As LePage moves on, Democrats keep pushing to oust him

Good morning from Augusta, where Democrats aren’t backing down on their calls for consequences against Gov. Paul LePage for his most recent controversial statements, even though it’s becoming clear he won’t have to face action by the Legislature for the comments that have caused one of the greatest furors of his tenure.

Late Wednesday, House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland called for a bipartisan meeting of legislative leaders to discuss the issue and whether to convene a special session in the coming weeks to address whether LePage is fit to continue as governor. That comes as Senate Republicans are in the midst of an internal survey about holding a special legislative session, but that’s likely where the talks will end. House Republicans, following a lengthy private meeting on Tuesday, have said they are not interested in prolonging this controversy or disciplining the governor.

However, Eves announced today that legislative leaders — including from the House Republican caucus — will hold a bipartisan meeting at 4 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, LePage appeared Thursday morning at an event in Augusta designed to promote the Hire-A-Vet program, one of his most cherished initiatives.

What’s it mean? Arguments from LePage’s opponents that he’s unfit to lead will continue, but the prospect of a legislative censure against him is fizzling. For his part, LePage proclaimed on Wednesday that he will never discuss the matter again and said (again) that he’ll never speak to journalists again. Here’s his soundtrack. 

The next chapter of this story is likely to be about whether the governor will campaign against Senate Republicans, particularly Senate President Mike Thibodeau, who has demanded “corrective action” from LePage to address what Thibodeau clearly perceives to be inappropriate behavior.

When LePage and Senate Republicans split on his 2015-16 budget proposal, the governor’s political allies launched a campaign of robocalls criticizing Thibodeau and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon.

The chapter after that begins in January with the new Legislature and LePage’s biennial state budget proposal.

Then maybe we’ll all be focused on policy changes that could make Maine better, which I’m sure will be a welcome change in the conversation for all of us. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Bound-up binder: The ACLU of Maine said Wednesday that the LePage administration has responded to its request for a copy of a binder LePage says he’s compiling that contains photos and articles about drug dealers arrested in Maine since January. LePage says more than 90 percent of the dealers in the binder are black or Hispanic. The governor’s office reportedly told the ACLU it will take two or three weeks to produce the binder, which LePage had with him during a press conference last week. The ACLU noted the request should be simple to fulfill and question why it will take so long. The BDN has also filed a FOAA request to inspect or receive a copy of the binder but has not heard a response. UPDATE: The administration responded to the BDN’s FOAA request Thursday morning, in similar fashion to its response to the ACLU. Copies of the binder’s contents will be available in a couple of weeks.
  • Energy grant: U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have announced that Ocean Renewable Power Co. will receive a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to continue development of its energy-generating tidal turbine system. ORPC’s TidGen Power System, which could someday revolutionize the renewable power industry, is being tested in Eastport and Lubec.
  • Print is not dead: U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is applauding an announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will not pursue an end to the paper form of mutual fund shareholder disclosures to consumers. Poliquin says the paper notices are critical to helping mutual fund investers make informed decisions. Poliquin has been fighting against the change for months.
  • Daily Brief programming note: Visitors to the BDN’s homepage may have noticed that Daily Brief has looked a little different there for the past few days. It’s because of technical difficulties that we’re working on; the Brief will return to its usual appearance soon. If you want to guarantee that you’ll see the latest in political news and analysis every morning without having to go looking for it, sign up to receive the Daily Brief newsletter every weekday in your email inbox. It’s free and easy! That calls for a bonus soundtrack.

Reading list

Boozing can help you understand how ranked-choice voting works

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, which supports Question 5 on the November ballot, wants you to quaff some beers, and they’re not just trying to get you drunk enough to vote in favor of their initiative.

The organization suggests you participate in “Beer Elections” at Maine’s craft breweries between now and the real election day on Nov. 8. The first one is Friday at Oxbow Brewing in Newcastle and another 19 are scheduled through the end of September. After sampling the suds, participants (if they’re still sober enough to fill out a ballot) will be asked to vote on their favorites, from first to worst. It’s meant as a demonstration of how ranked-choice works.

If anyone gives you any flack for having beer on your breath on a weekday, just tell them you’re fulfilling your civic duty. — 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.