Gov. Paul LePage’s suggestions on Tuesday that he might – or might not – complete his second term have revived interest in Maine’s line of succession in the event of a vacancy in the Blaine House.

The Maine Constitution specifies that the president of the Maine Senate – a seat currently held by Republican Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Winterport – would be first in line to fill the governor’s chair if he resigned or was impeached. In effect, LePage would be handing control of the executive branch to a fellow Republican with strong conservative credentials, but one who has repeatedly been on the receiving end of LePage’s political barbs.

In such a scenario, Thibodeau would be eligible to serve until LePage’s term ends in January 2019, being succeeded by the person elected in November 2018.

If the position of Senate president is vacant, the job of governor would fall to the speaker of the Maine House, a position now held by Mark Eves, a North Berwick Democrat who is one of LePage’s biggest political foes. And if both of the Legislature’s two top positions are vacant, the secretary of state is next in line to become governor.

Any of them could run for the Blaine House while serving out LePage’s term.

Maine’s Constitution does allow for a governor to retain office in the event of a temporary absence – lasting no more than six months – caused by “mental or physical disability.” The Senate president would be first in line to carry out the office of governor during the vacancy. After six months had lapsed, it would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Legislature to approve “a joint resolution declaring the ground of the vacancy,” which must then be reviewed and approved by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court before the governor’s office can be declared officially vacant.


But the constitution also gives the secretary of state the power to attempt to remove a sitting governor from office.

“When the secretary of state shall have reason to believe that the governor is unable to discharge the duties of that office, the secretary of state may so certify to the Supreme Judicial Court, declaring the reason for such belief,” the constitution states. The Senate president or House speaker (in that order) would serve temporarily as governor until the Supreme Judicial Court hold a hearing on the question of whether the governor is “able to discharge the duties of that office.”

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat elected by the Legislature, declined to comment Tuesday on that provision of Maine’s Constitution or the current controversy over remarks by LePage viewed as racially charged and offensive.

Spokeswoman Kristen Schulze Muszynski said the Secretary of State’s Office had received 22 emails and one Facebook post relating to the clause in the Constitution. Dunlap had not received any requests from legislators as of Tuesday afternoon urging him to invoke that clause allowing him to question the ability of LePage to discharge his duties as governor, Muszynski said.


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