PORTLAND — Gov. Paul LePage acknowledged that Democratic State House leaders don’t have the authority to rein in a political operative shadowing him at public events, but on Monday he called on them to at least condemn the practice of having the man follow him around with a camera.
The Republican governor abruptly canceled a meeting last week with new leaders elected by the Democratic-controlled legislature over the so-called “tracker.” He has yet to meet with them.
“We live in Maine. We’re not in Washington. And we’re certainly not in a campaign season any longer,” said Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s communications director. It would show “a bit of good faith,” she said, if Democratic legislative leaders would condemn the practice.
The issue is contributing to a frosty atmosphere at the State House, but the Democratic Party says it will continue recording LePage during public appearances.
On Monday, Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves were cool to the governor’s request that they criticize what their party is doing.
“It would be hard for us to condemn anything that involves transparency and public accountability,” said Jodi Quintero, Eves’ spokeswoman. “We don’t support any kind of tracking that involves harassment or recording of private conversations at private events,” she added.
Ericka Dodge, Alfond’s spokeswoman, said the governor should be working with Democrats to resolve the state budget instead of worrying about being videotaped.
“The tracker is not stalking him from the shrubs and bushes and behind trees,” she said. “He’s showing up at public events.”
The tracker, 23-year-old Brian Jordan, said he only uses his video camera at public events and leaves if he’s asked, as he did Sunday during an event at Cheverus High School in Portland. On Monday, he was a no-show at a wreath-laying event at the State House Hall of Flags.
Late last week, Alfond sought to end the stalemate by inviting the governor to dinner with Alfond and his wife, but the proposal failed to warm the governor’s heart.
The governor didn’t view it as genuine proposal since the media was reporting the invitation before he’d had time to review it, let alone respond to it, Bennett said.
“To us, that shows political rhetoric, not a note in good faith that differences can be side aside and we can move forward,” Bennett said.
As for the tracker, the Democratic Party is using him in a fundraising appeal. Jordan wrote in an email to party members on Friday that he’s simply holding the governor accountable.
“If the governor has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear from me,” he wrote.