May 23, 2013

Fuss over LePage's TV exceeds trivial dispute

LePage tells reporters and Democrats he will move out of the State House because of the disagreement.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

and Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: State House tension

Who shares more responsibility for the tension between Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic legislative leaders?

Gov. LePage

Democratic legislators

They're equally at fault

View Results

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage installed a flat-screen television outside his office in the Hall of Flags. He says he'll move out of the State House because he Legislature, which controls that area, told him to remove it or at least follow proper procedure and request permission to have it.

Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

click image to enlarge

The television stands outside Gov. Paul LePage's office in State House in Augusta.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Related headlines

Related Documents

Hear comments from Justin Alfond and Mark Eves
Read Maine Democrats' statement
Read Gov. LePage's statement

On May 9, Boulter said, the governor's office agreed that the television screen would be in his reception area. On Monday, Boulter said, LePage's office agreed to remove the screen from its current location.

"It is jurisdiction of the council and if the office wanted to have something outside, they could send a request to the Legislative Council and the council would take it up," he said. "I have not received a request."

Boulter said the content of the television message is not the issue.

"It's a long history of keeping it dignified as a place of the Legislature and a place of government," he said. "Each office having their messages go up, it would change the dynamic here quite a bit."

Adrienne Bennett, LePage's spokeswoman, disputed Boulter's characterization. She said the governor's office shut the TV off Tuesday to see what legislators' reaction would be. She provided an email from Boulter that day with the subject line "TV." The body of the message said only, "Thank you."

"We wanted to see if it was the message or the TV," Bennett said. "That's when it became clear to us that it was about the message."

On Thursday, Bennett said the governor was conducting "business as usual" from the Blaine House. She said there were no immediate plans for the office staff to move.

LePage contradicted that later in the day, in an interview with a scrum of reporters.

"No, no, no. We're going to move the office," he said.

When asked where, he said he didn't know. "You know a good real estate guy?" he joked.

Top Democrats weren't amused.

Eves and Alfond said they were upset that so much attention was directed to the issue on the day that the governor vetoed a bill that would provide Medicaid health care coverage to low-income residents and pay the state's hospitals about $186 million in overdue Medicaid reimbursements.

"This meeting with the governor is an example of the types of meetings that happen," Eves said. "It was about three minutes long. ... The governor did the talking, we did the listening. He said he's moving out. We said OK."

Alfond disputed LePage's claim that Democratic leaders are responsible for the dysfunctional relationship.

"He insults people. He goes after people personally, he distracts people. So instead of talking about covering tens of thousands of people (with health care), paying back our hospitals, (reporters) now are here covering a trivial story," Alfond said. "The governor wants to move out. By all means, go ahead. We're going to continue to work."

The relationship between LePage and Democrats has been icy since the Democrats won back majorities in the House and Senate in last year's elections. LePage irked Democratic leaders when he scolded them during swearing-in ceremonies in December and refused to meet with the party's new leaders at the start of the session.

David Cheever, the state archivist, said the Legislature's ownership of the State House has occasionally produced disagreements over artwork in the hallways. But, he said, the television flap appears to be unprecedented.

Public spats over seemingly trivial matters are not.

In 1975, independent Gov. James Longley called legislative leaders "pimps" during a luncheon at the Blaine House. It was one of several head-turning statements by Longley, whose exploits became the subject of Willis Johnson's colorful book, "The Year of the Longley."

Cheever said the Legislature used to share a small airplane with the governor for traveling to public events. Occasionally, the governor would take the plane to an event to which presiding officers were also invited -- and leave them behind.

Cheever said the state got rid of the airplane around the time Republican Gov. John McKernan served with a Democratic majority in the Legislature.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


Today's poll: State House tension

Who shares more responsibility for the tension between Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic legislative leaders?

Gov. LePage

Democratic legislators

They're equally at fault

View Results