The board of the Westbrook teen center where Gov. Paul LePage planned to hold a town hall meeting Wednesday night has voted to cancel the event.

The move follows growing condemnation of the governor’s recent actions, including inaccurate comments he made that drug traffickers arrested in Maine are predominantly black and Hispanic, and an obscenity-filled voice mail he left Drew Gattine, a Democratic state representative from Westbrook.

Westbrook leaders last Friday, in an open letter defending Gattine, said LePage had “humiliated himself and the office” with his latest actions.

However, LePage told his staff last Thursday, while several reporters were present for a meeting with him, that he wanted his next town hall to be in Westbrook.

Donna Dwyer, president and CEO of My Place Teen Center in Westbrook, confirmed Monday night that LePage’s planned town hall meeting had been canceled because the teen center lacked the capacity to host it.

Wednesday’s event was to be held just one week after a town hall in North Berwick during which LePage disclosed that he has been keeping a three-ring binder of photos of suspects charged with selling drugs in Maine. He said that 90 percent of the photos were of black or Hispanic suspects, prompting many to criticize the governor for focusing on race. LePage previously had made comments about black drug dealers from out of state coming to Maine and impregnating “white girls.”


Among those who criticized LePage for his latest comments was Gattine, who as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee has tussled with the governor.

Told Thursday, the day after the North Berwick town hall, that Gattine had questioned his comments about race, LePage responded angrily to reporters and then left an expletive-filled voice mail on Gattine’s cellphone. He later told reporters that he wished it were 1825 so he could challenge Gattine to a duel.

Gattine has denied calling the governor a racist, but said he was troubled by LePage’s racially charged language.

LePage met with reporters later Thursday after leaving the voice mail and again on Friday in an effort to further explain himself, but he did not apologize to Gattine and did not back off his claims about race and drug dealers. In fact, he took his comments further.

Referring to the fight against drug traffickers as a war, he said: “You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

Since Friday, many lawmakers, including a growing listnumber of Republicans, have called on the governor to seek professional treatment. Democratic leaders have asked him to resign. Senate Republican leaders said Monday that they met with the governor to discuss “corrective action.”


Westbrook’s Mayor Colleen Hilton, a Democrat, was among many who condemned the governor’s recent words and actions. Along with City Council President Brendan Rielly and School Committee Chairman James Violette, Hilton last week addressed an “Open Letter to the People of Maine.”

“Once more Governor LePage has humiliated himself and the Office of the Governor,” it read. “He continues to again embarrass the citizens of this wonderful state. Unfortunately, the current target of his inappropriate outbursts is Drew Gattine, a respected member and leader of our community, the City of Westbrook, and a highly respected member of the Maine State Legislature.

“Drew Gattine is what we want in a Maine leader. He is totally dedicated to helping others, has integrity and a strong ethical compass, is willing to lead with humor and humility, is articulate and is open to dialogue with those who disagree with him.”

Rielly also confirmed that the town hall had been canceled and said that a rally for decency was scheduled for Riverside Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Westbrook, a mostly blue-collar mill city of about 18,000 residents, has seen its demographic makeup shift in recent years. Many immigrants and refugees have settled in the city, in large part because of affordable housing, and recent events have created racial and ethnic tension.

After it was learned this month that Adnan Fazeli – an Iranian refugee who became an Islamic State radical – had lived in Westbrook, Muslims in the same housing complex were targeted with anonymous typed notes that read, “All Muslims are Terrorists should be Killed.”


Westbrook, like many communities, also has been hit hard by the heroin and opiate epidemic. Following a rash of overdose calls, the city’s police department accepted an offer by Maine’s attorney general to equip officers with more doses of the life-saving drug Narcan.

In 2014, Westbrook had 11,770 registered voters, made up of 38 percent Democrats, 22.9 percent Republicans, 4.5 percent independent and 34.6 unenrolled,according to the secretary of state. When LePage was re-elected in 2014, he received 41 percent of the votes cast in Westbrook.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, criticized LePage for wanting to schedule the town hall event in Gattine’s hometown.

“It’s unbelievable that the governor plans to hold a town hall in Westbrook on the heels of his threats toward Rep. Drew Gattine. He doesn’t seem to be in touch with reality here. He keeps making bad decisions in the wake of his meltdown last week. This erratic behavior is why we and many Republicans do not have faith in his ability to hold his office.”

LePage previously held a town hall forum in Westbrook in February 2015, during which he talked mostly about his proposed budget. That event, one of his first town halls, was held at the city’s Performing Arts Center, located at the middle school.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.


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