 1646, which limits the strength and duration of prescriptions of addictive medications, into law on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by LePage through Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Newport, makes Maine the third state to set a cap on the daily strength of opioid prescriptions. In addition to setting a 100 morphine milligram equivalent daily cap, the law also limits prescriptions of opioids for acute pain to seven days and for chronic pain, to 30 days beginning in January 2017. It also calls for new training guidelines for prescribers and the implementation of electronic prescriptions.

Reading list

What LePage has in common with the Grateful Dead

LePage has groupies. That’s what he called a couple of hecklers who confronted him Tuesday during his town hall meeting in Biddeford.

“The Grateful Dead had a lot of people who followed them around called groupies,” said LePage. “I have two groupies tonight. I might even have more.”

As I reported last night (it was so interesting that I’m repeating it here), that caused one of the hecklers to leave.

“The moment you compare yourself to Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, I’ve got to get out of here,” said the heckler.

Let’s forget for the moment that the Dead’s groupies were called Deadheads and enjoy this great(ful) Dead song, which features this apropos lyric:

“So the kids they dance, they shake their bones, while the politicians throwing stones.”

Ashes ashes, all fall down. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.