People have asked me why I continue to support Gov. Paul LePage. After all, hasn’t he completely isolated himself from the Maine Legislature and many Maine people, including Republicans?

I put aside his often-hostile comments and his real and or perceived “politically incorrect” public outbursts and reply, “Because my support for the governor is based on the simple fact that he is the only governor who has exhibited a fire in his belly to improve the lives of all Mainers and politics be damned.”

I should say that I am from away, having lived and worked in Maine for only about 40 years. However, I have served in Maine state government under five governors: Joseph Brennan, John McKernan, Angus King, John Baldacci and LePage. During this time, with only a couple of exceptions, most notably LePage, these governors have presented a similar, politically bland face to Maine people.

While they talked about policies to improve the state, their administrations, like those in Washington, seemed to me primarily focused on advancing issues that would increase their political party’s power.

In contrast, LePage has a specific agenda for Maine, an agenda for our state’s long-term economic growth. He is passionate about moving this policy framework forward because he wants to improve the quality of life for all Mainers, not to increase the Republican Party’s power base in Augusta.

The central focus of his agenda has been to remove many of the roadblocks to economic growth in Maine. Among these are those policies that past Legislatures have put in place with an outward appearance of expressing a deep compassion for and desire to help those less fortunate people living among us. Rather than establishing a safety net to serve only the truly most vulnerable and needy among us, however, they put into place an approach that enables those who can and should work to avoid doing so. Thus, the safety net has made these otherwise able-bodied adults dependent on the state rather than allowing them to become self-reliant and able to fully enjoy the fruits of their economic freedom.

It is programs like these that continue to provide roadblocks to economic growth, and at the same time grow the size and costs of our state government.

Why does it seem as if both parties oppose LePage’s agenda? A good friend and former legislative colleague of mine, Lance Harvell, of Farmington, offered an analysis that I believe best explains the governor’s difficulties in getting legislative support. Harvell believes the real problem is that the governor does not seem to understand the value of personal relationships in the Augusta political arena.

For his ardent supporters, this seeming lack of political skill is his strong point. He tells it like it is, no talking around the issue. However, the old adage, “You can catch more fly with honey than with vinegar” is as true in Augusta as it is in our private lives.

In my view, LePage needs to rebuild relationships in the Legislature and with Maine people to move his important policy objectives and reform agenda forward. I believe that he can do this because people who have been in close person-to-person contact with the governor have found that he is very charming and extremely likeable. He must put these abundant personal skills to work in Augusta and with the Maine public and move away from the overly combative and hostile approach to the political process.

I can understand why he gets angry; we all do. But, as Maine’s governor, LePage must understand why this does not serve our common purpose.

Dennis L. Keschl, a Republican from Belgrade, represented House District 83 in the 125th and 126th Legislatures, representing Belgrade, Fayette, Manchester, Mount Vernon and Vienna.

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