AUGUSTA — The Republican minority caucus in the Maine House has decided not to take any action to address recent inflammatory comments by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The House Republicans decided they would stand by the governor Tuesday following a more than two-hour private meeting where they discussed recent racially charged comments LePage has made at series of public meetings and an obscenity-laced voice mail the governor left for a Democratic lawmaker last week.

Following the caucus meeting, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said it would be up to LePage if he wanted to apologize to people of color for comments he’s made indicating the majority of recent heroin-trafficking arrests in Maine have been committed by blacks and Hispanics.

Republicans were wrestling with what the next steps should be as they look to address recent controversial comments by the governor, including the voicemail message he left for Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. Gattine is set to meet with LePage on Wednesday morning but the agenda for the meeting remains unclear.

“Gov. LePage has acknowledged he is sorry, we have condemned his words for what he said he needs to continue to work on that, but as House Republicans we are going to go out there and start talking about the issues and start talking to the voters because we believe that’s what’s important, we are not coming back in for a special session to talk about this,” Fredette said following the caucus meeting at the Gov. Hill Mansion in Augusta.

Fredette did not specify what LePage had to do to regain the trust of his fellow Republicans in the House. Fredette said at a minimum LePage “clearly understands what he did was wrong.”


“He needs to apologize and that needs to be sincere and that needs to be meaningful and he needs to understand in his heart that what he did was wrong,” Fredette said. “This isn’t another blip by Paul LePage that he made a statement and we want to move on about it, that’s not what this is about.”

Jim Cyr, a spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said Thibodeau was not going to issue any statement on Tuesday night, but he anticipated Thibodeau would say something on Wednesday following another meeting with LePage.

But House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe was strident in his response to Fredette’s statements.

“This was supposed to be a press conference about the governor’s action, but they decided to make it political and talk about their campaign flyer?” McCabe asked.

He said Fredette’s response fell far short of what he believed Thibodeau and Senate Republicans were calling for in a “corrective action.”

“It falls way short of addressing any of the House Democrats concerns at this time,” McCabe said. “Tonight’s press conference was more of a political stunt than it was to address any of the concerns of Maine people and the concerns of the people around the nation.”


He said Fredette also did not directly address LePage’s repeated racially charged comments about drug-traffickers.

“The governor needs to also admit that what he continues to say about race is wrong,” McCabe said. “This isn’t simply about comments he made to another elected official and threats he made to another elected official, this goes well beyond that.”

The Republican caucus came on a day when LePage apologized for his comments at the same time he sent sharply conflicting signals about how he plans to respond to mounting pressure from Democrats and members of his own party.

Some Senate Republicans have said they want a substantial “corrective action” for LePage, while Democrats, in the majority in the House, and minority in the Senate, continue to call for LePage to step down after he said he wished it was 1825 so he and Gattine could engage in a duel with pistols. LePage’s remarks came after he left Gattine the voice message and raged at reporters asking about LePage’s comments at a town hall meeting in North Berwick and about a three-ring binder of news clippings and booking mugshots of heroine trafficking suspects that LePage said he maintained and was predominantly made up of blacks and Hispanics.

While some Republicans, including Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough were calling for the Legislature to meet in special session to vote on admonishing LePage in an official censure, others were taking a measured approach to their reactions.

Now holding 69 seats in the House, Republicans would like to be focusing on increasing their numbers in the House come November, but instead they were dealing with the latest and what many consider to be the most damaging in a long string of their governor’s many controversial missteps and statements just ahead of the Labor Day weekend, the unofficial start of the fall political campaign season.


LePage sounded contrite Tuesday morning when he told Bangor radio station WVOM talk show hosts Ric Tyler and George Hale, “I’m looking at all options. … I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability. I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”

Fredette and Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, addressed reporters during about a 25-minute news conference where they covered a range of issues but ultimately said they had no interest in any action against LePage.

When asked why they could trust LePage to clean up his behavior now after a long history of impolitic statements and insults hurled against lawmakers and others, Fredette said he wanted to turn the conversation to the positive things that the LePage administration had accomplished.

“Where are we today versus six years ago when the unemployment rate was at 8.4 percent and today it’s down below 4 percent and we are having conversations about we don’t have enough workers in the state of Maine to fill these jobs,” Fredette said. He also pointed to recent data that shows personal income growth for Maine was the second highest in the nation for the last fiscal quarter and attributed that to policies pushed for by LePage.

Fredette said LePage’s meeting with Gattine was going to be an important step, but added that LePage also needed to continue to explain himself to the Maine people.

“I do think (LePage) needs to be sincere and out there and talking about why is he apologizing to the state of Maine, he recognizes it was wrong, I think he needs to understand within himself why he did that, why that cannot happen again in the future, that’s part of his sort of soul-searching that he needs to go through,” Fredette said. “It’s not up to me to be a psychiatrist and psychoanalyze the governor.”


Fredette said the type of national attention LePage has garnered for Maine is not needed or wanted.

“Look no one agrees with what the governor said or did, no one does,” Fredette said.

Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers largely declined comment as they left the meeting and none of them attended the news conference with Fredette and Espling, leaving the two leaders to field media questions with a smattering of Republican staff members.

McCabe questioned whether Gattine should even bother to meet with LePage on Wednesday.

“He made it seem like he was being forced to give an apology to Drew Gattine and I only think the governor should sit down with Drew Gattine if he is actually ready to give a sincere apology to Drew.”

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