Almost four years ago, when Paul LePage took office, I gave him benefit of the doubt. I actually wanted him to succeed and bring some fresh ideas to Augusta. I thought perhaps – just perhaps – he could bring a new perspective to the Blaine House and a more business-like approach to state government.

We certainly got a new perspective, but rather than a businessman we got a ringmaster more adept at making a circus of himself and the state than governing effectively.

It’s not worth rehashing the governor’s litany of ignominious remarks here. They’re well known and speak for themselves. Instead let’s review and debunk some of the governor’s more popular boasts from the campaign trail.

LePage repeatedly claims he passed “the largest tax cut in Maine history” but forgets to mention that he had no practical way to pay for them. Instead, the governor and the then-Republican led legislature withdrew $27 million from the rainy day fund and reduced revenue sharing to cities and towns, forcing local taxpayers to finance the cuts through reduced services or higher local taxes. It was the kind of classic fiscal gimmickry that LePage only pretends to abhor.

The governor claims to be creating jobs. But Maine ranks 43rd among states in private-sector job growth since 2011. Even as other New England states recovered all or more of the jobs they lost during the recession, Maine recovered only two-thirds. In practical terms, that means many Mainers are still waiting for any signs of economic recovery during the governor’s tenure.

What’s more, even as interest rates hit historic lows and despite ample capacity for new bonding, the governor refused to issue new bonds for critical investments in Maine small businesses, infrastructure and research and development. In other words, the governor hobbled the Maine economy based not on fiscal responsibility but on pure ideology, punishing hard working Mainers in the process.

The governor touts his success paying off the hospital debt but fails to mention he did so by issuing nearly $500 million in new debt. You read that right. The governor retired the hospital debt by issuing a revenue bond secured by anticipated sales from the state’s new state liquor contract. In other words, Wall Street bond holders paid Maine’s hospitals, not the governor.

The governor touts his successes rooting out supposedly endemic welfare fraud. But by the governor’s own numbers, the total of so-called “questionable” out-of-state TANF transactions in 2013 was about $1 million, or about 0.0002 percent of Maine’s biennial budget.

If these transactions are actually fraudulent – something the governor asserts but has never proven – then by all means let’s prosecute the offenders. But let’s also remember that $1 million is almost the same amount the governor planned to spend on his rigged, no-bid, economically specious and ultimately fraudulent Alexander Group “welfare report.”

The truth is, the governor is stigmatizing and demonizing Maine’s working poor to gin up his political base, cynically holding up struggling Mainers and their families as a foil for the state’s persistent economic struggles. That’s considerably easier than presenting real solutions to empower, educate and employ Maine’s truly needy.

And finally there’s Medicaid expansion, which the governor vetoed five times despite the potential for $690 million in state savings through 2022. The fiscal argument is so compelling that nine other Republican governors expanded the program in their states.

Yet each time LePage vetoed expansion, he denied nearly 70,000 Mainers living below the poverty level access to health insurance, including 3,000 veterans. Let’s be clear, these are individuals making about $15,500 per year. The governor’s claim that they can buy subsidized insurance on the exchanges – while also paying for food, gas, rent, electricity and other essentials – is fanciful.

The governor’s race is on a knife’s edge and could turn on any combination of get-out-the-vote efforts, outside spending, bear baiting, Ebola and the defection of Eliot Cutler’s supporters. For his part, Cutler ran a hard, positive race, but it’s now clear he possesses no path to victory.

So imagine four more years of Gov. LePage without any tempering influence of re-election. Imagine the rhetoric, embarrassment, bullying and facts-be-damned ideology untethered from political calculus.

He won’t say so publicly, but the governor is already pondering that very prospect, privately claiming he’ll be bolder and less restrained in a second term.

If we’re serious about replacing Gov. LePage – and a majority of Mainers are – the best and only choice is Mike Michaud.

Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Congressman Tom Allen. He manages the Boston, MA and Portland, ME offices of VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm headquartered in Washington, DC. He can be reached at:

[email protected] Twitter @CuzziMJ.