Paul LePage

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Paul LePage
74th Governor of Maine
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 5, 2011
Preceded byJohn Baldacci
50th Mayor of Waterville
In office
2003–2011
Preceded byNelson Madore[1]
Personal details
BornPaul Richard LePage
(1948-10-09) October 9, 1948 (age 64)
Lewiston, Maine, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ann LePage
Children4
ResidenceBlaine House
Alma materHusson College
University of Maine, Orono
ReligionCatholic[2]
WebsiteOfficial website
 
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Paul LePage
74th Governor of Maine
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 5, 2011
Preceded byJohn Baldacci
50th Mayor of Waterville
In office
2003–2011
Preceded byNelson Madore[1]
Personal details
BornPaul Richard LePage
(1948-10-09) October 9, 1948 (age 64)
Lewiston, Maine, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ann LePage
Children4
ResidenceBlaine House
Alma materHusson College
University of Maine, Orono
ReligionCatholic[2]
WebsiteOfficial website

Paul Richard LePage (born October 9, 1948) is an American businessman and politician; he is the 74th Governor of Maine, serving since 2011. A Republican, he was mayor of Waterville from 2003 to 2011, and was a city councilor before that. He worked in the private sector as general manager of the 14-store discount chain Marden's Surplus and Salvage from 1996 until 2011.

Contents

Early life and education

LePage was born in Lewiston, Maine, the eldest son of eighteen children of Theresa B. (née Gagnon) and Gerard A. LePage, both of French-Canadian descent.[3] He grew up speaking French in an impoverished home with an abusive father who was a mill worker.[4] His father drank heavily and terrorized the children; and his mother was too intimidated to stop him.[5] At age eleven, after his father beat him and broke his nose, he ran away from home and lived on the streets of Lewiston, seeking shelter wherever he could find it, including in horse stables and at a "strip joint".[4][6] After spending roughly two years homeless, he began to earn a living shining shoes, washing dishes at a café and hauling boxes for a truck driver. He later worked at a rubber company, a meat-packing plant, and was a short order cook, and bartender.[7]

LePage applied to Husson College in Bangor, but was initially rejected due to a poor verbal score on the SAT, a result of English being his second language. He has said that Peter Snowe – the first husband of former U.S. Senator from Maine Olympia Snowe – persuaded Husson to give LePage a written exam in French, which allowed LePage to show his comprehension and be admitted.[7][8] At Husson, LePage improved his English skills and became editor of the college newspaper.[7] He graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration in Finance and Accounting, and later earned an MBA from the University of Maine.[7]

Business career

LePage worked for a lumber company in New Brunswick, Canada, from 1972–79, then Scott Paper in Winslow, Maine. He later founded his own business consulting firm, LePage & Kasevich Inc., which specialized in aiding foundering companies.[9] In 1996, LePage became general manager of Marden's Surplus and Salvage, a Maine-based discount store chain.[8][10]

Local politics

LePage served two terms as a Waterville city councilor before becoming mayor in 2003, retaining that post until resigning in January 2011. During his time as mayor, LePage reorganized city hall, lowered taxes, and increased the city's rainy day fund balance from $1 million to $10 million.[11]

2010 Maine Gubernatorial Campaign

On September 22, 2009, LePage announced that he would be seeking the 2010 Republican nomination for Governor of Maine.[12] LePage won 38% of the vote in a seven-way primary, despite being outspent ten to one by the closest challenger.[13]

In the general election, LePage, who was backed by local Tea Party activists, faced off against Democrat state Senator Libby Mitchell, and independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody, and Kevin Scott.[14] During the campaign, he told an audience that when he became governor, they could expect to see newspaper headlines stating, "LePage Tells Obama To Go to Hell." He was subsequently criticized by Libby Mitchell's campaign as being disrespectful towards the Office of the President.[15]

In September 2010, the media reported that LePage's wife, Ann, had received permanent-resident tax exemptions on homes in both Maine and Florida, beginning in 2008, which was thought to be a violation of the laws of both states.[16] Several weeks after being ordered to pay back taxes and penalties by Volusia County authorities,[17] it was determined that Florida law allowed Ann LePage to claim a permanent-resident exemption. She then corrected her Florida filing but lost the Maine tax exemptions for 2008 and 2009, and subsequently paid back taxes due on the property.[18]

With 94% of precincts reporting on the day after the election, the Bangor Daily News declared LePage the winner, carrying 38.1% of the votes.[19] Cutler was in second place with 36.7% of the votes (fewer than 7,500 votes behind LePage), while Mitchell was a distant third with 19%. Moody and Scott had 5% and 1%, respectively. He is the first popularly elected Franco-American governor of Maine and the first Republican since John R. McKernan, Jr.'s re-election in 1990. In his victory speech, LePage promised he would shrink government, lower taxes, decrease business regulation, and put "Maine people ahead of politics."[4]

Governor of Maine

Inclement weather closures

LePage drew early criticism from the Maine State Employees Association over the lack of closure of state offices during inclement weather. During a snowstorm on January 12, 2011, LePage did not order state offices closed until 3 P.M., and did not close offices in northernmost Aroostook County early at all. His spokesperson, Dan Demeritt, was quoted as saying "If Marden's is open, Maine is open", in reference to the chain of stores LePage once managed. The MSEA claimed that several Marden's stores actually did close early due to the weather that day. Demeritt later described his comment as a "quip", but that the underlying message of being open when the private sector is open was true. He further clarified that LePage does not "call Marden's" to make such decisions.[20]

Hiring of family members

As one of his first actions, LePage appointed his 22-year-old daughter Lauren as assistant to his chief of staff—an entry-level position with an annual salary of approximately $41,000—and employee benefits estimated to be worth an additional $15,000. While residing in the governor's mansion, she also receives a housing benefit with an estimated value of $10,000 per year. (Maine's rules against nepotism did not apply to this and other political positions.)[21] Critics noted that entry-level salaries for teachers and police officers in Maine are only $30,000 and $36,000, respectively, after specialized training,[22] and that Lauren LePage has a limited work history.[21][23]

LePage later hired his brother-in-law, Jody Ledoux, as director of administrative services for the State Planning Office with an annual salary of $68,577. Ledoux, who is married to a sister of LePage's wife Ann, began his work on February 13, 2012.[24]

2011 MLK Day Activities

At the beginning of his term as governor, he was criticized for refusing either to attend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events in Portland or Orono or to meet with Maine representatives of the NAACP. When questioned, LePage said he would not be "held hostage" by special interest groups including the NAACP, and laughingly told a local news reporter, "Tell them they can kiss my butt."[25][26][27] The remarks were reported in national media, with The Portland Press Herald saying that the comments "sparked outrage... among civil rights group leaders who called his remarks 'astonishing and troubling'".[25][27] A LePage spokesperson responded, "He's got a directness about him that a lot of people find appealing".[25] LePage's office later indicated that he would meet with NAACP representatives, but only to discuss matters of concern to "all Maine's people".[26] LePage did attend, unannounced beforehand, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast in Waterville, as he had done as Mayor.[28]

"Little Beards"

In February 2011, LePage again gained national attention when he spoke on a local TV news program saying he hoped to repeal the Maine ban of Bisphenol A, voted for unanimously by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection,[29] because "There hasn't been any science that identifies that there is a problem" and added: "The only thing that I've heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards....and we don't want that."[30][31] On March 28, it was reported that the LePage administration had dropped its opposition to the new BPA regulations.[32] After a unanimous vote in the Senate and only three opposing votes in the House of Representatives, on April 22, the Maine legislature passed a bill to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and other reusable food and beverage containers, effective January 1, 2012. Governor LePage refused to sign the bill but it became law without his signature.[33][34][35]

Renaming conference rooms and removing murals

On March 23, 2011, Governor LePage sparked protests when he announced that he planned to remove a large mural depicting the history of the state's labor movement from the lobby of the Maine Department of Labor offices. LePage said that he had received a written complaint signed by a "secret admirer", and "some complaints" from business owners. The mural includes depictions of Rosie the Riveter at Bath Iron Works, a 1937 shoe worker's strike, and a 1986 paper mill strike. The artist, Judy Taylor, stated, "There was never any intention to be pro-labor or anti-labor, it was a pure depiction of the facts."[36] LePage also announced that he plans to rename conference rooms that have carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member in American history and whose parents were natives of Maine. The governor's spokesman explained that the mural and the conference-room names were "not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals".[37][38][39] Despite protests, on March 28 it was disclosed that the murals had been removed over the weekend. In a statement, LePage's press secretary said, "The mural has been removed and is in storage awaiting relocation to a more appropriate venue."[40][41][42] On March 30 the Portland Museum of Art issued a statement that said LePage's decision has tarnished the state's reputation as a haven for artists: "The historical role of Maine as muse and refuge for generations of Americans is called into question by this single action."[43] The Maine Curators' Forum, a consortium of curators and directors from museums, colleges and universities, art centers and galleries throughout the state, also issued a statement that called LePage's action a "direct affront to our values as arts professionals."[44]

On April 1, 2011 it was disclosed that a federal lawsuit had been filed in U.S. District Court seeking "to confirm the mural's current location, ensure that the artwork is adequately preserved, and ultimately to restore it to the Department of Labor's lobby in Augusta".[45] On March 23, 2012, U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock ruled that the removal of the mural was a protected form of government speech and that LePage removing it would be no different than his refusing to read aloud a history of labor in Maine.[46] A month later, supporters of the mural filed a notice of appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.[47] The Court rejected the appeal on November 28, 2012.[48] On January 13, 2013, it was announced that the mural had been placed in the Maine State Museum's atrium per an agreement between the Museum and the Department of Labor, and that it would be available for public viewing the next day.[49]

Criticism of State employees

On April 27, 2012 LePage, while at a town hall meeting in Newport, responded to a question about excessive government fees by saying "The problem is the middle management of the state is about as corrupt as you can be. Believe me, we're trying every day to get them to go to work, but it's hard." Maine State Employees Union President Ginette Rivard responded to the criticism of state workers by stating: "For Gov. LePage to call them 'corrupt' is baseless and insulting to every public worker who has dedicated their lives to making Maine a great place to live, work and raise a family." Minority Democrats in the Legislature denounced the comment as "unacceptable and unprofessional", and one Republican legislator called on LePage to apologize.[50] LePage's spokesperson Adrienne Bennett later said that the Governor was not referring to bribery or criminal activity, but to "a lack of integrity" by state employees who want to uphold the status quo and delay progress.[51] He released a letter to all state employees explaining his statement by praising those who "work hard for the people of Maine" and criticizing employees who have been "corrupted by the bureaucracy".[52] LePage's comment was additionally criticized by two other Republican legislators, Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Rep. Patrick Flood of Winthrop, both of whom have significant numbers of state employees as constituents. Sen. Katz stated, "For our governor to question their integrity, to essentially call them morally depraved -- look it up -- is demeaning and inexcusable", going on to say that the comment was "not worthy of the chief executive." [53]

Education reform efforts

In his second year in office, LePage made several proposals to change Maine's education system, which he said were "all about students".[54] A proposal to allow public funds to go to religious schools was defeated in the Legislature, in part due to concerns that such a law would be found unconstitutional by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.[54]

The Legislature delayed action on a proposal by LePage to allow students to attend any public school they wished, even outside their home districts.[55] LePage supported the creation of charter schools in Maine during his 2010 campaign, and signed a bill making Maine the 41st state to have them on June 29, 2011. On June 11, 2012, LePage criticized members of the newly created State Charter School Commission for tabling applications to create virtual charter schools for a year, urging any Commission members who were not up to meeting the State's expectations to resign.[56]

On July 25, 2012, LePage unveiled a second round of reform propsals, which he called the "ABC plan". "ABC" stands for accountability, best practices, and choice. His series of proposals includes requiring high schools to pay for any remedial classes their graduates require in college, allowing the State to take over failing schools, increased use of distance learning with good teachers, and a renewed push for the school choice bill that was deferred earlier in the year. LePage said that "If you come from Maine you're looked down upon" by other states due to the current education system. He also claimed that the College of William and Mary in Virginia requires students from Maine to take an additional exam before being admitted to the school. A representative of the College, however, denied this.[57] His proposals were criticized by the Maine Education Association, Maine Democrats, and many college students attending school out of state who stated they did not experience the poor treatment LePage purported.[58]

LePage, at a rare press conference, again asked the members of the Charter School Commission to resign after they rejected four out of five applications for new charter schools on January 8, 2013. He said that the board needed "people with backbones" to stand up to what he views as intimidation by the Maine School Boards Association. Commission members stated that they were simply following the law as written and that LePage was in error about any alleged intimidation.[59] LePage also stated he intended, even before the recent rejections, to introduce legislation to reform the Charter School Commission.[60]

"The new Gestapo" remark

In his weekly radio address on July 8, 2012, LePage said, while discussing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that the IRS was "the new Gestapo" due to their role in enforcing the law.[61] Democrats, Jewish groups, and some unions [62][62] all levied heavy criticism towards LePage over his statement, and demanded an apology.[61][63][64][65] Prominent members of LePage's own party were generally less critical. Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster felt that "most regular people knew what he meant." [61] Maine House Speaker Robert Nutting stated that, while he would have used a different word, he felt that Maine Democrats were "desperately seeking a way to become relevant" through their "manufactured outrage".[64]

On July 9, LePage issued a written statement stating that his intent was not to "insult anyone, especially the Jewish community, or to minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered", and that his message had been "clouded" by his use of the word Gestapo.[64] In response, both Maine Senator Roger Katz, who is Jewish, and U.S. Senator Susan Collins stated they were pleased LePage had backed away from his comments.[61]

On July 12, while at a fundraiser for Vermont gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock, LePage was questioned about his comment. When asked by a reporter if he knew what the Gestapo did, LePage said that he knew they "killed a lot of people" and that he thought the IRS, while not there yet, was headed towards killing many people as well. LePage clarified that he did not think the IRS would intentionally kill anyone, but that he meant the IRS would eventually ration the medical care of Americans, which would result in deaths. Maine Democratic Party chairman Grant said that LePage had now "crossed a threshold" with his "unhinged conspiracy theories", and that LePage's fitness to hold his office should be questioned.[66] LePage used his next weekly radio address on July 13 to publicly apologize for his remark, after having privately met with and apologized to representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine that same day.[67]

Use of social media

LePage was the first Maine Governor to use social media to promote the annual State of the State Address, when he used Twitter to send several Tweets previewing his February 5, 2013 speech. [68]

Political positions

Capital punishment

LePage supports the death penalty in cases of the murder of a baby. He stated this view regarding the case of Ethan Henderson, a 10-week old baby who was allegedly killed by his father.[69]

Economy

LePage has said that the permitting process to start a business in Maine is too cumbersome and expensive and he will look for ways to make it cheaper and easier. He opposes raising any taxes during his term as governor and supports the creation of a 5% flat tax on all households earning more than $30,000. During the gubernatorial campaign, he also wanted to reduce the auto registration tax by 20% and use the actual sale price rather than MSRP as the tax basis.[70][71]

Education

LePage supports a school voucher system and structuring pay to reward teachers for performance. He has stated that curriculum should be determined by local school boards, but that he does not object to teaching creationism in public schools.[72]

Energy and environment

LePage supports not only the development of hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, and tidal power within Maine, but also tax incentives for energy conservation initiatives. He has said he would support shallow-water offshore drilling in Maine waters, but not deep-water drilling, which he considers more hazardous. He believes that government policies should consider the effect of greenhouse gases, but opposes regulation, saying he is not convinced that greenhouse gases from human activities are a significant contributor to climate change.[71][72] He has stated that some requirements for environmental impact studies should be reduced or weakened because they frequently impose undue burden on economic activity.[73]

In February 2011, LePage drew criticism from environmentalists when he proposed zoning 10 million acres (40,000 km2) of northern Maine for development, repealing laws that require manufacturers to take back recyclable goods for disposal, and other sweeping changes to environmental laws. In a statement LePage said, "Job creation and investment opportunities are being lost because we do not have a fair balance between our economic interests and the need to protect the environment."[74][75][76] Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine — one of the state's largest and oldest environmental advocacy groups — replied to his proposed changes saying, "We are shocked and stunned."[74] Maureen Drouin, executive director of the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund, said, "A dirty environment is no way to bring new jobs to Maine."[77][78]

In June 2012, LePage criticized the removal of the Great Works dam on the Penobscot River in Old Town to enhance the migration of fish in the river, despite the project leading to no loss of electricity generation, calling the removal of hydroelectric dams in general "irresponsible".[79] In August 2012, he was reported saying that he supported efforts to invest in renewable energy, though only ones he thought were both economically feasible and effective: "There are renewables that work," he said. "Like hydro, hydro and more hydro."[80]

In the same report,[80] he said that wind could not support the baseload energy needs of the state, calling it a "boutique energy source."

Government reform

LePage expressed an intent to reform welfare eligibility requirements, though he did not specify how he would do so. He also supports lifetime limits on welfare support, requiring recipients to perform work in the community, and a tiered payment system that gradually removes benefits as recipients earn more money working, rather than cutting them off entirely at a certain income level.[72] He has stated that the size of state government is likely too large and that he would probably seek to reduce the number of state employees.[72]

Health care

He has called for repeal of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying he believes it is unconstitutional, and had encouraged Maine's attorney general William Schneider to join the federal lawsuit by other state attorneys general challenging the bill. Upon the United States Supreme Court's ruling upholding the majority of the act, LePage stated that the law was an "enormous tax" and that "Washington, D.C., now has the power to dictate how we, as Americans, live our lives." [81] He later referred to the Internal Revenue Service, who is charged with enforcing the insurance mandate, as "the new Gestapo" and that the "decision has made America less free".[82] He has also compared the ACA with Canada's health care system, stating that Canada rations care and that many Canadians come to the U.S. to get treatment because of it, and that similar rationing here would result in deaths.[66]

He has said that coverage mandates for Maine insurance policies should be pared back because they make insurance policies too expensive. He believes that MaineCare, the state Medicaid program, has too many enrollees and is too easy to qualify for.[72]

LGBT issues

LePage opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry; however, in a 2009 interview with right-of-center Maine political blog Pine Tree Politics, he voiced support for civil unions, saying, "if you're going to get married by the State, it's a civil union, period. Whether you're a homosexual, lesbian, heterosexual. Everybody. That way everybody gets the same legal standing."[83] LePage said in October 2010 that gay marriage should be left to the voters and that he had no personal views on the matter.[84]

LePage was critical of the Maine Education Associations' support of the 2012 same-sex marriage initiative, believing the union's taking of political positions hurts the education of Maine students.[85] When asked about LePage's own position on the initiative, his spokeswoman declined to comment.[84]

On the topic of transgender students in grades K-12, he said he did not understand "how people, at least sane people, would want to allow transgender in our primary schools and our high schools."[86] LePage then pledged to oppose legislation for transgendered students, saying, "I think it's gone too far and we have to push back. As governor, I would never allow that to be signed into law."[86]

Welfare reform

Welfare reform was a centerpiece of LePage's gubernatorial campaign. In December 2011, citing a budget shortfall, LePage proposed sweeping changes to MaineCare (Maine's Medicaid program).[87] Those changes include dropping 5,000 to 6,000 low-income senior citizens with disabilities from the Drugs for the Elderly program (which provides low-cost prescription drugs to low-income elderly patients), and ending Medicaid coverage for up to 65,000 recipients, including many who are disabled or elderly.[87] Reimbursement to hospitals and other medical providers would be reduced by up to 10 percent, which could trigger the elimination of up to 4,400 health care jobs.[88] The changes could also result in higher premiums and higher co-pays for people with private health insurance.[88]

Awards and honors

In 2006, LePage was voted the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce's businessman of the year.[8] In 2007, he was named "Maine Business Champion" by the National Federation of Independent Business.[8]

LePage received an honorary doctorate from Thomas College in Waterville, at their graduation ceremonies on May 12, 2012, where he was the keynote speaker.[89]

Personal life

LePage has four children — two from his first marriage, who live in Canada — and two with his second wife, Ann. Since 2002, his household has also included a young man from Jamaica, Devon Raymond, Jr. (born 1985). LePage calls Raymond his adopted son, although adoption paperwork has never been filed. LePage met Raymond in Jamaica through Raymond's father, who caddied for LePage during a vacation there.[90][91]

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  91. ^ David Taintor (January 20, 2011). "LePage Spox Defends Governor's Referencing Of Black 'Son'". talkingpointsmemo.com. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/lepage-spox-defends-governors-referencing-of-black-son.php.

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Political offices
Preceded by
John Baldacci
Governor of Maine
2011–present
Incumbent
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Joe Biden
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Maine
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise John Boehner
as Speaker of the House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert Bentley
as Governor of Alabama
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Maine
Succeeded by
Jay Nixon
as Governor of Missouri