LEWISTON — Gov. Paul LePage suggested Wednesday that he would be interested in a job in a hypothetical Donald Trump administration and, if he didn’t get one, he would run against Maine’s U.S. Sen. Angus King.

But, in his typical style, the governor then laughed and added: “Believe me, it doesn’t happen unless my wife says ‘Yes.’ ”

LePage made the statements Wednesday to a mostly friendly crowd in Lewiston, his hometown, during a forum in which he criticized the Legislature for several heroin-related bills and said Maine is losing jobs to other states with lower taxes and energy costs. As in most previous forums, LePage used the event to urge attendees to elect lawmakers supportive of his policy priorities of eliminating the income tax, reducing energy costs, addressing student loan debt and reforming welfare.

He received some of the biggest applause for his comments about Trump and King, however, when asked about his political aspirations. At the suggestion of a possible vice presidency, LePage laughed and said, “We’re too much alike.”

He then said: “If I don’t go to work in the Trump administration, I will probably seek another position in politics,” clarifying later that he would run against King, a former Maine governor and independent. LePage’s second term as governor and King’s first term as senator both expire at the start of 2019.

But as he has done repeatedly during his five years as governor, LePage’s real intentions were difficult to gauge amid comments always couched in jokes.


“But what I have told Donald Trump is this: You know, I want to save the federal government some money … I want to do my part,” LePage said. “So what about if I become the ambassador to Canada in the summer and Jamaica in the winter?”

The governor has made similar statements about his post-gubernatorial plans only to dismiss them later as jokes. But he appears to be seriously considering challenging King, a moderate who polls suggest has high approval ratings among Maine voters. LePage’s political consultant, Brent Littlefield, declined to comment Wednesday night.

Asked for comment, King spokesman Scott Ogden wrote: “Senator King spent the evening talking with Mainers about how to solve the opioid and heroin epidemic in our state. He remains focused on that work and doing the job the people sent him to the Senate to do.”

On more substantive policy issues, LePage criticized lawmakers for voting overwhelmingly to override his veto of a bill that allows pharmacists to dispense the overdose antidote naloxone, or Narcan, without a prescription. Yet LePage’s comments indicated a misunderstanding of a key aspect of the bill.

LePage claimed that one of the reasons he vetoed the bill, L.D. 1547, was because of liability concerns for someone who administers naloxone to an overdose victim who still dies. That person could be open to lawsuit from the victim’s family, he suggested.

But the bill provided clear immunity from lawsuit both to pharmacists who dispense the antidote drug and to individuals who administer naloxone “to an individual whom the person believes in good faith is experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose.”


Also, while LePage said the Legislature failed to provide funding for naloxone training, the Legislature’s fiscal office said the bill would result in only a “minor cost increase” for rule-making that “can be absorbed within existing budgeted resources.”

LePage also assailed the Legislature for overriding his veto of a bill that makes possession of small amounts of heroin a misdemeanor offense. LePage had supported keeping it a felony offense – a position also advocated by Attorney General Janet Mills – to give prosecutors leverage to nudge drug addicts into treatment as a way to avoid a felony record.

“Giving a person a misdemeanor with trafficking and taking heroin is like leaving a loaded gun on your coffee table with a toddler running around,” LePage said. “That’s what I think it is. It’s a very dangerous and deadly drug. And we should do everything we can, even if they don’t want to, to get them into a rehab situation.”

Focusing on other issues, LePage said it was “an insult” to successful Mainers to propose imposing a 3 percent tax on households earning more than $200,000 annually to pay for increased K-12 funding, as proposed by one referendum on the November ballot.

He also said Mainers need to be focused on creating good jobs that pay a living wage rather than on increasing the state’s minimum wage. But for the second time in several weeks, LePage incorrectly stated that Maine’s minimum wage was $7.65 an hour when it is actually $7.50 an hour.

On labor issues, LePage said Maine needs to become a so-called right-to-work state in order to compete for companies and labeled the Maine Education Association teacher’s union as “the worst organization in the state of Maine.”


But he credited the Legislature for passing a bill to provide $150 million in bonding authority to expand the Maine Correction Center in Windham, part of which would include a 200-bed drug addiction treatment facility. And he said his administration is making more progress on welfare reform because Democrats now see it as an election issue.

Unlike most recent town halls, no one heckled the governor Wednesday.

The event was interrupted briefly, however, by a large group of college-age protesters who silently held up signs reading “LePage Maine’s Shame.” That was the same wording of a sign – also held by a silent protester – that prompted LePage to abruptly end a speech at the University of Maine Farmington last week and walk off the stage.

LePage quickly moved on with his forum after the protesters were escorted out, but not before adding: “I really hope you’re not Bates (College) kids. You are giving the United States a bad name.”


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