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Will Gov. LePage be impeached?

Paul LePage was a street urchin who rose to political power through Maine’s fractured electoral system that features multi-candidate races. In making the jump from city councilman to governor, LePage won the GOP primary with 38% of the vote, won the 2010 governor’s election with 38% of the vote, and won re-election in 2014 with 48% of the vote. In other words, he has never had the support of a majority of Maine’s voters.

Even before winning statewide office, LePage acquired a national reputation as an execrable politician. In 2010, he campaigned on a platform of telling President Obama “to go to hell.” Far from avoiding controversy, he created it. His eyebrow-raising actions in office include:

1. Promising to veto every legislative bill sponsored by a Democrat, regardless of merit, in retaliation for Democratic opposition to his proposal for a state constitutional amendment that would eliminate Maine’s income tax.

2. Hiring his daughter and brother-in-law for high-ranking state jobs.

3. Snubbing MLK Day events, telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” and calling the NAACP a “special interest group.”

4. Opposing a bill to ban Bisphenol A, despite health concerns about the polycarbonate compound. LePage disparagingly remarked that the worst it could do was cause women to “grow little beards.”

5. His antagonistic attitude toward labor, including removing a mural of Maine’s labor history from the state labor department building, and renaming conference rooms named for labor figures.

6. His antagonistic attitude toward state employees, calling them “corrupt” and implying they don’t work.

7. Antagonism toward public schools.

8. Antagonism toward newspapers, including a remark that he wanted to “blow up” the Portland Press Herald’s building, and another remark that he wanted to “shoot” the Bangor Daily News’ political cartoonist. LePage made the latter remark to the cartoonist’s school-age son.

9. Calling the IRS “the new Gestapo” for enforcing Obamacare.

10. Pressuring unemployment benefits appeals personnel to make more rulings in favor of business; a federal investigation concluded LePage’s administration acted improperly. (Unemployment benefits are a federal program run by the states.)

11. Making disparaging personal remarks about Democratic legislators, including his infamous comment that a state senator was trying to “give it to the people without Vaseline,” which drew criticism from Republican and Democratic office holders alike, including U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

12. TPM accused LePage of meeting eight times with Sovereign Citizen movement leaders in 2013.

13. LePage, along with New Jersey Gov. Christie, another governor under investigation for abuse of power, tried to quarantine hero nurse Kaci Hickox contrary to CDC guidelines; she defied him.

14. Forcing a private charter school organization to withdraw their employment offer to Maine’s Democratic house speaker by threatening to pull $500,000 of state funding if they didn’t. This is the act that has both Republican and Democratic legislators talking about impeaching LePage. In Maine, legislators are modestly-paid part-timers, and nearly all depend on other jobs to support their families.

It’s not hard to see where LePage’s hardshell personality came from. The oldest of 18 children of a French-Canadian couple, in a French-speaking household, he grew up in poverty under the thumb of an abusive hard-drinking millworker father, and ran away from home at age 11, thereafter living on the streets, in a horse stable, and a strip joint. He shined shoes, washed dishes, was a short-order cook, worked in rubber and meat-packing plants, and as a bartender. He earned a B.S. in finance and accounting, an MBA, and after getting married worked in his wife’s family’s lumber business, and later became CEO of a discount store chain. He has been married twice.

It’s not uncommon for unhappy people to bandy impeachment talk about politicians they dislike, but office holders can’t be impeached because someone disagrees with their policy positions or political decisions. Impeachment requires malfeasance or committing a crime (e.g., taking bribes).  The argument for impeaching LePage rests on the notion that he blackmailed a political enemy’s employer into firing him. Conceivably it could lead to criminal charges against him.

It’s no idle possibility. The GOP state senator in charge of a legislative oversight committee says LePage “faces serious charges.” LePage has responded by saying the committee has overstepped its authority and announcing he won’t cooperate with the investigation. That won’t endear him to legislators who may soon decide his fate.

It’s too soon to say what the odds are that LePage might actually be removed from office. LePage’s extreme pro-business, anti-abortion, anti-labor policies appeal to many Republicans. But his penchant for personal vendettas makes even Republican legislators nervous, and at least some Maine Republicans aren’t happy about the reputation LePage is giving their state and party. The fact some Republican legislators are looking seriously at impeaching LePage gives the possibility legs.

There’s a sense that this time LePage has gone too far, and there does come a time when politicians recognize they have to draw a line, even if it’s with a prominent member of their own party. When Nixon was forced from office, it was Barry Goldwater, a fellow Republican, who told him he had to leave, and wouldn’t survive a Senate vote if he didn’t resign voluntarily. The combative LePage is less likely to recognize reality; he’ll probably have to be voted out and then carried out.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage greets his supporters at his election night party, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in Waterville, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)   Original Filename: Maine Governor.JPEG-09980.jpg

Photo: Maine’s Gov. LePage, a Tea Party favorite who has never won an election by a majority, has been called “America’s craziest governor”

 

 

 


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