PORTLAND — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, headlined a fundraising luncheon Monday for Paul LePage, the GOP nominee for Maine’s governor.

About 80 people attended the event at DiMillo’s Restaurant, which cost $750 per person, the maximum individual donation allowed in Maine.

LePage, the mayor of Waterville, said he appreciated Barbour making the trip.

Barbour, a lawyer and former lobbyist, is serving his second term as governor of Mississippi. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997.

“The Republican Governor’s Association is very bullish on this race because we have a great candidate. There’s tremendous enthusiasm in Maine for him and for change,” Barbour said. “He’s campaigning on the right things and so I’m glad to be here on his behalf.”

Barbour’s trip to the Northeast also included a stop in New Hampshire for a fundraising breakfast in support of Republican gubernatorial nominee John Stephen.

Barbour and LePage were asked to comment on Democratic gubernatorial nominee Libby Mitchell’s reference to LePage – made during a rally Sunday with former President Bill Clinton – as the “tea party candidate.”

“(LePage is) the Republican Party nominee and the Republican Party candidate,” Barbour said. “But I am excited for him because he has generated so much enthusiasm for his candidacy among those that are Republicans, among independents, among Democrats and particularly those that are independent and part of the tea party movement; so it’s very good for his campaign and totally consistent with what I think you see happening all across the United States.”

Barbour said, “Independents, in polling, look like they are going to take the same position as Republicans: They are voting about as Republican as people who identify themselves as Republican.”

LePage said he has no problem with being associated with the tea party – a grass-roots, national movement of people who support less government, fewer taxes and a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

“I’m going to steal a line from Shawn Moody whether they are independent, Green, Republican, Democrat or tea party, I’m proud to have them, and the party’s over for the liberals in Augusta,” he said. “We have a message to bring jobs, jobs and more jobs to Maine. That’s who I am.

“They can call me whatever they want,” LePage said. “The fact of the matter is, Maine people are tired of working for government and it’s time government works for the people.”

LePage said his message is resonating with Maine voters.

“Right now, the people of Maine are working to feed state government. It’s time that the government of Maine starts working to feed Maine people,” he said.

Polls show LePage with a double-digit lead in the field of five candidates on the ballot.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: rmetzler@centralmaine.com