LePage urges party unity during county GOP caucus
The man who received more votes for Maine governor than any in history was the featured speaker Feb. 17 at the Lincoln County GOP caucus. Paul LePage addressed local partisan Republicans in Damariscotta prior to a gubernatorial straw vote. One hundred eleven county Republicans cast ballots in the straw vote which measured early support for five Republican candidates vying to replace LePage in the Blaine House.
Entering his final year, LePage urged Republicans to unite in making his final year in office successful and set the right example for a new governor and Legislature starting in 2019. Last summer, Senate and House Republicans disagreed about budget negotiations resulting in a three-day state government shutdown. LePage urged himself alongside Republican leaders, Minority Leader Ken Fredette in the Maine House, Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason to work together. Fredette, Thibodeau and Mason are all running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
“We owe it to the people of Maine to work together. So let’s bury the hatchet,” LePage said. “We need to go into a locked room and not come out until we agree to work as a team, not as individuals. We could’ve accomplished 10 times more than we did in the past seven years if we only worked together.”
LePage also updated local Republicans about new jobs in the state’s forest industry. During his Feb. 13 State of the State Address, LePage reported a corporation was making a $28 million investment in East Millinocket bringing 120 jobs. On Saturday, LePage announced two more corporations are investing in Maine. Verso Corp. in Jay is investing $17 million in upgrading a No. 3 pulp line. Verso’s investment would result in 100 more jobs, according to LePage. Smartland Montana is developing a new technology alongside the University of Maine’s assistance for crush laminated lumber. Smartland Montana’s investment would bring another 100-plus jobs to either Hermon or Old Town.
LePage discussed his recent trips to Washington, D.C. The governor met with federal officials about easing tariffs on Canadian lumber. LePage described the tariffs as putting a burden on Maine timber owners. Maine doesn’t have enough mills to process timber requiring it to be transported to New Brunswick and Quebec.
“If we don’t make changes the Madawaska mill risks losing 5,000 jobs. The mill receives pulp across the river in Edmunston (New Brunswick). Both mills are owned by Americans and that’s why I’m working so hard on this issue,” LePage said.
Three GOP gubernatorial candidates attended the caucus: Fredette, former Maine Health and Human Services Director Mary Mayhew, and Gorham businessman Shawn Moody. LePage didn’t mention Fredette or Mayhew, but he referenced Moody who ran in 2010 as an Independent candidate for governor. LePage won the five-person race and Moody finished fourth.
“People say he’s been a Republican for only a short time. But it doesn’t matter. It’s important to support whoever the nominee is to make sure Democrats can’t undo all we have accomplished in the past eight years,” LePage said.
The governor did comment about one of the Democratic candidates seeking to replace him. He called Attorney General Janet Mills “corrupt.”
“I have a lawsuit against the Attorney General’s Office because she won’t give me any money for legal battles. She told me to find my own money,” he said. “In 2014, she called me ‘The Nightmare of the State of Maine.’ So in 2018, I will return the favor.”
LePage also hinted on Feb. 20 he would call two Democratic lawmakers’ actions into question. “Tuesday is going to be a bad day for two Democrats. I can’t say much now, but I’m a reformer and this issue must be addressed,” he said.
LePage said 2014 was his last campaign. He has no plans to enter the U.S Senate races in either 2018 or 2020.