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By Annie Linskey
By Annie Linskey
AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Gov. Paul LePage now keeps a roll of duct tape on his desk as a reminder to himself.
“We all have faults - mine is that I can’t keep my mouth shut,” LePage, 64, said Thursday in his Augusta office. “I promised my staff: Now till Election Day, when I want to say something that is off-color, I’m going to tape my mouth shut.”
New England’s only Republican governor is coming off a rocky summer. He alluded to sodomy while criticizing a political opponent, joked about bombing the state’s largest newspaper and on Aug. 19 was quoted online as saying the nation’s first black president “hates white people.”
A Republican in a state twice carried by Democratic President Barack Obama, LePage is already one of the most vulnerable governors seeking re-election next year. The verbal miscues are creating fissures in his party, robbing him of the chance to sell his pro-business and Tea Party-backed agenda and underscoring a “go it alone” attitude that’s alienating potential allies.
“I will put my actions against any candidate running for governor,” LePage said. “I can get it done. They talk nice words. This state has been under 50 years of one-party rule. It is time they get a little shock to the system. Wake them up.”
LePage can rattle off a list of accomplishments, mostly from his first two years in office, when Republicans controlled not only the governor’s mansion but both chambers of the legislature for the first time since 1967. Maine traditionally elected Democratic or centrist Republican governors.
He reduced income taxes by the largest amount in state history, froze cost-of-living increases for three years and raised the retirement age for new state workers to revamp the pension plan. He also enacted a program to repay about $500 million in debt to hospitals, which has been a drag on the state’s credit rating, by negotiating better terms on a state liquor contract.
“These were all historic pieces of legislation that are pushing the needle in the right direction,” said J. Scott Moody, the CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a Portland-based research organization that says it promotes “conservative public policies” and free enterprise.