Gov. Paul LePage dismissed a report that President Trump wants him to run against Sen. Angus King in 2018, saying Thursday the report was “fake news.”

LePage described the report as “vile” when he was asked about it at an appearance in Lewiston to support the mayoral candidacy of Shane Bouchard, according to a tweet by a WCSH-TV reporter at the event. LePage later told reporters he wasn’t going to run for the U.S. Senate because “I like being married,” the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.

In October the New York Times reported that Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, was trying to recruit LePage’s wife, Ann LePage, to run against King.

LePage has frequently mentioned his wife when he is asked about running for the U.S. Senate during interviews on talk radio shows, noting that any decision he made to run would be a mutual one.

Over the last two years, LePage has said on several different occasions that he was thinking about running against King in 2018. In April 2016 he told members of the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs in Orono, “I’m seriously, seriously giving it some very serious thought and I am talking around the state and I am really looking at the distinction between his performance and my performance.”

In January 2015, LePage told Boston talk radio host Howie Carr he was considering a run against King because King had switched his endorsement in the 2014 race for the governor’s office from independent Eliot Cutler to Democrat Mike Michaud near the end of the race, which LePage won.

“After his real profile in courage, I’m considering it,” LePage told Carr.

Then in August 2015 he again told Carr he might challenge King. “I am thinking about it very strongly, ” LePage said. “I think we need leadership in Washington. Yeah, I might do that.”

In July, he told WGAN’s Matthew Gagnon he might run against King if the Republican candidate in the race, state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, “didn’t start resonating pretty quickly.”

LePage later went on to compliment Brakey’s “passion for the state of Maine.”

Brakey said Tuesday that he wasn’t concerned that LePage would run. “I am not distracted by Washington gossip,” Brakey said.

In August of this year, LePage told a Rotary Club in Caribou that he had ruled out running for the Senate. LePage’s political adviser, Brent Littlefield, also issued a statement this May saying that his boss wouldn’t be running for the U.S. Senate.

The Republican governor, whose term expires at the end of next year, has long had a combative relationship with the Maine news media, especially newspapers. He once told a group of schoolchildren that buying a newspaper was like paying somebody to lie to you. On another occasion, while trying out a combat aircraft simulator at the Pratt & Whitney plant in North Berwick, he joked that he wanted to bomb the Portland Press Herald.

In a report published Wednesday, The Washington Post said Trump had told political advisers he wants LePage to challenge King, an independent seeking his second term next year. The Post story cited two anonymous sources with knowledge of the discussions in the White House.

In a text message exchange Thursday, Littlefield indicated LePage was calling the Post story “fake news” because it omitted key accomplishments he had achieved during his time as governor, and the story also quoted Amy Fried, a University of Maine political science professor whom LePage considers biased.

“The Post certainly chose a short description of the governor’s tenure which did not reflect improvements to the state’s economy, budget, sustainability and reforms which have improved the state,” Littlefield wrote. He described Fried as “a liberal political activist.”

King has made it clear on several occasions that he plans to seek re-election in 2018.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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