WATERVILLE — Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage will return to Waterville Wednesday evening to speak to community members and students of Colby College, where he is expected to be met by protesters who feel his voice does not belong on campus.

Former Gov. Paul LePage

The free talk by the controversial two-term governor and two-term mayor of Waterville is titled after his former campaign slogan, “Putting People Before Politics,” and will cover “his political experience and the future of Maine politics,” according to an event description from Colby College. It is scheduled to be held from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Ostrove Auditorium, located in the Diamond Building. There is no entry fee.

The talk comes as LePage is becoming a prominent voice once again in Maine politics since departing as governor.

Recently, LePage endorsed the candidacy of Dale Crafts, who is running as a Republican for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat. In doing so he passed over an endorsement of his former press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, who is also running for the Republican nomination in the 2nd District.

Lily Wilson, a senior at the College and a co-president of the Colby College Democrats, said that LePage’s anticipated appearance at the liberal arts college of about 2,000 students has sparked some outcry from campus Democrats. Several people plan to carry anti-LePage signs and line the hallway and atrium of the Diamond Building before the event, according to Wilson. They will also stand inside Ostrove Auditorium while LePage speaks.

“The Colby Dems are pretty upset and disappointed that they decided to bring him to campus because his entire platform is based on violent, bigoted comments, and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up,” said Wilson.

LePage is known for his fiery statements and stances against Medicaid expansion, the judiciary system, and other topics ranging from the state’s asylum seekers to LGBTQ rights. During his time in the Blaine House, January 2011-January 2019, he ushered in some of the largest income tax cuts in the state’s history, while also vetoing more bills as governor than his predecessors from the past 100 years combined. Critics have argued that his tax cuts benefited wealthy residents at the cost of Mainers with low and middle incomes, whose wages stayed stagnant while government programs that supported them were gutted.

“The title (of his talk), ‘Putting People Before Politics’ is absurd given his track record,” Wilson said. “This is not about furthering discourse, but about privileging racist, bigoted, intolerant viewpoints.”

Wilson said that the event this week has led to a “significant conversation” on the school’s internal civil discourse platform, which requires Colby login credentials to view and participate in.

While the calendar description does not name a sponsor, Wilson said the Colby College Republicans invited LePage to speak. The group also brought former Republican U.S. Congressman Bruce Poliquin to campus in April.

Meredith Allen and Krisy McNichol, juniors who lead the college’s Republican club, did not respond to multiple requests for a comment Tuesday.

The Diamond Building, where the speech will take place, is home to the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement and the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights in addition to student research offices and group workrooms, according to Colby’s website.

Valerie Dionne, a French professor and director of the Oak Institute, said she had heard about LePage’s planned visit but that the Oak Institute had nothing to do with planning it.

“The Oak Institute inviting Paul LePage to speak? Certainly not,” she said.

Patrice Franko and Carrie LeVan, the director and associate director of the Goldfarb Center, respectively, did not respond to calls before press time.

At the end of his gubernatorial term in 2018, LePage told the Morning Sentinel he planned to spend winters in Florida and live in Aroostook County during the spring, where he and his wife, Ann, can be closer to their grandchildren in New Brunswick, Canada. He spent the summer tending bar at McSeagulls Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor.

LePage has at various times suggested he may again run for different political offices, most recently suggesting he may run for Maine governor again in 2022.

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