The political pressure on Gov. Paul LePage over his recent controversial comments and threats grew over the weekend as Democratic legislative leaders suggested that Republican leadership persuade him to resign, a Senate Republican said a censure of him by the Legislature seemed appropriate, and an online petition signed by thousands of people urged him to step down.

A Democratic state legislator from Portland, meanwhile, said he will start exploring whether there is legislative support for impeachment proceedings against LePage, and a therapist and lobbyist from Hallowell is urging the public to attend a rally Tuesday in Augusta to support having the governor step aside or seek professional help.

Democratic legislative leaders sent a letter Saturday evening to Republican legislative leaders asking them to condemn LePage’s crude and threatening comments to and about a state representative, and urging that they get him professional help or encourage him to step down.

House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond were among five Democratic leaders who signed the letter dated Saturday calling on Republican leaders to condemn LePage’s actions and comments toward Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. Last week, LePage left Gattine an obscenity-laced voice mail message and made an apparent threat of violence against Gattine for allegedly referring to him as a racist.

Gattine has denied calling the governor a racist, and although LePage apologized to Maine residents for his comments, he has not apologized to Gattine.

“Such behavior is inappropriate for a governor and he appears to be unfit to hold office at this time. His actions have become increasingly erratic over the last several years, but he has now crossed a line and we must act,” Democrat leaders said in the letter.

“As leaders, we cannot stand by and allow the governor to operate in such a reckless and irresponsible manner,” they wrote. “After all, as the chief executive of our state, he needs to be able to make critical and responsible decisions every day, and he has clearly demonstrated by his latest behavior that he is not capable of sound judgment at this time.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, also signed the letter and previously had called on LePage to resign.

“It’s clear from the governor’s threats that he is not mentally or emotionally fit to hold this office,” Gideon said in a statement Friday. “I am calling on the governor to resign, acknowledge the real problems with his behavior and take appropriate steps to get help.”

Jim Cyr, spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, texted a reply Sunday evening in response to a query from the Portland Press Herald about the Democrats’ call for intervention.

Thibodeau “won’t have anything to say until Tuesday when he’ll likely have a news conference,” Cyr texted.

Republican State Sen. Amy Volk of Scarborough, who is facing re-election in November, told her constituents in a Facebook post Sunday that she shares their “deep concerns” about LePage’s recent behavior and said it may be appropriate for the Legislature to censure him.

Volk said she had received numerous emails and phone calls from people who told her they were disturbed by the governor’s behavior.

“What I do not know is whether it is due to substance abuse, mental illness or just ignorance,” Volk wrote on Facebook, referring to his behavior. “I certainly hope that his family and small circle of close staff are considering how best to address the issue. Things definitely appear to be out of control.”

Volk said legislative leadership is considering whether to hold a special session of the Legislature to discuss the matter.

“Some sort of censure would seem appropriate and I would welcome the ability to go on the record with a vote,” she said.

Censure would amount to a public reprimand through a vote of the Legislature, Volk explained in a telephone interview.

“It’s very sad that we seem to have sunk to a new low in Maine’s political environment,” Volk said in her Facebook post. “Up until this point I have refrained from publicly criticizing any of the governor’s behavior both out of respect for the office and a desire to preserve a working relationship with him and his staff, but this latest and the unwelcome attention it has brought to our state is a bridge too far for me.”

In his text message, Cyr, Thibodeau’s spokesman, said of Volk’s Facebook post that “it’s safe to say there are ongoing discussions within the Republican Senate caucus.”

Voice mail and email messages left Sunday night with the governor’s press staff seeking comment were not returned.

Representative Ken Fredette, another Republican legislative leader, and Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, could not be reached for comment Sunday night.

Meanwhile, an old adversary of the governor, Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, said the governor’s crude language and apparent threat of violence against Gattine has him reconsidering his previous effort to have the governor impeached.

Chipman, who served three terms in the House, is now seeking election to the Maine Senate. He led an impeachment effort this year that failed due to lack of support.

“I don’t think the governor will resign. I think we have to impeach him,” Chipman said Sunday evening. “I just don’t know if the will is there.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook page calling itself ImpeachGov.LePage has started a petition drive aimed at bringing enough public pressure to bear that LePage will voluntarily step down. The Facebook initiative was created by a group calling itself Mainers for Government Accountability. The names of the people behind the petition effort could not be determined Sunday night.

“We are going to convince Governor LePage to resign. He said that if enough people ask him to leave, he would resign,” the group wrote. “So let’s flood him with signatures demanding he do just that.”

More than 3,200 people had signed the online petition as of late Sunday.

Betsy Sweet, a State House lobbyist and therapist from Hallowell, is asking for Mainers to join her Tuesday evening in Augusta’s Capitol Park for a rally.

The rally, dubbed “Save Our State,” will feature clergy, law enforcement, recovering addicts and people of color who will be invited to talk about standing up to bullying, threats of violence and racism, Sweet said. The rally is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

In a news release announcing the rally, Sweet, an advocate on mental health issues for 35 years at the State House, called on the governor to resign.

“Maine people will not stand by and do nothing in the face of this behavior from the chief executive,” Sweet said.

Though Volk said she will consider a censure by the Legislature, in her Facebook post she also called on the governor’s staff and family to intervene.

“He has family, he has friends and he has staff. I ask them to intervene as well as they can. I believe in most of the governor’s policies and I always believed his heart was in the right place, but I can no longer remain silent about his behavior and what it is costing all of us,” Volk wrote.

Staff Writer Scott Thistle contributed to this report.