Gov. Paul LePage has agreed to return to the southern Maine venue where he had spirited exchanges with audience members regarding his views on how to best deal with the state’s opioid crisis and his reluctance to condemn the plan by then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to block Muslims from entering the country.

University of Southern Maine spokesman Robert Stein confirmed Monday night that LePage is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting at the Portland campus on April 18.

Stein said the Republican governor was invited by the Young Americans for Freedom, the conservative student organization that invited Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, to lecture at USM in February on what he described as the immigration crisis. During his remarks, Lockman argued that refugees coming into Maine are using public benefits that should be available only for citizens. More than 200 people protested Lockman’s appearance.

While Stein doesn’t anticipate that there will be organized protests during LePage’s appearance, he added, “I expect there will be people who will challenge his positions.”

Benjamin Bussiere, who serves as chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom, said he invited the governor to return to USM.

Bussiere said the governor is expected to conduct a town hall meeting where he talks about his views on welfare reform, his budget proposal, protecting the elderly and strengthening the state’s economy. After his presentation, LePage has agreed to answer questions from the audience. The forum will last about an hour.

“We are hoping to hear from every political perspective. There is a lot of Democratic activism in the city of Portland,” Bussiere said. “But I think it will be good to hear from both sides.”

LePage held a town hall meeting at USM’s Portland campus in December 2015 and was repeatedly challenged on his views on how best to deal with Maine’s drug epidemic and Trump’s immigration proposals.

In February, LePage tweeted that he supports President Trump’s immigration order that temporarily bans immigrants from six mostly Muslim countries. That tweet came after Maine Attorney General Janet Mills signed onto a legal brief opposing Trump’s immigration order. A U.S. District Court in Hawaii indefinitely blocked the travel ban last month.

“AG Mills speaks for herself on immigration order. I fully support @realDonaldTrump exec action to protect all Americans,” LePage tweeted.

Bussiere said the governor’s views on immigration could prove to be contentious at the town hall meeting.

“There are a lot of people here on campus who are against the governor and his policies,” Bussiere said. “It seems that the exercise of free speech and different ideas is always met with hostility on this campus, but I want all views to be heard.”

Stein said that LePage will speak at 6 p.m. in the Hannaford Hall Auditorium, 88 Bedford St.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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