DAMARISCOTTA — Gov. Paul LePage touched on familiar themes about lowering energy costs and reforming the state’s tax code to make Maine more business friendly during a town hall meeting attended by a respectful crowd of about 90 people in Damariscotta Wednesday night.

He also used the opportunity to urge people to vote against a statewide ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour, saying it would hurt small business owners, increase the cost of goods and make it more difficult for the young people to find work.

“This whole minimum wage is a very scary thing,” LePage said, noting he’d support increasing the wage to $10 an hour. “You have to understand what it will do to the economy.”

Attendees at town hall event at the Great Salt Bay Community School were prohibited from bringing in signs. Although three people were escorted out of the event, the meeting was otherwise calm with many in attendance appearing to agree with the governor.

The crowd turned on one protester, Freeport resident James Roux, who regularly attends LePage’s town hall meetings. Roux interrupted the event when he shouted a questioned about why no challenging questions were being asked.

A few audience members could be heard saying “go back to where you came from” and “get him out of here,” before Roux was removed by police.

LePage has been holding town hall meetings throughout the state to discuss issues that are important to him. The events typically feature a speech from the governor, followed by a question-and-answer period moderated by his staff.

Frustrated by a lack of progress forwarding his agenda through the state legislature, LePage has been taking his message directly to voters. He often stresses the need to reduce energy costs, cut taxes, reform welfare programs and crack down on drug dealers. He also encourages voters to elect legislators who share his priorities.

His town hall audiences have been both supportive and combative.

Wednesday’s town hall meeting at the school on Main Street in Damariscotta came amid a particularly difficult week for the governor, who is no stranger to controversy.

At the Maine Republican State Convention in Bangor on Saturday, the governor made fun of the accents of foreign workers, describing people from India as being “the worst ones.” The remark prompted backlash from immigrant advocates.

On Monday, LePage held a closed-door meeting of a specially appointed education commission, barring some lawmakers and the media from attending. The state Attorney General’s office said the meeting violated the state’s Freedom of Access Act, which ensures transparency and open public meetings. House Speaker Mark Eves on Tuesday called for sanctions against LePage, who later withdrew from the commission.

Then on Tuesday, LePage walked out of a dedication ceremony at the University of Maine at Farmington after two students held up protest sign, including one saying “LePage: Maine’s Shame.” LePage only spoke for 30 seconds before leaving, calling the students “idiots” as he walked by.

LePage issued a written statement Wednesday apologizing to current and former UMF staff for “the sequence of events” that led to his departure. He blamed “smug and self-serving protesters” and the media for ruining the public event.

LePage said that he would no longer attend some of the public events to which he is invited, because his presence overshadows the purpose of these events.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

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Twitter: @randybillings