Gov. Paul LePage personally apologized to Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine on Wednesday for leaving a threatening and obscene voice mail on the lawmaker’s phone last week, but the governor said he will not resign and is ready to move on from the controversy.

Whether he’s successful could depend on Senate Republicans. Their leader, Senate President Mike Thibodeau, said he was glad the governor apologized, but he is still “struggling” over LePage’s ability and willingness to change his behavior.

“I just know when something is wrong,” Thibodeau said of LePage’s actions. “But what I’m sure of is that we can’t continue to have the explosiveness that we’ve seen. So we are in hopes that he is going to find a way to correct that.”

Thibodeau said it was up to individual Republican senators to decide if LePage has met their demands that he take corrective action to atone for his behavior toward Gattine and his recent statements on race and drugs. Thibodeau expected to have an idea on Thursday of what steps, if any, the Senate will advocate taking.

On Tuesday, House Republican leaders said they are comfortable that the governor has made amends, but Thibodeau’s comments Wednesday reflect a sharp division within party ranks that could prolong what both sides agree has been a distraction from tackling serious issues facing the state.

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to call on LePage to resign, even though they are effectively powerless at this point.


“We need a functioning government. We need a governor who can work with us every day to solve these problems,” Gattine said after his brief meeting with the governor. “And I’m concerned that we can’t go ahead the next two years and continue to be in this constant cycle where we’re spending days and days and days talking about things other than the economy, our drug problem, our education, health care procedures and all the important things we need to do.”

Gattine said he was glad the governor apologized, but he still believes LePage is unfit to lead the state and should step down.


Wednesday’s developments were the latest steps in a controversy that began last week, when the governor told an audience in North Berwick that he’s been keeping a three-ring binder with mug shots of heroin dealers arrested since January and that more than 90 percent of the suspects are black or Hispanic. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of people arrested for dealing all types of drugs in Maine are white, and critics have said that even if the governor’s numbers were accurate, he is wrong to focus on race.

Over the past week, LePage has repeated his statements about the race of drug dealers in media interviews in several settings, ranging from his Blaine House residence to a meeting with New England governors in Boston, where he was roundly criticized by regional officials for his focus on race.

The governor’s actions, and the responses of Maine lawmakers, residents and others, have been fodder for national media outlets, putting the state in an unflattering light.



One of LePage’s earliest critics after the North Berwick town hall was Gattine. The governor heard that the Westbrook Democrat had called him racist – a misunderstanding apparently stemming from a reporter’s question about Gattine saying the governor made racially charged comments – and lashed out by leaving an obscenity-filled voice mail for Gattine, then saying later that he wished he could challenge Gattine to a duel.

LePage’s apology to Gattine focused on those statements. His office also put out a statement apologizing to Maine residents and Gattine’s family.

After his meeting with Gattine, the governor invited a handful of selected local television and radio reporters into his office. The Portland Press Herald was not among the media outlets allowed in, but on video shared by WCSH-TV, the governor said he apologized to Gattine and was ready to put the matter behind him.

“I will never talk about it again,” he said.

He also said he would never talk to the press again, a threat he has made in the past.


Despite the governor’s apology, House and Senate Republicans remained at odds over what the next step should be for LePage to atone for his actions.

The rift became apparent late Tuesday, when House Republican leaders said they were ready to move on and would not consider calling a special session to consider a censure or other action against the governor. Speaking at a news conference after a private meeting with House Republicans, Minority Leader Ken Fredette said the media shared some blame for focusing on the negative when it comes to LePage.

Thibodeau was clearly frustrated with House Republicans.

“They’re entitled to their own position,” he said Wednesday. “But it was clear to me based on conversations that I have had with my own caucus that we want to make sure that we can have expectation of change.”

Fredette could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, but his spokesman, Rob Poindexter, said the minority leader’s position had not changed.

“Our position is the same as it was 24 hours ago, which is we are not in favor of coming back for a special session,” said Poindexter, spokesman for the House Republicans. “I don’t foresee that changing.”



The governor was aware of the disconnect between House and Senate Republicans and seemed unfazed by it in the interview with TV and radio reporters.

“I think the House is behind me. I believe the Senate would like me to leave,” LePage said.

Asked what he’s doing to atone for his actions, the governor, who does not normally make religious references publicly, said, “I will be seeking spiritual guidance with my wife and my children.”

He then addressed some questions that have been asked by lawmakers, including some Republicans.

“I will tell you this: To whomever it was, I’m not an alcoholic and I’m not a drug addict and I don’t have mental health issues,” he said. “What I have is a backbone.”


LePage became emotional when talking about the support he’s received from his family over the past week.

When pressed about what he might do differently going forward, the governor said he will no longer speak to the press.

“And I’m serious. Everything will be put in writing,” he said. “I am tired of being caught … the gotcha moments.”


Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, was among those who had questioned the governor’s well-being. She said Wednesday’s events didn’t move her from that position.

“I would have preferred he offered a more concrete plan of action,” she said. “Maine people deserve to know how he plans to deal with these things in the future.”


Despite the governor’s apology, Democratic leaders are demanding that he leave office.

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said Democrats had been trying to give Republican leaders space to make a decision about either accepting LePage’s resignation or removing him from office. Eves said he still wants a joint meeting of all legislative leaders to discuss the logistics of a special session, but that removal or resignation are the only scenarios Democrats will consider.

“We are well beyond any feel-good measure that slaps the governor on the hand,” said Eves, who is currently involved in a federal lawsuit against LePage. “He has lost his ability to lead our state and we have a long list of problems that we need to be addressing as a state. And the only appropriate remedy for that is resignation or removal.”

Thibodeau said the governor should face consequences for what he’s said and done.

“If you left a message like that at your place at work, you’d be unemployed,” Thibodeau said. “That’s a hard question to answer, isn’t it? And I think that’s why we are all struggling. I think we all want our governor to be successful. We want to see him be OK. And you know we are trying to figure out how to get him there.”

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett, who had been silent since last week, released a lengthy statement Wednesday afternoon complimenting lawmakers who have “taken an active role” in addressing LePage’s actions.


Bennett also said the state is stuck in a “status quo of destructive liberal policies,” and that LePage has been the “change agent.”

Still, he said change needs buy-in from both parties.

“Maine is essentially one large community,” Bennett said. “This community will only become a stronger, safer and more prosperous one when all of us involved in Maine’s political discourse listen to the voices of our better angels before we speak.”


In his meeting with reporters Wednesday, LePage reiterated his anger over being called a racist, but later acknowledged that Gattine didn’t actually call him a racist, something Gattine has maintained from the start.

“I think that the reporter who put the mic in my face owes the people of Maine an apology as well, because (Gattine) never called me racist,” LePage said of how he learned about Gattine’s comments. “He said I made racially (charged) comments. Maybe, in my mind, it is semantics. But in his mind, after talking to him, it was clear that there was a real difference. Fine.”


When asked whether he regrets using racially charged language about drug dealers repeatedly since last week, the governor said, “I didn’t use racially charged language.”

“(The media) needs to not print any more articles about drug trafficking because every single thing I did (in compiling arrest mug shots) came out of the newspapers,” he said. “Let’s put it this way, human beings are coming to Maine and killing people. … Let’s leave the ethnicity out of it.”


Thibodeau said the governor’s focus on race is troubling. He likened it to putting “gasoline on the fire,” given the state of race relations in the U.S.

Before his meeting with Gattine at the State House, LePage did an interview with WLOB radio’s Ray Richardson, a longtime supporter and defender of the governor.

Richardson pressed LePage about focusing on race when talking about the drug crisis.


“Why does the color of drug dealers matter?” the host asked.

“Because all lives matter, not just black lives,” LePage said. “It’s white people dying every day … but the point is this notion is caught up on defending only one ethnic group. What about the people in Maine?”

Richardson pushed harder.

“If (race) doesn’t matter, why bring it up?” he asked.

“It’s a good point,” LePage said finally. “Go back to what my wife says, ‘You’re brutally honest and sometimes it hurts.’ But it’s the truth.”

Staff Writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.


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