November 1, 2010

Campaign Diary: 'If we don't do it now, I don't know when'

By Scott Monroe smonroe@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

JAY - "It's time to finish the job!"

click image to enlarge

Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage greets George, whose owner, Harvey Calden of Jay, was among those attending a rally Sunday at Jay Plaza.

Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

Sounding hoarse but animated, Paul LePage drew applause from 130 supporters and local candidates Sunday as he talked about the importance of getting people out to vote to support not only him, but Republicans across the ballot.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate -- who is the front-runner according to every poll -- told supporters in Jay Plaza off Route 4 that the time has come for change at the State House in Augusta.

After 15 months of campaigning and with the election just two days away, LePage said he was prepared to "reverse the direction of the state" as governor, and "if we don't do it now, I don't know when."

"If nothing else, I make this pledge," LePage told the crowd. "I will give every ounce of my energy to creating jobs in this state. It's a long time overdue."

For LePage, Sunday was all about rallying the troops at different ends of the state.

He started out in Hampden around 10 a.m., meeting with about 20 supporters at Dysart's Truck Stop and Restaurant. LePage then went into the diner, greeting customers and truckers and sitting down for coffee with Bill Beardsley, who ran in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Shortly after noon, supporters began gathering with signs, buttons and T-shirts in Jay Plaza, behind a McDonald's restaurant.

Among the crowd was Charles Webster of Farmington, chairman of the Maine Republican Party.

LePage "is doing very well in Franklin County," Webster said. "There are a lot of French Catholics in Jay who support him, a lot of blue-collar support."

Even though LePage is projected by the polls to win the governor's race by a comfortable margin, Tony Couture, Republican candidate for House District 87, said LePage is "working his tail off to win now."

With his signature top hat and cane, John Frary of Farmington, a former Republican candidate for U.S. House, agreed that LePage's chances were looking good, but that he could take nothing for granted.

When LePage arrived in the parking lot, supporters swarmed around him to shake his hand and take photos. LePage even stopped to shake the paw of a dog, George, wearing campaign signs.

April Drexel of Livermore Falls was among those who greeted LePage. Drexel said she had depended on welfare for the last five years but was "determined" to get off, and has since gone through college and now has a job in mental health. Drexel said LePage's proposal for welfare reform resonates with her, because he's proposing a five-year cap on benefits.

"It took exactly five years for me. It took a lot of hard work," Drexel said.

Surrounded by other local candidates, LePage said a big reason he was in Jay was to stress the importance of re-electing longtime Rep. Sawin Millet of Waterford, whose knowledge of budgets is essential.

Millet predicted that Republicans will take control of the state Senate, saying the Democrats now control all three branches of government "and they're all about power."

LePage said he'd attract more private industry to Maine and cited an example of a recent proposal for a $150 million private prison in Milo that would have created hundreds of jobs.

"Our Senate president," LePage said, referring to Libby Mitchell, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, "said that we were not interested. You know why they said no? Because they (the prison) weren't unionized. I think that's shameful. We are going to be calling them up on Wednesday!"

LePage introduced Jason Levesque, the Republican challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in Maine's 2nd District. LePage called Levesque a "bulldog" who's needed in Washington.

Harkening back to his days as an Army drill sergeant, Levesque said he had been waiting to do this for a crowd.

"Are you fired up!?" Levesque roared. "It's time for change. A new direction. Are you fired up!? Go door to door. Go out there. Let's burn some rubber and have a good time."

Couture, the House candidate, stepped forward and said it was time to "save this state" because "we're in big trouble."

"Let's get this election done!" he yelled. "We want responsibility in Augusta, not shenanigans."

House District 90 candidate Russell Black asked the crowd when was "the last time you saw this much excitement for the Republican Party?"

"We're right there; we just got to push to the top," Black told the crowd. "We need to finish well."

LePage thanked everyone for coming. Just as he started to tell supporters about his stop earlier in the day in Hampden, they interrupted him with a spontaneous chant.

"Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul!"

 

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