Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said he is “struggling” with whether Gov. Paul LePage has done enough to address concerns regarding recent explosive behavior and said senators are discussing next potential steps.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at the State House, Maine’s highest-ranking Republican lawmaker said members of his caucus are “concerned for the governor, they are concerned for his family.” Thibodeau said it is not up to lawmakers to tell LePage what steps he should take – whether spiritual advisement or counseling or other actions – to address his behavior but said lawmakers want to know steps are being taken.

“I just know when something is wrong,” Thibodeau said. “What I’m sure of is we can’t continue to have the explosiveness that we’ve seen so we are in hopes that he is going to find a way to correct them. Again, it’s up to the individual (senators) to decide if he has met that expectation and if they are comfortable with the fact that this is not going to continue.”

Thibodeau made the statements a day after House Republicans voted as a caucus that they are not interested in returning for a special session of the Legislature for a debate over censuring LePage. The governor generated a firestorm after stating that more than 90 percent of drug traffickers arrested for bringing drugs into Maine were black or Hispanic and then left a vulgar and verbally abusive voice mail for a Democratic lawmaker who he said had called him racist.

“They’re entitled to their own position,” Thibodeau said of House Republicans. “But it was clear to me based on conversations that I have had with my own caucus that we want to make sure that we can have expectation of change.”

Earlier Wednesday, LePage met with Rep. Drew Gattine – the Westbrook Democrat who he berated in a voice mail – to apologize. Gattine said afterward that he accepted LePage’s apology but, like his party’s leadership, believes LePage is unfit to lead the state and should step aside.

LePage also made clear that he did not plan to resign on Wednesday, despite statements on Tuesday that resignation was one option he was considering.

Thibodeau said he expects to have an idea within the next 24 hours of what steps, if any, the Senate will advocate taking based on conversations he is having with individuals lawmakers. But he acknowledged that the options are limited. It requires majority votes from members of all four House and Senate caucuses to call a special session, and House Republicans have already voted against reconvening to potentially censure LePage.

Senate Republicans had formally asked LePage to apologize to Gattine in person, to issue a heartfelt apology to the Maine people and to outline “corrective actions” he planned to take. Thibodeau said he’s heard from some senators who are satisfied with the governor’s response to date while others have told him, “No, absolutely not.”

Asked if there should be consequences for LePage’s actions, Thibodeau replied: “Of course there should.”

“If you left a message like that at your place at work, you’d be unemployed,” Thibodeau said. “That’s a hard question to answer, isn’t it? And I think that’s why we are all struggling. I think we all want our governor to be successful. We want to see him be OK. And you know we are trying to figure out how to get him there.”

The political controversy of LePage’s statements have dominated the local news cycle for one week and once again drawn national media attention to Maine in a way that Thibodeau and other leaders have said is embarrassing.

“We’d be in denial if we didn’t think this was a disappointing situation, that we’ve got more cameras standing here in the Senate chamber right now talking about what’s gone on with our governor than I have ever seen in my 10 years at the State House,” Thibodeau said. “We’re disappointed and I think that the people of the state of Maine are disappointed as to where we are. And now we’ve got to find out if this is the bottom and if we are going to improve from here, or not.”

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.

filed under: