House Democrats and independents pushing for impeachment proceedings against Gov. Paul LePage say they will introduce a measure this week calling for an investigation into eight possible charges against the Republican chief executive.
Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, a Friendship independent and one of the measure’s nine co-sponsors, said the impeachment order would be introduced and debated Thursday. Evangelos said there would be an official roll call on every motion in the measure, whose lead sponsor is Rep. Ben Chipman, a Portland independent.
“There is nothing that anyone can do to stop this process. We followed the law and the constitution,” Evangelos said in an email Sunday.
The move comes amid attempts by the Democratic House leadership to delay a face-off with LePage and work with Republicans on the state’s drug crisis, job creation and land conservation.
The House leadership, which does not back the impeachment measure because it would go nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, is trying to strike a more conciliatory tone by seeking a censure or reprimand – which, unlike impeachment proceedings, would not require a Senate vote.
Language for a censure resolution is being drafted, but House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said there was no plan as of Sunday to introduce anything this week.
“As far as a censure or reprimand of the governor, we will continue to get bipartisan support to address what has become a hostile work environment created by the governor. We have to try to continue to work with Republicans to try and overcome his antics,” McCabe said.
He was referring in part to LePage’s remarks Wednesday night at a town hall meeting in Bridgton about drug dealers from out of state impregnating “young white” Maine girls. The governor’s comments attracted national attention.
McCabe said there was no timetable for a vote on a censure or reprimand. He said he did not expect the impeachment order voting to take up much time Thursday.
But backers said they intend to fully pursue a debate about whether to impeach LePage on eight allegations, ranging from the governor’s role in Good Will-Hinckley’s decision to rescind a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, forcing out the president of the Maine Community College System, and withholding bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program.
The order calls for a 13-member House Special Investigative Committee to investigate “allegations of misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance and other misconduct” by LePage.
Impeachment would require approval in the House and a two-thirds vote to convict in the Senate, following what would probably be a long impeachment trial. No Maine governor has ever been impeached. The Maine Constitution says the process would begin in the House and end in the Senate, but otherwise offers little guidance.
House Republicans say they are concerned about the precedent that Democrats are setting by pushing for an impeachment investigation. House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said there are no laws or rules governing impeachment in the Maine Constitution.
“At any time you could have two or three House members who could bring about an impeachment order. There should be some sort of threshold, a gatekeeping process,” Fredette said Sunday.
He said the Democrats have denied his requests for money to hire a lawyer to address some of the unanswered questions about the impeachment process.
Fredette said he doubts the impeachment order will get anywhere with Republicans.
“It is going to get little if any Republican House support,” he said.
LePage’s office did not respond Sunday to requests for comment from the Portland Press Herald, but a spokeswoman declined comment to The Associated Press, calling the claims in the impeachment measure “frivolous.”
Chipman said that although the decision to move ahead with an impeachment debate was made before LePage’s controversial remarks last week, those remarks may sway some legislators to call for an impeachment investigation.
“For some it may solidify where they stand,” he said.
Although impeachment may go nowhere in the Senate, Chipman said, it is important for the governor’s opponents to act.
“The timing is never good,” he said.