October 25, 2013

Two sides of LePage: He sometimes offends, but his focus is unwavering

By JOHN CHRISTIE
Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

(Continued from page 13)

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Gov. Paul LePage has emerged as an anti-politician with his disdain for the sometime necessary tact required of political leaders.

Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

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“It’s very easy to demonize people who don’t think like we do,” she said.

Domestic violence – “DV” to the advocates  - was on LePage’s radar from the beginning. In Colin Woodard’s “The Making of Paul LePage” in the Portland Phoenix in January 2012, he cited LePage’s recollection that he left his Lewiston home at age 12 after his drunken father broke his nose and dislocated his jaw.

LePage said the doctor and nurse who treated him were angry, but there was little they could do.

“Back then, the laws aren’t as tough as they are now,” Woodard quoted LePage as saying.

By the time LePage leaves office  - even if he lasts just one term – the laws will be tougher yet. 

LePage, Colpitts’ group, Democrat Emily Cain, Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley and others have spearheaded such changes as requiring judges, not poorly-trained bail commissioners, set bail in DV cases; a validated risk assessment program that law enforcement will use in dealing with DV defendants; and a legal definition of strangulation in the criminal code.

LePage also appears in a DV public service video filmed in the Statehouse with the burly governor surrounded by a couple dozen men asking the public to “stand up” again domestic abuse. The message is clear – men are the problem and the solution -- and it’s coming from a range of men: cops, bikers, men in suits.

Colpitts said working directly with LePage means he will ”challenge you, engage you in disagreements, but, not in my experience is it intended to intimidate or harass you in any way.” His theme in working on the legislation, she said, was “knowing that people will change if you hold them accountable.”

How does she jibe his commitment to ending DV with comments such as suggesting a legislator was figuratively sodomizing the state.

“He came back and said that wasn’t an appropriate thing to say,” she replied. “In my conversations with him, he never used language like that.”

Cain worked with LePage on DV as well as ethics reform, an issue that never went far in Democratic administrations. The LePage-Cain bill made four changes in the state’s ethics laws, aimed primarily at better disclosure and transparency.

On the other hand, LePage vetoed a bill that would have required disclosure of donors to a governor-elect’s transition.

Cain said the governor’s successes in domestic violence and ethics laws – and their failure to be well known -- demonstrate the political challenge he faces.

“It’s hard to have those examples actually come front and center stage because of all the other -- whether events or comments or dramas -- that surrounds the governor,” she said. “It becomes hard for anyone in the public or even the Statehouse to celebrate those moments because they get drowned out by a lot of other noise.”

Chapter 8: Scenes from behind the scenes

Scene 1

Location: Dining room, Blaine House, the governor’s mansion.

When: May 2013

Present: Gov. Paul LePage, First Lady Ann LePage, Communications Director Peter Steele and a reporter with a recording device.

ANN (to her husband): One thing – you’ve never forgotten where you come from, ever.
ANN (to the reporter): That’s my job – to make sure he doesn’t.

LEPAGE: And she does a very good job of it, really. She’s like I am, we’re both from the same type of environment. It’s about people and some are disadvantaged, some are not; some are very elitist, some are spoiled -- which I have a problem with a lot of them. But it is where we come from and our kids, our kids are both, all five of them, have had a great education. All of them got a master’s degree except for one. All very well educated, all did very very well in school, but they’re not elitist, they’re really down to earth every day people, except for one who likes to think she’s better than she is. I have a daughter, Lisa, I love her, but she likes to sign her name and she puts Lisa LePage, MBA. So I get an honorary doctorate, so now when I sign my name, I’m putting Ph.D.”

(Continued on page 15)

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