Maine Gov. Paul LePage Tells Howie Carr He’s Most Conservative Chief Executive

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is declaring himself the nation’s most conservative governor.

“Oh, I think so, yeah,” he said on my radio show, which is broadcast throughout New England, including six stations in Maine.

Asked which governors came closest to his conservatism, LePage mentioned Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming, and former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

What about Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin?

“I’d say Scott is right of center but not as far right as I am. I’m on the edge. I teeter totter. You know Christopher Columbus said we were flat. I’m right on the edge.”

LePage was reelected to a second four-year term in November with 48 percent of the vote, 10 percent more than he got in a five-person field in 2010.

In 2014 he was running against veteran Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler. After four years of LePage’s take-no-prisoners style of management, the race became a starkly ideological fight.

“They were very far left and I was far right. None of us was working in the middle… I believe that entitlements are cruel, they’re cruel and unusual punishment and I think you don’t throw money at a problem, you throw education. And Maine people believe that too.”

This week LePage presented his new budget to the legislature in Augusta. He’s trying to begin eliminating the income tax and the estate tax, and replace them with a one percent hike in the sales tax, which he says would be disproportionately paid by the 27 million tourists who visit “Vacationland” every summer.

Even the new GOP majority in the state Senate, LePage admits, is “skittish” about his proposed shifts in the tax burden.

LePage comes from a hard-scrabble background in Lewiston. Until he was seven, he spoke only French. He ran away from home and his alcoholic, abusive father at age 11 and lived on the street. Of his 17 siblings, he said Monday that all but one had been on welfare at one time or another.

Asked if any of his eight siblings still living in Maine had voted for him in November, LePage said,  “I doubt it. I don’t think any of them even vote. I haven’t seen a couple of them for 30, 35 years.”

After running away from home, LePage worked odd jobs, including one in a local whorehouse frequented by sailors from the nearby naval base in Brunswick.

“It was on Main Street, the Holly. ‘Be Jolly at the Holly.’ Back then it was called a ‘dance hall.’ My job was to shine the sailors’ shoes on the first floor. I don’t know what they did when they went upstairs. I was asked to do two things, shine shoes, and go to the drugstore and pick up little brown paper bags for the girls.”

Did he ever look inside?

“I couldn’t,” he said with a chuckle. “They were stapled.”

LePage is forbidden by law from seeking a third term in 2018. But Monday night he said that in 2018 he might take on incumbent Sen. (and former governor) Angus King, whom he dismissed as a “profile in courage.”

King was elected first governor and then senator as an “independent.”

“Yeah, right,” scoffed LePage. “Never was an independent. In fact he doesn’t even think as a Democrat. He’s a progressive.”

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