Four days after Gov. Paul LePage followed in the footsteps of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and endorsed Donald Trump for president, it’s still unclear why LePage embraced the candidacy of a front-runner he once dismissed as inexperienced.

The Maine governor was not available for comment Monday, and his staff declined to publicly address the question.

However, there is widespread speculation that Christie, a longtime friend of LePage, played some role in convincing the Maine governor to join him in backing a candidate that many Republicans have described as equal parts con man and demagogue.

At a private meeting of Republican governors in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20, LePage urged his fellow chief executives to disavow Trump, according to a story published Saturday in the New York Times. LePage urged his fellow governors to distance themselves from Trump by penning an open letter “to the people,” the Times reported, but the letter was never written.

Six days after the governors’ meeting, LePage endorsed Trump in an interview with Boston radio host Howie Carr.

LePage’s staff has not disputed the Times story, however, his office released a comment Monday that it submitted to the Times by email when the newspaper apparently sought comment on LePage’s actions for its story.


The comment, which the Times didn’t publish, read, “As Governor LePage likes to say, he was the Donald Trump of politics before Trump got into the race. Our outspoken governor says what’s on his mind, regardless of the political fallout. The (Republican Governors Association) is a powerful organization, representing 31 governors across the country, and Governor LePage told them they could have united behind any one of several governors who would have made an excellent candidate before Trump gained momentum. Unfortunately, many governors chose to sit on the sidelines. The reality is Trump is now the front-runner.”

LePage spokesman Peter Steele wouldn’t say if Christie played a role in convincing the Maine governor to back Trump, noting only that LePage has been approached by candidates for an endorsement ever since Christie, his first pick, dropped out of the race after a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary. Steele has said the governor supports Trump because of his business background and because he has begun reaching out to Republican governors.

Christie’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Monday and the New Jersey governor, who held a news conference Monday to announce a court nomination, declined to answer any questions related to Trump.

Hope Hicks, the communications director for Trump’s campaign, also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Christie’s influence in the governor’s decision to back Trump is plausible. Christie and LePage have a friendship that began in 2011, when LePage declared that he hoped to be the “Chris Christie of Maine.” In 2014 Christie was the head of the Republican Governors Association, which spent $5.1 million helping LePage win reelection. Christie made several visits to support LePage’s campaign, describing the Maine governor as a close friend.

Christie also played a key role in a high-profile controversy involving Kaci Hickox, a Maine nurse who had treated Ebola patients in Africa. Hickox was quarantined in Newark, New Jersey, on her way back to Maine. Christie later approved her release to Maine, where she instantly became a campaign issue for LePage, and later, for Christie’s presidential bid.


In September, Christie and LePage joked during a town hall meeting in New Hampshire about Hickox’s benefit to their respective campaigns.

“After we were assured that she didn’t have Ebola, then I called Paul, and I said, ‘Tag, you’re it. You have her back,’ ” he said, according to news reports. “Then she realized the governor of Maine felt exactly the way the governor of New Jersey (did).”

LePage responded, “Thank you, Chris.”

Christie’s decision to back a candidate whose positions he’d previously described as “ridiculous” and “dead wrong” have been explained as transactional politics. Christie served as New Jersey’s lead prosecutor between 2002 and 2008 and he’s rumored to be eyeing a top post in the U.S. Justice Department if Trump is elected. That ambition was seemingly validated by Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., during a FOX News interview Sunday.

“I mean, I think there would certainly be something within the Justice Department for him,” Trump Jr. said.

So far, no motive has been assigned to LePage’s endorsement, which came just hours after Christie announced his. LePage’s view of Trump has been inconsistent. In January he told Carr, the radio host, that he believed Trump was “pushing in the right direction,” but he qualified his remark by saying that he was sticking with Christie.


“I have to be loyal to my guy (Christie) because if it wasn’t for my guy I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

On Feb. 9, the day of the New Hampshire primary, LePage told radio station WVOM in Bangor that Trump lacked the experience to be president. “I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, although he should give me a stipend or he should give me a bonus about starting this whole thing about being outspoken,” he said.

On Friday, when he made his endorsement, LePage’s opinion of Trump had improved. The presidential front-runner, he said, could be “one of the greatest presidents if he sits down and puts together a good team.”


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