AUGUSTA, Maine — State legislative leaders met Thursday to discuss Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s obscene tirade against a Democratic legislator but remained at odds over what to do about it.
Worries about the statewide November election, the future of LePage’s reform agenda and what the state constitution has to say about possible punishments for LePage is making it unlikely he would face any legislative punishment anytime soon.
Democrats continued calling for LePage’s impeachment or resignation on Thursday, even suggesting Republican state Senate President Michael Thibodeau wouldn’t be a bad replacement as governor. Thibodeau said impeachment of LePage is not going to happen.
LePage last week left state Rep. Drew Gattine an obscene voicemail and then said he wished it were the 1820s so they could duel and LePage could point a gun at him. LePage apologized, saying he believed Gattine had called him a racist, which Gattine denies.
LePage said on Tuesday that he wouldn’t rule out resigning but later said he wouldn’t resign.
Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette repeated a position he took earlier this week, that his caucus is against LePage’s conduct but doesn’t support holding a $43,000-a-day special session at taxpayers’ expense to consider punishing him. Fredette also said the state constitution doesn’t allow lawmakers to censure a governor, but he said perhaps the legislature could take up the issue in January.
Fredette, who accepted LePage’s apology, said lawmakers will keep a close eye on LePage and “respond appropriately” if he has another outburst.
“He’s well aware he’s on a short leash,” Fredette said, adding that “the nation is watching.”
Thibodeau, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond said they want to move ahead on at least one issue: figuring out the wording of a question they’d pose to lawmakers about reconvening for a special session.
Alfond said LePage is unfit to serve and his threatening conduct is an issue legislators could take all the way to the state Supreme Court.
“He threatened a sitting legislator,” Alfond said. “He wants to kill a legislator.”
Eves said lawmakers can’t wait January. He denied that Democrats want to poll lawmakers only to score political points against Republican rivals as November approaches.
Alfond and Eves can’t run in November due to term limits. Fredette is running unopposed, and Thibodeau will face Democrat Johnathan Fulford.
Eves is appealing the dismissal of a lawsuit he filed against LePage claiming the governor abused his power. A judge found LePage had immunity when he threatened to withhold state funds for a nonprofit that hired Eves.