During a live debate Tuesday evening, former Gov. Paul LePage affirmed President Biden was legitimately elected and said he had “never rejected any election, including the 2020 presidential election.”

In reality, LePage has a long and well-documented history of casting evidence-free aspersions on Maine election results. He questioned the integrity of Maine’s 2016 election before and after the vote. He declared Jared Golden’s 2018 defeat of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin a “stolen election.” He said the 2020 presidential election was “clearly stolen” and suggested Democrats might have cast votes on behalf of his deceased parents. This spring he made unsubstantiated claims that Massachusetts residents had been bused into Waterville to vote in a 2009 referendum.

This summer he told supporters that the running of elections worked fine in Maine’s small towns – where he and fellow Republicans do well – but was suspect in the cities, where he has generally done poorly. “Those are areas you got to be a little more careful,” he told the Mount Vernon audience Aug. 8.

LePage’s track record and propensity to break norms has received national media attention amid concerns that former President Donald Trump and some elected officials and candidates for office might seek to overturn the results of the 2024 elections in a reprise of Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 results, which culminated in a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. Bloomberg.com included LePage in its roundup of election deniers on this year’s ballot.

LePage’s political strategist, Brent Littlefield, declined a request to interview the candidate. At the debate Tuesday night, LePage did say he believes Biden was legitimately elected and pledged to honor the results of his own race next month, even if he loses. “Absolutely. I mean that’s it: absolutely,” he said. “I think that’s an absurd question quite frankly.”

If elected governor again, LePage would have little ability to interfere with the conduct and certification of future elections even if he wanted to. In response to some of LePage’s actions, Maine lawmakers tightened election laws in 2019 to make it effectively impossible for governors of the state to try to subvert election results they disliked during the ceremonial certification process. But political scientists and legal experts say the former governor’s pattern of casting fact-free aspersions on legitimate elections has a corrosive and dangerous effect on the health of America’s increasingly vulnerable democracy.



“It’s important that public officials, especially high-level ones like governors, not tell voters unfounded allegations about the electoral process,” Edward Foley, a constitutional law professor who directs the election law program at Ohio State University, said via email. “It’s impossible to sustain a democracy if voters lose faith in the capacity of the system to produce accurate outcomes just because political leaders without any evidence tell them not to trust the system.”

University of Maine political scientist Robert Glover agreed. “The dangers of such election denial really can’t be overstated,” he said, arguing it can drive down voter participation, decrease public confidence in election administration, and lead to threats and intimidation against election workers.

“They can subtly or not so subtly authorize those who believe the lies to engage in violence or means other than elections to seek power,” he added, noting that the Jan. 6 attack was “comparatively mild when we take a broader view and look at historical examples from other parts of the world.”

“We’re not immune to democratic backsliding,” Glover said.

LePage has an ample record of disparaging election results without any facts to support his allegations.


Ahead of the 2016 election, LePage told radio listeners he was “not confident of a clean election in Maine” and claimed “people from the cemetery” would vote, despite a near total absence of election fraud having been documented in the state. Even though Trump and Poliquin won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and his party made legislative gains, LePage sent letters to lawmakers after the election saying, “I maintain strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine’s ballot and accuracy of Maine’s election results and I cannot attest to the accuracy of the tabulation certified by the Secretary of State.” He again provided no evidence.

When his ally Poliquin lost his 2nd District seat to Golden in 2018, then-Gov. LePage declared the ranked-choice voting system introduced by voters through statewide referendum to be “repugnant.” He delayed signing Golden’s official certificate of election until his final week in office and scrawled “stolen election” next to his initials before tweeting a photo of the document.

After it became clear that Trump had lost the 2020 vote, LePage declared the election illegitimate.

“This is clearly a stolen election and 70 million Americans (who voted for Trump) recognize that too many votes were illegitimate votes,” he told listeners of WGAN on Nov. 13 of that year. “We know that they’ve stolen the election. People have voted more than once. I’m checking today to see if my mom and dad voted. My dad died in ‘07 my mom in ‘09.”

“The Democrats don’t want honest and fair elections, they just want to win at all costs,” LePage continued, again without evidence. “I really believe we are becoming a banana republic,” he added.



LePage has continued his aspersions on the campaign trail this year, falsely telling supporters that Massachusetts residents were bused into Waterville when he was mayor to back a 2009 referendum approving same-sex marriage. On Aug. 8 he told an audience that he had “great confidence in small towns” running a fair election “because usually the clerks know everybody.”

“I have less confidence when you get to Bangor, Rockland, Lewiston, Portland, South Portland,” he added. “Those are areas you got to be a little bit more careful.”

Ronald Schmidt, chair of the political science department at the University of Southern Maine, said such assertions can damage democracy. “The system really needs a broadly shared sense of legitimacy to its authority to function well, and it is particularly dangerous for officials like presidents or former presidents and governors who most voters can recognize to be attacking the credibility of elections,” he said.

LePage’s remarks prompted lawmakers to pass revisions to Maine elections law in 2019 to make more explicit that a governor’s role in certifying an election is purely ministerial. Another law in 2021 did the same for the certification of Maine’s Electoral College electors, who cast the state’s official votes for president.

“I don’t remember anybody feeling the law was unclear, but since the governor was taking those positions (in 2018), legislation was advanced to make it even more clear that the voters decide the elections, not election administrators and nor the people who play those ministerial roles,” said John Brautigam, legal counsel to the state chapter of the League of Women Voters.

“That’s not to say that anybody – elected official or not – can’t raise a political or legal challenge in the correct forum if they see fit, but when playing their role as a constitutional officer, the governor and the secretary of state have a very limited role that is spelled out in statute and is completely clear now,” he added.

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