It’s easy enough for Gov. Paul LePage to dismiss criticism of his words and actions when the naysaying comes from the media and his political opponents.

The media are professional carpers, after all, and people who don’t like his policies can’t be expected to like anything else about him.

But now, influential members of the governor’s own party — eight Republican state senators — have taken issue with his bull-in-a-china-shop style of leadership. And those are critics LePage might not want to brush off with an insolent shrug or a crude insult.

The senators went on record Monday in an op-ed column published by MaineToday Media’s three daily newspapers: The Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

“As Republican senators, we all want Gov. LePage and his administration to succeed,” the op-ed began. “Yet, we feel compelled to express our discomfort and dismay with the tone and spirit of some of the remarks he has made.

“Were these isolated incidents, we would bite our collective tongues, because we are all human and make mistakes. But, unfortunately, they are not isolated, but frequent. Therefore, we feel we must speak out.”

The op-ed criticized LePage’s handling of the Department of Labor artwork controversy, particularly his insulting characterization of those who protested his decision to remove a mural commemorating labor history from the department’s lobby.

“Belittling comments, whether they come from the governor or his opponents, have no place in Maine public life,” the senators wrote.

The op-ed described the mural dispute as “another example of our chief executive picking a personal fight not worth fighting.”

A penchant for picking fights not worth fighting, sad to say, has defined LePage’s brief tenure as governor more than any policy initiative. Even when matters of policy rise to the surface for public debate, it seems, discussion is overshadowed by the governor’s dust-ups with those who see the issues differently than he does.

The senators’ op-ed was encouraging not only because it put the governor on notice that his behavior is unacceptable, but also because it demonstrates emphatically and dramatically that criticism of the governor is not the exclusive province of the media and opponents of his policy agenda.

These senators are his allies — or at least want to be his allies. Their complaints about him can be interpreted only as constructive criticism.

“We ran for office as proud Republicans,” they wrote, “inspired and energized by the campaign themes of the governor to make Maine a more business-friendly state and attract the capital investment we need to create jobs and ensure that our children and grandchildren will have the kind of opportunity and prosperity we all want for them.

“We should be focused like a laser on the agenda the governor laid out — reducing our tax burden, getting rid of unnecessary government regulation that stifles innovation and entrepreneurship, and putting into place thoughtful welfare reform.”

The senators are right.

All Mainers — the governor, most of all — should be focused on those goals. Maine needs a leader in the governor’s office, not a self-indulgent troublemaker prone to starting fights “not worth fighting.”

The op-ed’s authors expressed optimism that LePage will take their comments to heart and change his approach. Let’s hope they’re right.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.