LePage argues for Trump’s ‘authoritarian power,’ hits Collins

Gov. Paul LePage doubled down on his support for embattled Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday, gaining national attention for saying the country needs the New York billionaire’s “authoritarian power.”

Those remarks came in the Republican governor’s regular Tuesday appearance on WVOM, in which he said he’s no fan of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who polls as Maine’s most popular politician and has spoken against Trump.

The fallout in Maine comes in a bad week for Trump: Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told fellow Republican House members he wouldn’t campaign with or defend Trump after Friday’s release of a 2005 tape in which he said “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women, including grabbing them by the genitals.

On Tuesday, LePage, who endorsed Trump in February, said he’d “rather have him stick his foot in his mouth” than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “having her hand in my pocket.”

At one point, he segued from a discussion on ads in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race to pitch Trump’s “authoritarian power” to President Barack Obama, a Democrat who he called “an autocrat.”

“Sometimes I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president — he’s an autocrat,” LePage said. “He just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we’re slipping into anarchy. I just think that four more years of a similar mentality is going to destroy this nation.”

But one of the dictionary definitions of “autocrat” is “a person who behaves in an authoritarian manner,” making his linking of Trump and Obama similar. Anarchy is a state of disorder caused by lack or nonrecognition of government.

In a statement, Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said “the last thing our country needs is Governor LePage’s vision on a national scale,” saying “absolute rule is not the American way.” Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said it “sounds like he wants to replace the rule of law with the rule of tyranny.”

Most jarring for Maine politics, however, was LePage’s criticism of Collins, a moderate who wrote an August op-ed in The Washington Post to announce that she wouldn’t support Trump. LePage and Collins aren’t close and occupy different parts of the Maine Republican sphere, but she endorsed him in 2010 and 2014.

However, he called himself “no Susan Collins fan” and said “that’s not the kind of Republican I am.”

“I am from the Grand Old Party and I am from the party of Ronald Reagan,” LePage said. “That is different than the people who claim to be Republicans that are out there shooting their mouths off.”

Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark responded later Tuesday with a one-sentence email: “Sen. Collins recognizes that emotions are running high as a result of this election and she will continue to work closely with the governor, his staff, and his administration on issues important to the state of Maine.”

Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, was impeached after an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. After the 2005 tape leaked, Trump brought other women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to Sunday’s debate with Hillary Clinton.

LePage joined Trump in taking that tack on Tuesday, even referencing the “smudge on the blue dress” of Lewinsky that was cited as proof of the affair with Clinton.

At one point, LePage rhetorically asked WVOM hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler if Trump is a “slimeball,” conceding that he’s “not (the) ideal guy I’d want my daughter going after.”

“But I will tell you one thing,” LePage said. “As head of state, is he going to protect our nation and fight the debt, or is he going to go after interns?”

LePage also praised Trump’s family and called the candidate “a breath of fresh air” compared to Clinton, whom he said “lies, takes money from foreign countries and gets a free pass” in apparent references to revelations around the Clinton Foundation and her emails as secretary of state.

We’ll hear more from LePage on Trump soon: He said he’ll likely join Trump at a Bangor rally on Saturday. He’s introduced Trump each of the past three times he’s been in Maine this year. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Poliquin wasn’t on the conference call with Ryan and other Republican House members about Trump on Monday. Brent Littlefield, a political adviser for Poliquin, said it conflicted with a press conference with veterans in Hermon. Poliquin hasn’t publicly endorsed Trump and Littlefield said a Saturday statement in which he criticized both Trump and Clinton was still current.
  • And Poliquin went on defense — and offense — against Democratic challenger Emily Cain on Monday. His new TV ad claims he paid “all taxes, in full, all the time” as he looks to push back against Democrats’ hammering on his use of a tax credit meant to encourage commercial logging. He also paints Cain as a tax-raiser, citing her legislative support of a 2009 bill to broaden Maine’s sales tax base that was defeated by a people’s veto in 2010. A spokesperson from House Democrats’ campaign arm said “it’s clear” that Poliquin “is feeling the heat from Maine voters” on tax issues.
  • The Maine Warden Service said it has “serious concerns” over Question 3 on the November ballot, which would expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers. It comes after LePage has allied with the National Rifle Association to advocate against the proposal from a group linked to Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It contains some exceptions, including allowing transfer between some family members and hunters, but warden said it “would be difficult for a law enforcement officer to prove actual ownership and where the transfer occurred unless the transfer was actually observed by the officer.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • This man is just buying alcohol: “Wanna get lit?” asks a man who’s buying “Whiskey…Gin…Coffee Brandy…Jack Daniels… Weed….abs…name your pleasure” and wants “the right, friendly guy” to come drink it with him. Here’s your bonus soundtrack.
  • Heckler wanted: It’s amazing, but a man with “red hair and a ponytail” who “heckled the hell out of” San Francisco Giants prospect Mitch Delfino at Hadlock Field earlier this year may have won over a woman, who “just moved to Portland” and wants to “be friends.” Delfino is now in Triple-A now and the Red Sox are out of the playoffs. Sad! — 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.