Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Is Maine's new governor damaging himself?
Maine Governor Paul LePage earned more bad national press in one weekend than his predecessor did in eight years in office. And the story kept on going here in Maine, fueled by the governor's sadly characteristic explanatory falsehoods.
My latest piece at Newsweek.com asks if LePage's penchant for inflammatory speech and, frankly, making stuff up, is likely to do him political damage. The consensus: yes, if he doesn't change course. Interviews with Colby and USM political scientists, Republicans Kevin Raye and Phil Harriman, Democrats Emily Cain and Ethan Strimling, and the governor's spokesperson, Dan Demeritt.
A few items from my reporting that weren't of interest to a national audience, but might be to Mainers:
Mr. Demeritt tacitly admitted the Governor's "black prisoners" story was inaccurate: "It was 7 months ago right after the primary, and that was how Paul LePage and the one or two staff people understood the event [invitation] at the time."
Demeritt also said he -- and probably his boss -- didn't know about the Corrections Corporation of America's $25,000 PAC donation in support of LePage's candidacy. "It was a donation to the RGA. I didn’t know about it and I don’t believe Paul LePage knew of it. If there’s an opportunity to save the taxpayers money and create jobs in Milo that's something to look at." Since we spoke last week, LePage announced he was nominating a CCA warden to head the Department of Corrections.
Colby's Sandy Maisel observed that a Maine politician probably hasn't earned as much bad national press since James G. Blaine ("The Continental Liar From the State of Maine"), who left the U.S. Senate in 1881. "All the Tea Party people aren't like this," Maisel said. "You don't see Rand Paul talk like this, and he understands the issues better than Paul LePage. In fact, LePage may be the only winning candidate of all the Tea Party backed people who has been out there with what I consider outlandish quotes attacking others. The other Tea Party people who did that all lost."
As for the NAACP, Rachel Talbot Ross was sounding a conciliatory note last week. "At this point the NAACP is moving on and we hope to be able to schedule a meeting with the governor as soon as possible. We want to work with him ob very specific issues of economic justice." she said. "We’re trying to focus on a way to engage with him respectfully so that we can help Maine move forward. I’d rather not continue to comment on the governor’s unfortunate comments about the NAACP."
"We hold out some hope that we can educate the governor as to what the NAACP does and to see us as a resource and a partner moving forward," she added. " It's going to be a very difficult challenge given the way we’ve started the relationship but I don’t think it has to define it."