As Maine’s first lady, Ann LePage has been known mostly for her work with military families and veterans, and for taking a part-time waitressing job to help supplement her husband’s lowest-in-the-nation governor’s salary.

But speculation in a New York Times report Sunday that Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s controversial former chief strategist, might be recruiting Ann LePage in an effort to unseat Maine Sen. Angus King lifted her political profile well beyond being a loyal supporter of her firebrand husband, outspoken Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The notably apolitical Ann LePage for the most part has played the typical and non-controversial role of a first lady, taking up a special cause in military families and spearheading an annual food drive from the Blaine House, the governor’s mansion in Augusta.

That Ann LePage might be on Bannon’s short list for possible challengers to King also suggests Paul LePage has spent most of his political capital. Even those most loyal to President Trump and his ultra-conservative followers in Washington may see Maine’s outgoing governor as an unsafe bet to beat King, who remains one of the most popular U.S. senators.

David Farmer, a Democratic political consultant and former deputy chief of staff for Maine Gov. John Baldacci, said Monday that speculation around Ann LePage running against King could be a trial balloon or just a simple attempt to “troll” King.

Farmer posted a blog last week with leaked polling data apparently gathered by a pollster for Maine Sen. Susan Collins that showed King enjoys high job approval numbers, with more than 60 percent of Maine voters supporting him.

“He’s among the most popular senators in his home state so anybody that challenges him is going to have a difficult time,” Farmer said. “When your numbers are that high, it’s harder for them to get much higher.”

A message left for Ann LePage at the Blaine House was not returned Monday, a state and national holiday. A worker at McSeagull’s, the Boothbay Harbor restaurant where LePage works as a part-time waitress, said she wasn’t on duty.

Ann LePage, a Vassalboro native, mostly has been known for her support of veterans’ causes, including the nonprofit Travis Mills Foundation. Mills, a quadruple amputee, operates a vacation retreat for wounded veterans from his home in Maine. He was wounded by an improvised explosive device in 2012 during this third tour in Afghanistan.

In 2014, LePage gained attention when she participated in a tandem skydiving jump with Mills during the Freedom Fest, a concert in Fort Kent that raised money for the Northern Maine Veterans Museum and Community Center.

The New York Times report focused on Bannon’s efforts to recruit Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Security, to run against Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Utah. Bannon, after leaving the White House, announced he intended to help those who wanted to overthrow the so-called “Republican establishment” in Congress.

King, a former two-term governor and an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, has faced steady criticism from Gov. LePage for both his recent stance against the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and for his involvement in Maine’s wind energy industry.

State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, has announced he intends to challenge King in 2018 and remains the only Republican officially in the race.

“As first lady, Ann LePage has repeatedly proven her dignity, formidability and commitment to Maine,” Brakey said when asked about the prospect of Ann LePage running for the U.S. Senate. “Ann and her family still have so much to offer our state and many people, including myself, would love to see her continue in public service. This Senate seat belongs to all Maine people, not just to me and certainly not to Angus King. I would welcome anyone into this race who wants to help advance a vigorous debate on the issues we face as Maine people.”

A message left for King seeking comment was not returned Monday.

Paul LePage has toyed with the idea of challenging King, saying in several talk radio shows that he might run, but he has also said he wasn’t going to run or that his decision to run hinged largely on what Ann LePage wanted him to do.

Brent Littlefield, a political adviser to the governor, would neither confirm nor deny that Ann LePage might run.

“There is no question that Ann LePage has been a fantastic first lady for the people of Maine and a champion for Maine’s veterans,” Littlefield said. “Paul LePage has often reminded people that he is not a fan of politics and he’s not a politician, but rather a job-creating businessman. Ann’s feelings about politics are similar to the governor’s.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: thisdog

______________________

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 1:55 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2017, to correct the name of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Security.