The passionate outburst that got Joanne Twomey hauled out of Thursday’s public meeting with the governor came as no surprise to those who know the former Biddeford lawmaker’s history of speaking out boldly and loudly in defense of vulnerable Mainers.

Twomey, a former Democratic state representative and Biddeford mayor, is unapologetic for confronting Gov. Paul LePage about his budget proposal during the meeting at Thornton Academy in Saco. She was removed by state police after she angrily shouted at the governor and flipped a jar of Vaseline in his direction.

“If people thought the Vaseline was out of line, I’m sorry, but he is out of line with what he is going to do to the people of Maine,” she said Friday. The gesture was a reference to a high-profile incident during budget negotiations in 2013, when LePage told a camera crew that a Democratic state senator “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

LePage told reporters Friday that Twomey has the right of free speech like all Americans and that her disruption will not stop him from speaking to residents about his plan to overhaul the tax code. LePage told The Associated Press that the event energized him and he’s “not going to back down” because he believes strongly in eliminating the state’s income tax.

Twomey has not been charged with any crime, but Thursday’s was not her first public brush with police. In 1992, she was handcuffed and removed from Biddeford City Hall after being ruled out of order during a City Council meeting on the city’s now-closed trash-to-energy plant, which she had opposed for years. Charges of criminal trespassing filed in that incident were later dropped.

Twomey represented Biddeford in the Maine House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006. She also served two terms as Biddeford’s mayor and ran unsuccessfully for the position again in 2013. She began her career in politics by serving six years on the Biddeford City Council.

PASSIONATE AND BOISTEROUS

During her time in Augusta and as Biddeford’s mayor, Twomey distinguished herself with passionate – and often boisterous – speeches about the environment and issues that affect children, seniors and people living in poverty. Often viewed as more liberal than mainstream Democrats in Augusta, Twomey became an independent in 2005 because, she said, the Democratic Party failed to deliver major tax reform and provide more Mainers with health care, and was not standing up for the least fortunate people in the state.

As a state lawmaker, Twomey served on the State and Local Government, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committees. She also served as chair of the House Standing Committee on Engrossed Bills. She sponsored bills that sought to reduce prescription drug costs, establish a living wage, repeal fingerprinting and background checks of school employees, and create a single-payer system for universal health care.

Twomey, retired and a grandmother, said she had researched the governor’s proposed budget before Thursday’s meeting and was hoping to speak. She planned to hand the Vaseline to the governor as a symbol of how he treats people.

Twomey said she was not surprised that she was not called on to ask a question at the meeting. When a woman sitting near her stood to ask about the budget’s impact on nonprofits, Twomey visibly shook her head to disagree with the governor’s response. LePage asked her if she disagreed with him.

‘HE OPENED THE DOOR’

“He opened the door,” Twomey said. “He asked a question and I believe it’s polite to answer.”

Rep. Barry Hobbins, a Democrat from Saco who served in Augusta with Twomey and has known her for decades, said she is a passionate person who “carries her emotions and her heart and soul on her sleeve.” He was not surprised that she spoke up, but said her delivery was disruptive instead of constructive.

“Joanne has a right to do that, but it was a headline grabber when the story shouldn’t have been about one person,” he said. “Civil disobedience is a linchpin of our democracy, but there is a delicate balance. She went over the top.”

Randy Seaver of Biddeford, who blogs about local politics, said Twomey’s outburst is nothing new, but does reflect poorly on the city.

“She has a long history of being boisterous and directing attention to herself,” he said. “It just becomes a continual embarrassment.”

On Friday, Twomey was busy fielding questions from reporters and responding to comments on social media that both cheered and chided her for her behavior.

“People can say whatever they want about me, but this isn’t about me. It’s about the big picture and a governor who doesn’t have a heart,” she said. “How can I regret speaking up for people who can’t? How can I regret standing up to a governor who is going to hurt people? I haven’t lost my spine and I make no apologies.”

 Correction: This story was updated at 9:36 a.m. on Monday, April 6 to indicate that Twomey sponsored a bill to repeal fingerprinting and background checks of school employees.

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