AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage said on Friday he is standing by an op-ed he wrote that slammed his state’s two U.S. senators despite criticism from former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

Mitchell, a Democrat who served as majority leader from 1989 to 1995, issued a rare public political statement Thursday in which he said Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King were right to vote against a proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Mitchell’s statement also targeted LePage, who blasted the senators over their vote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week.

LePage, a Republican, said in a statement Friday he feels Collins and King “recruited another out-of-touch former senator” to defend the federal health care law. He said the senators fail to understand the “disastrous effects” of Medicaid expansion on Maine’s people.

“Senators Collins, King and Mitchell are three peas in a pod,” LePage said, adding that the senators are “preaching to struggling Maine citizens from the polished corridors of Washington, D.C.”

Collins and King also defended their votes in the wake of LePage’s op-ed that attacked them. Collins’ office said Friday that she believes the ACA has “serious flaws,” but the alternatives put forth in the Senate would have made the situation worse.

Mitchell said Friday that he stands by his statement, and by his opinion that repealing the ACA would harm the elderly, rural residents and poor people.