AUGUSTA — Top Republicans in the Maine Legislature met Monday night with Gov. Paul LePage and were told he planned to speak with his family and advisers to decide how he’ll respond to the outrage over statements he made last week threatening a Democratic legislator and identifying blacks and Hispanics as “the enemy” in Maine’s war against drug addiction.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport spoke with the governor at the Blaine House for about 90 minutes, said Thibodeau spokesman Jim Cyr.

“The governor told leadership he was going to be speaking with his closest friends and family about the corrective action that Thibodeau was talking about (earlier in the day) and he would get back to leadership (Tuesday),” Cyr said.

After the meeting, which also was attended by House Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling of New Gloucester, Thibodeau told television reporters, “The ball is now in the governor’s court.”

Fredette, in a telephone interview after the meeting, said House Republicans will hold a caucus Tuesday evening to discuss the events of the past few days involving the governor. The caucus will take place at 6 p.m., but the location has not been determined.

Fredette declined to speak about what happened at the meeting with LePage and said the Legislature and state government need to focus on issues such as dealing with the state’s drug crisis, welfare reform and reducing high energy costs.


“Those are some of the issues that the people of Maine really care about. Personality differences are not going to solve any of those problems,” he said.

Espling said the meeting with LePage went well.

“It was proactive and productive. Us being able to have the time to sit down with the governor is a really good thing. We were able to air a lot of our concerns,” Espling said.

Rep. Drew Gattine, the Democratic legislator from Westbrook who received LePage’s obscenity-laced voice mail last week, appeared Monday night on MSNBC to discuss the governor’s actions and the national attention they have drawn.

“The governor’s behavior becomes more erratic and bizarre, calling into question whether he’s fit to serve,” Gattine said in response to questions from host Chris Hayes.

Gattine, in a telephone interview Monday evening with the Portland Press Herald, said two members of the board of directors for the My Place Teen Center in Westbrook told him that the board voted Monday to cancel the governor’s town hall meeting there, which had been scheduled for Wednesday evening.


Donna Dwyer, the center’s president and CEO, said in an email that LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett had been notified that the center did not have the capacity to host the town hall.

Bennett and other LePage representatives did not respond to messages seeking comment Monday.

Democratic leaders commended Republicans for taking the matter seriously, but said a possible legislative censure was not enough and that LePage should step down.

After a short closed-door meeting Monday morning with a handful of House and Senate Republicans, Thibodeau said he had spoken with Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, who posted a statement Sunday on Facebook saying a legislative censure of LePage might be appropriate, and suggesting that LePage may have a substance abuse or mental health problem that requires professional intervention.

Thibodeau said many other Republican senators share her concern.

“She is not on an island here,” Thibodeau said of Volk. “Look, if anybody did this, that was an employee of any corporation in our state, there would be ramifications.”


But Thibodeau and Fredette refused to speculate on what those ramifications might be for LePage or what “corrective action” he needed to take.

After leaving the profane voice mail for Gattine last week, LePage then told reporters he was so angry at Gattine he wished it were 1825 and the two men could duel over their disagreement.

“When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” LePage said. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

LePage was reacting to Gattine’s response to statements the governor made Wednesday at a town hall meeting in North Berwick, where he told a member of the audience that more than 90 percent of those arrested for drug trafficking in Maine since January were black or Hispanic.

LePage also said he kept a three-ringed binder with booking mugshots of those charged with drug crimes as proof. That statement prompted Gattine to say LePage’s comments were “racially charged.”

On Friday, LePage met with reporters again for nearly 40 minutes, apologizing for the language he used in his message to Gattine but not apologizing for saying it. He also reiterated his position that drug-trafficking crimes in Maine are largely perpetrated by people of color.


“Look, the bad guy is the bad guy, I don’t care what color he is,” LePage said Friday. “When you go to war, if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red.”

LePage then turned to Fredette, who was at the news conference and serves as a military lawyer in the Maine Air National Guard. “Don’t you – Ken, you’ve been in uniform – you shoot at the enemy. 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.”

Federal statistics on drug trafficking arrests in Maine show that is not true. The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service reported that in 2014, 1,211 people were arrested for selling or making drugs in Maine, and of those, 170 – or 14.1 percent – were black.

LePage was in Boston earlier Monday discussing energy and other issues at the 40th Conference of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. During the event, the governor again turned to the theme of the race of drug dealers involved in heroin and fentanyl arrests in Maine.

“They’re Hispanic and they’re black and they’re from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Bronx and Brooklyn,” LePage said, according to a State House News Service report quoted in Boston Magazine. “I didn’t make up the rules. That’s how it turns out. But that’s a fact. It’s a fact. What, do you want me to lie?”

Thibodeau said that while Republican leaders had a range of ideas on what should take place after their Monday meeting with LePage, they had not settled on a plan.


“I think there is a whole bunch of different ideas about what the right thing to do is, but I don’t think there was anybody that thought what has transpired is appropriate,” Thibodeau said. “And I would hope that we could come up with something that ends well for the governor as well as the people of the state of Maine.”

LePage’s comments triggered national media attention and were the focus of intensive coverage on MSNBC, CNN, ABC and CBS news and a host of other online, print and television outlets. Many broadcast audio recordings of LePage’s inflammatory voice mail to Gattine, with the obscenities bleeped out.

Rep. Kevin Battle, a Republican from South Portland, told the Associated Press that LePage felt provoked, though that didn’t excuse him from failing to control himself. “There’s some very upset people and rightfully so,” said Battle, who won’t be able to caucus Tuesday. “There needs to be a professional approach.”

Fredette said he and other lawmakers are frustrated by the distraction that LePage’s behavior causes, saying it is keeping them from working on important policy issues, including the state’s opioid drug crisis.

Democratic leaders issued a statement Monday reiterating their position that LePage needed to resign.

Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, assistant majority leader in the Maine House, said Democrats were trying to give their Republican colleagues the space and the time they need to address LePage’s actions.


“Republican leadership needs to take care of the problems that are going on with their chief executive, with their governor, and I think by having that meeting they are showing they want to do that,” Gideon said.

She said she did not know what “corrective action” means, but for Democrats there were only two options for LePage.

“We’ve all been very clear in what we are looking for,” Gideon said. “We feel that the governor has really demonstrated behaviors, and it’s not just that it’s not appropriate for a governor, it shows that he is not in control of either his emotions or his actions, and yes, we have called for his resignation. We think it should be nothing short of that.”

Gideon also echoed some of Fredette’s frustration about LePage’s actions being a distraction for lawmakers.

“We all know we have so many challenges in this state to address, and the really interesting and sad thing about this is (that) all of this sort of arose from one of our greatest challenges, which is this drug abuse and addiction challenge we have in this state,” she said. “It is really just crazy that we are not working together and working on this instead find ourselves embroiled in what is not productive, and quite destructive, actually.”

To vote on a censure of LePage or take any other official action against him, the Legislature would have to convene in a special session. In order to do so, a majority of the members in the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the House and the Senate would have to agree.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.


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