PORTLAND – Gov.-elect Paul LePage told business leaders Friday that his administration will change the relationship between business and state government.

LePage said he will need input from the private sector to understand what obstacles his administration must tackle when he takes office in January.

“It’s not going to be business as usual. It’s going to be, ‘You want to put people to work? How can we help you?’” LePage told an audience of 400 people at the Portland Community Chamber’s Eggs and Issues breakfast at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.

LePage noted that Maine’s map was made more red by this week’s elections, with Republicans taking control of the governor’s office, the House and the Senate. But, he said, that isn’t the real story of the election.

“The real story is, the Maine people have spoken. They have spoken loud and clear that they want the state of Maine to get out of the cellar in business climate.”

LePage said he spent time Thursday reaching out to Democrats. He said it is important that they find common ground and work together before moving on to issues that require negotiation.

LePage announced that he wants Bruce Poliquin, who was one of his rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, to be the state’s treasurer. Poliquin is a business investor and housing developer.

“It’s really high time we get the right people in the right jobs so we can move ahead,” LePage said.

LePage said he also will look for the business community to suggest people to serve in his administration.

MaryEllen FitzGerald, president and founder of Critical Insights, agreed that voters have issued a new mandate.

The pollster, part of a panel that discussed the election after LePage’s remarks, said traditional political concerns gave way to a “vote-your-pocketbook mentality” this election season.

Voters have been consistently worried about jobs and the economy, while five or six years ago they were concerned about issues such as health care, education and the environment, she said.

Ethan Strimling, a Democrat and former state senator, said Republicans were able to tap into voters’ energy and anger. He said his party made the mistake of focusing on its accomplishments and defending policies that voters did not want.

“When people are struggling to feed their families and we’re saying, ‘Please send us back to work,’ it’s pretty hard,” said Strimling, who is a political commentator on WGAN and the CEO of LearningWorks, a nonprofit in Portland that works with at-risk youths.

Josh Tardy, the outgoing House minority leader, said voters want government to be “reasoned, balanced and tempered” in its approach, without the arrogance that a majority can impose on the minority.

“There is a clear message that we have to redefine and restructure government and the role it plays in our lives,” he said. “It’s a balancing act.”

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]