I’ve only gotten to meet Gov. Paul LePage one time and I liked him a lot.

It was during the 2010 primary campaign when he was running for the Republican nomination. After meeting with the editorial board, he stuck around the office for a few minutes to talk.

Someone asked him how a Republican ever got elected mayor in a Democratic town like Waterville. This is when most politicians would brag about how they work across the aisle with people of good will, blah, blah, blah. Not LePage.

“I’m French,” he explained. “And the one thing the French like better than Democrats is French.”

Used to the usual bull, we were all stunned.

So when people say they like LePage, I get it. He is blunt, direct and unguarded. It’s his greatest strength.

It’s also his greatest weakness, as everyone now knows after hearing the enraged voicemail he left on state Rep. Drew Gattine’s cell phone last week.

It was one particular really bad word that has attracted the world’s attention (no exaggeration — it’s been on the BBC), but everyone should be clear, that one word is not why he might be forced out of office.

No one is shocked because he says what he thinks — most people like that.

They are offended by the things that he thinks — especially his belief that black and Hispanic people from out of state are responsible for Maine’s heroin crisis.

Yes, there are black and Hispanic drug dealers from other states who do business in Maine. But if they sent only lefthanded white Episcopalians to deliver their heroin, we would still be drowning in the stuff.

LePage’s fixation on the drug importers’ race and their taste for “white Maine women” should be enough to say that he is not fit to head a state in which people of color and mixed-race families are trying to live their lives in peace.

LePage said he lost his temper because he thought Gattine had called him a racist, which Gattine denies. But is LePage a racist?

He says he isn’t. But what do you call someone who blames a crime problem on a group of people defined only by the color of their skin or national origin? He’s the head of state government and has enormous power over people’s lives. If he keeps saying and doing racist things, it doesn’t really matter whether he has prejudice in his heart, the effect is the same.

LePage has said outrageous things before and he has not been under as much pressure as he is today. This time his speaking from the heart has taken on a new dimension.

Thirty-four seconds of rage on Gattine’s voicemail showed a side of LePage that most Mainers had never seen. He was out of control, consumed with rage and on the edge of violence. The response from some Republicans has been telling.

“I share your deep concerns regarding the governor’s behavior,” Sen. Amy Volk, of Scarborough, told her friends on Facebook. “What I do not know is whether it is due to substance abuse, mental illness or just ignorance.”

On Monday, Senate President Michael Thibodeau said Volk “is not on an island” among Republicans and that “corrective action” is required. Volk’s post and Thibodeau’s response is striking. Unlike LePage, most politicians are careful about what they say. They don’t throw around terms like “substance abuse” and “mental illness” lightly. When people so close to the governor describe his actions in those terms, he is really in trouble.

It doesn’t seem to be in LePage’s makeup to resign, but he should give it some serious thought. His days as a meaningful figure in Maine government may be over.

He couldn’t work with the Legislature even before he shot his mouth off. His last two budgets were dead on arrival and replaced by compromise deals that were passed over his veto. His plan to go over legislators’ heads and take policy-making straight to the people has been a disaster. He couldn’t get enough signatures to put his tax and welfare reform referendums on the ballot. His unfiltered town hall meetings are the forums he has used to explain his theories on race and crime. Now the Westbrook Teen Center has told him that he’s not welcome to hold one there.

Even if he hangs on, the next two years will be miserable for LePage. He might keep enough Republican House members in his pocket to sustain a veto, but he won’t have enough power to push the major reforms that he ran for office to achieve.

If he’s wondering what to do after he resigns, I think I could help him out.

We could always use a new columnist, and I like writers that tell you what they really think.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor of the Portland Press Herald. He can be contacted at:

[email protected];

Twitter @gregkesich

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.