Hancock County’s Brian Langley, a well-regarded Republican state senator who may be in line for a leadership post in the next session, offered a measured but pointed assessment of the profanity-laced message left last week by Gov. Paul LePage on the voice mail of state Rep. Drew Gattine. “Could you stand up in front of a class of sixth-graders and play the message that was left on the representative’s voice mail and defend the behavior?” asked Langley, a former teacher. “I don’t believe for a minute that anyone could.”
LePage’s attack on Gattine reached a new low in the ongoing series of verbal outbursts that have characterized the governor’s six-year tenure. In addition to the name-calling and obscenities in his voice mail, the governor concluded his voice message by telling Gattine “I am after you.” LePage also told Portland Press Herald reporters that he’d like to have a pistol duel with Gattine and aim “right between his eyes,” though he later dismissed that statement as “simply a metaphor.”
This latest controversy was ignited when LePage, at a town hall forum on Aug. 24 in North Berwick, told the audience that information contained in his own three-ring binder supports his claim that more than 90 percent of drug dealers arrested in Maine are blacks and Hispanics. Statistics provided by Maine law enforcement agencies indicate that the governor’s data are less than credible and do not provide an accurate picture of the state’s acknowledged drug crisis.
On Monday, the Bangor Daily News reported that according to data from the Muskie School, 89 percent of those on probation for drug offenses in Maine between 2004 and 2011 were white.
Gattine, a Democrat, publicly criticized LePage’s comments. “I don’t think racially charged remarks like that are at all helpful for trying to solve the crisis we have with heroin overdoses,” he said. After being told by a reporter of Gattine’s criticism, an angry LePage left his obscenity-laced voice mail.
Some Democratic legislators, including Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor and Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport, have called for LePage’s resignation. On Sunday, Hubbell wrote an open letter to his constituents on Mount Desert Island that “Irrespective of whether the governor’s representing of Maine’s drug problem primarily in terms of race is sufficient evidence of racism, these declarations are wholly indefensible on their merits.” He continued, “Our governor has lost his way.
“It is time for this governor to resign.”
In a statement Monday, Rep. Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville) called on his legislative colleagues to consider “impeachment as a remedy for our governor’s ill behavior.”
Other Republicans, including some who have refrained from criticizing the governor in the past, joined Langley in condemning LePage’s behavior. On Monday, Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport released a statement calling on LePage to “apologize immediately.” And at least two GOP senators have voiced concerns about the governor’s mental state. Last week, LePage, who claimed he had been called a racist, apologized to the people of Maine for his foul language but not to Gattine.
As Langley so correctly observed, “We are headed down a road that makes life very ugly. Without civil discourse, we separate into camps, shout at each other and miss the opportunity to work together to solve Maine’s most pressing issues.”