AUGUSTA — Top Democrats at the State House appeared to throw in the towel Tuesday on their efforts to call a special session of the Legislature to sanction Gov. Paul LePage, and they blamed their Republican colleagues for failing to hold the governor accountable.

Their effort ended more than a week after the Republican governor drew national attention for comments about race and drug dealers, a vulgar voice mail left for a state lawmaker and a statement about wanting to have a pistol duel with the legislator so he could point a gun “right between his eyes.”

“With the whole world and our country watching, it’s now official and on the record books,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “Elected Republican leaders have failed Maine people.”

Lawmakers in the 151-seat Maine House of Representatives had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to say whether they wanted to return to the State House for a special session to address LePage’s comments and conduct.

Only four House Republicans told Eves they wanted to return, while 63 refused to answer his call and two said they would not come back to sanction LePage. In all, 84 members of the House, 80 of them Democrats or independents, said they favored a special session.

“Our Republican colleagues failed even the basic democratic test of being willing to be on the record,” Eves said. “They are unwilling to say ‘yes’ on the need to have an open public discussion on how to move Maine forward. Republicans, by hiding today, are enabling two more years of distraction and dysfunction by Gov. LePage.”

The four Republicans who supported a special session are Kevin Battle of South Portland, Bruce Bickford of Auburn, Paul Stearns of Guilford and William Tuell of East Machias.

Only one Democrat, outgoing Rep. Barry Hobbins of Saco, opposed returning for a special session.

LENGTH OF SESSION A STICKING POINT

Recent LePage statements about the race of drug dealers importing heroin to Maine and the profane voice mail he left Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, prompted the calls for an unprecedented special session to discuss sanctions. It would have required approval by majorities of both parties in the Legislature.

Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, did not issue a similar request to members of the state Senate and all but ruled out a special session on Friday after a partisan breakdown in talks about how to proceed.

Senate Republicans favored censuring LePage in some format, but wanted to constrain any special session to a single day and were not looking to move toward an impeachment action.

Thibodeau said the question Eves was posing to the House members was too open-ended and did not put any time limit on how long a special session would last. House members were asked: “Do you consent to coming in for a special session of the Legislature to take action regarding the governor’s conduct?”

“It is regrettable that Democratic leadership, with their actions, has made the goal of holding the governor accountable much more difficult,” Thibodeau said in a prepared statement Friday. “The last thing our state needs now is to have the Legislature look even more like a circus, and I have no desire to be the ringmaster.”

POLITICAL STRATEGY OVER INACTION

Jim Cyr, a spokesman for Thibodeau, said little had changed as of Tuesday. He said Thibodeau had wanted to ask a “specific question” and to disallow for a special session that turned into a political show trial against LePage.

With just 62 days until the November election, it’s likely that Democrats will look to capitalize politically on the inaction of their Republican peers. However, both Thibodeau and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, appeared resolute on not returning to Augusta if the effort was going to be aimed at ousting LePage.

Democrats have broadly called for LePage to resign, an option the governor ruled out last week. While Republicans in the Senate supported some form of reprimand, House Republicans have said LePage’s public apologies to Maine residents and to Gattine were enough of a punishment for LePage, who has a long history of making offensive and inflammatory statements.

LePage incorrectly believed Gattine had called him a racist and left the Democrat a voice message saying: “Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (expletive). I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist (expletive). You … I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”

LePage then told reporters he was so angry with Gattine that he wished it was 1825 and the two men could engage in a duel with pistols.

“When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” LePage said. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

The voice message and subsequent comments about the duel drew national media attention to Maine over a two-week period.

“The Democrats have been clear we know the governor must resign or be removed from office to prevent our state from being stuck in dysfunction for the next two years,” Eves said Tuesday. “We are here today on record and on behalf of Democrats in the Legislature to say we believe that Maine deserves so much better.”

GOVERNOR SAYS HE HAS MOVED ON

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, called the Republican reaction to the poll about a special session “utter nonsense” and said Mainers were “united in their outrage at Gov. LePage’s words and actions. They were united in their demand that he be held accountable, and now they are united in disbelief that Republicans wouldn’t even take the first step toward that accountability.”

Alfond also charged that LePage’s behavior went beyond distasteful, calling it “reprehensible” and saying it threatened the state’s economy in a number of ways. “Investors and visitors alike grow more hesitant to bring business to Maine every time the governor brings national shame on our state,” Alfond said.

LePage, during a weekly radio appearance Tuesday on the Bangor-based WVOM morning talk show with Ric Tyler and George Hale, said he was ready to “move on” and he wasn’t concerned about what the Legislature may or may not do.

“To be very frank, I sort of moved on last week,” LePage said. “I’m moving on and they need to do what they got to do and I’m just not going to … I’m out of it, I’m just going to move on.”

LePage then leveled criticism at Democrats, who he said had fought him for six years on a number of policy issues, including the drug crisis and lowering energy costs.

“They just don’t want to do anything,” LePage said. The governor later said he believed Republicans could lose their majority in the Maine Senate in fall elections, then almost immediately contradicted that, saying that if Maine voters understand his frustration with a lack of action by lawmakers, Republicans “will win the House and Senate.”

Last week, LePage said he would no longer speak to the media, but he told Tyler and Hale on Tuesday he would continue to come on their show.

“You are the exception,” LePage said. “You and George are actually very, very fair people. I look at you more like a break from the regular day of politics.”

Also Tuesday, an independent state representative called on Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to evoke a clause in the state constitution that would require the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to take up whether LePage was competent to execute the duties of governor.

“Had this been a single isolated incident, perhaps it could be forgiven,” Rep. Jeff Evangelos of Friendship wrote to Dunlap. “However, Gov. LePage’s abuse of power has included a continuous stream of profane and violent statements that run counter to his duty to maintain public safety for all (of) Maine’s people.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2016 to correct Rep. Evangelos’ town of residence.