Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin traveled to Lewiston on Wednesday to campaign for Paul LePage’s bid for a third term in the Blaine House in the latest stop on his multistate tour to help deliver states to the GOP column in November.

Youngkin and LePage, who had not met before the event, took a few minutes to praise each other and talk about their shared education policies with a handful of reporters before slipping off to a closed-door, $50-a-plate dinner that drew about 275 people to the Peck Building.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, left, campaigned for Paul LePage, right, at LePage’s Lewiston campaign headquarters in the former Peck Building on Main Street on Wednesday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LePage cited Youngkin’s pro-parent educational policies, like Virginia’s new law that allows parents to review, remove and replace sexually explicit material from school curriculum. LePage applauded this law and said some of what is taught in Maine’s schools is too sexually explicit for the corresponding grade.

As proof, LePage referred to an optional online lesson plan that has since been removed from the Maine Department of Education website introducing the concept of homosexuality and transgender to children as young as kindergarten. The Maine GOP is running an ad about the lesson plan now.

“I have looked at what he’s done in Virginia on education and I wholeheartedly agree,” LePage said. “I want to live off some of his ideas. Some of the policies that are in Virginia, that are working, we want to embrace them and bring them to Maine.”

Youngkin’s education platform can be traced back to the belief that parents should be in charge of their children’s education, or at least have a say in it. “Democrats are trying to put politicians and bureaucrats between parents and their children,” he said, and turn students into “the state’s children.”


In giving parents a bigger say, Republicans have found a formula for improving test scores and winning elections, Youngkin said. The issue helped deliver Youngkin his victory, flipping the state from blue to red, and made Youngkin one of the hottest campaign surrogates on the Republican circuit this fall.

In addition to Maine, Youngkin has visited Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska and Wyoming, and has plans to visit Connecticut, Kansas, Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. Insiders say he’s mulling a possible presidential bid, but Youngkin says he’s repaying the party for its help in his 2021 election.

His message plays well with Maine Republicans, who name-checked Youngkin often during the raucous overhaul of the party platform at the Republican Party’s April convention. The new platform calls for a ban on sexually based material, transgender identity and “critical race theory” in public schools.

It frightens Democrats who see it as code for crackdowns on teaching race, gender and sexuality.


LePage called for more transparency in local education, especially in how school boards operate, and a louder voice for parents through something that he has called a parents bill of rights. His campaign has not released any details yet, but staff say he envisions it as a user-friendly parent handbook.


On Wednesday, LePage gave an example: In some communities, parent groups who go to school board meetings to discuss their concerns are told to pick one person to speak for the group who is then limited to only three minutes of speaking time. That is not fair, LePage said. They deserve more time.

LePage also vowed, if elected, to advocate for school choice, provide after-school care for K-8 students and reinvigorate the vocational-technical school system, noting that he took his first carpentry class in the eighth grade. He said Maine needs to bring the trades back.

While reporters weren’t allowed inside, people who attended the event said that Youngkin’s take-back-our-schools education philosophy commanded the biggest cheers of the night. But his gift of one of his trademark fleece vests, embroidered with LePage’s name, was a close second, they said.

Joyce Mills of Gray, foreground, and several dozen others protest Wednesday night in front of former Gov. Paul LePage’s campaign headquarters in the former Peck Building on Main Street during a fundraiser in Lewiston.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Outside the Peck Building, about three dozen protesters chanted opposition to judicial and legislative abortion restrictions and bans, including the 15-week abortion ban that Youngkin has said he would support in Virginia. Youngkin has yet to propose such legislation, and its chance of passage is unclear.

The protesters chalked messages like “abortion is healthcare” and “go home Glenn” and “go back to Florida” in reference to LePage’s two-year retirement to the Sunshine State between 2019 and 2020. Cars honked. A few, including one boasting an oversized LePage 2022 flag, flipped off the protesters.

LePage has avoided talking about abortion on the campaign trail, calling it a distraction from more important issues, like inflation and jobs. He has said he is anti-abortion, and has appeared at anti-abortion rallies, but he has also said he wouldn’t try to curb abortion access in Maine if elected.



Abortion rights advocates worry that LePage could be parsing his words – saying he wouldn’t initiate an anti-abortion bill isn’t the same thing as saying he would reject a Republican anti-abortion bill – to leave the door open to flip-flop on abortion if he were to be re-elected in Maine.

On Wednesday, LePage went a bit further, but it is unclear if he intended his words to become policy.

“It’s the law in Maine and it’s going to stay in Maine as the law,” said LePage, referring to the 1993 bill signed into law by a Republican governor that allows abortion until the fetus is medically viable, or between 22 to 24 weeks. “I have no reason to want to take it out.”

But Youngkin’s visit worried Maine’s abortion advocates like Nicole Clegg, the chair of Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund Political Action Committee. Clegg believes the two men have more in common than just shared education and economic policies.

“Paul LePage’s opposition to abortion is clear, and his alignment with anti-abortion leaders like Youngkin leaves no question as to what he would do if elected governor,” Clegg said. “Outright bans, harmful restrictions, prosecuting women and targeting medical providers are all on the table.”

Youngkin’s support for LePage drew the ire of Virginia Democrats, too. They criticized him for leaving the state when the Virginia lawmakers were holding a special one-day legislative session, and for supporting somebody who has made racist statements and bragged about being Trump before Trump.

This is especially hurtful for Virginia’s communities of color, which account for one third of the state’s population of 8.8 million people. In comparison, only 6 percent of Maine’s 1.4 million people consider themselves something other than non-Hispanic whites.

They referenced comments LePage has made about black drug dealers coming to Maine to impregnate white women while selling opioids, telling a local NAACP chapter to kiss his butt, and calling people of color the enemy. LePage has previously said all of these comments were taken out of context.

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