House Democrats delayed votes on proposals to reprimand or impeach Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday even as critics and supporters of the governor traded verbal jabs at competing rallies outside the State House.

The opening day of the 2016 legislative session had the potential to be an unusually lively and partisan one, with Democrats poised to introduce a resolution censuring LePage and a separate order calling for an investigation into possible impeachment charges against the governor.

But those debates were shelved as Democratic leaders sought to start the session on a more conciliatory tone, pledging during a press conference to work with Republicans to address the state’s drug crisis, job creation and supporting Maine’s outdoor economy.

“Those decisions will have to be made, but they will be made another day,” House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said of the LePage reprimand votes. “Today we are talking about how we can focus on priorities that are going to put more money into Mainers’ pockets and focus on things that matter to that mom and dad that wake up and go to work every day.”

That debate could come as early as next week, however, according to the author of the order to impeach LePage.

There was real concern headed into Wednesday that a heated, partisan debate about punishing LePage over what critics see as his misuse of power could sour the 2016 session from the start. Although a House Democratic leader is crafting the censure resolution, the party’s leadership has opposed the impeachment push by a small contingent of Democrats and independents because it would be dead-on-arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.


LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett welcomed the House Democrats’ overture, saying the session’s start was “more positive than expected” and that LePage’s “door is always open when legislators want to talk about policy issues and real solutions.”

Two rallies held just outside of the State House, however, underscored the tensions over the two-term Republican governor.

A few dozen people waving “Impeach the bully” signs urged lawmakers to move forward with removing LePage over his involvement in Good Will-Hinckley’s decision to rescind a job offer to Eves.

The impeachment order expected to come before the House next week also accuses LePage of using state resources to force out the president of the Maine Community College System, intervening in the unemployment compensation board, refusing to allow administration officials to testify before the Legislature and withholding bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program.

But an even-larger group of pro-LePage supporters – including leaders of the Maine Republican Party – hastily organized a counter-rally at the same time. At one point, the pro-LePage group hovered on a hill and steps just a few dozen feet away and attempted to drown out the pro-impeachment rally with their own slogans.

And tensions escalated.


As the governor’s supporters chanted “Paul LePage,” the governor’s critics countered with their own chants of “Bully!” Even with a megaphone, the pro-impeachment rally organizers struggled to drown out the shouting and get control of the rally.

“Hey, you up there! Nobody interrupted you! Shut up!” shouted one angry pro-impeachment demonstrator.

The interaction settled down after a few minutes when the governor’s supporters stepped back to watch from afar.

Rep. Ben Chipman, the Portland Democrat who is lead sponsor of the impeachment order, told the LePage critics that he believes the other seven alleged abuses outlined in his resolution are just as egregious as the Good Will-Hinckley issue. LePage has acknowledged threatening to withhold $530,000 in state funding for the charter school and nonprofit organization after learning that his political rival, Eves, was hired as president.

Chipman said he planned to move forward with the impeachment order “in the next few days” or early next week. Asked about the reaction to his proposal within the Democratic caucus, Chipman said there was considerable support.

“Some members aren’t supportive, and that’s fine,” Chipman said. “We all have an obligation to vote our conscience and do what is best for our districts. But there is a lot of support in the caucus for what we are doing as well.


Several members of the state and county Republican committees as well as Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett was among those who turned out to defend the governor.

Mary Alioto of Richmond said much of the opposition to LePage appears to be geared toward his style and perceptions that he is a “bully.” But as someone from the private sector, Alioto said she understands the importance of taking charge – including when an employee is not performing – and she said LePage seems intent on removing “cronyism” from state government.

“I believe he has the state of Maine’s best interests in mind,” she said.

Brent Littlefield, the governor’s political advisor, also mocked the anti-LePage rally for carting empty boxes into the State House to symbolize the 20,000 petition signatures gathered in support of impeachment.

“Governor Paul LePage was re-elected with the largest number of votes of any Governor in Maine’s history,” Littlefield said in a statement. “His continued backing was demonstrated by the large number of Maine men and woman who came out in a rally of support today.”

The debate over LePage’s political tactics is far from over, however, as was clear from Wednesday’s events.

“Today is about our priorities. Tomorrow is another day,” Eves said after being pressed by reporters on the status of the censure or impeachment proposals. “Any lawmaker could bring forward an order to reprimand the governor or to make a statement.”


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