What better way to start a governorship than to refuse to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast and, when the NAACP complains, tell them, on camera, to “kiss my butt”?
That’s how Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, introduced himself to the nation three years ago, and the Republican Tea Party favorite quickly followed up with a series of intemperate remarks and questionable actions that arguably garnered him more negative national media attention than any Maine politician since Sen. James G. Blaine, the so-called “continental liar from the State of Maine” whose 1884 presidential run was derailed by graft and corruption charges.
LePage’s first major initiatives as governor—to roll back all state environmental laws to weaker federal standards and stop a ban on bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor, in baby bottles—were drafted by his special adviser, a registered lobbyist for many of the affected industries.
LePage defended the restoration of BPA in bottles by saying, with a smirk, that the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards.” Even as that effort collapsed, crowds of protesters were on the steps of the statehouse condemning LePage’s removal of a mural illustrating the history of Maine’s labor movement from the Department of Labor because an anonymous letter writer had likened it to North Korean efforts to “brainwash the masses.”
And that was just his first 100 days. LePage has since threatened to move his office out of the statehouse (over a dispute involving a television used to promote his policies in a public space), refused for months to allow his commissioners to testify before legislative committees and ordered state employees not to speak to the state’s largest newspaper chain (a move that earned national attention but went unimplemented).