Poor Eric Brakey. It was a day before the election, and he was trying breathe a little life into his cratering Senate campaign by floating a conspiracy theory involving one of his opponents (Angus King), an out-of-state billionaire (Michael Bloomberg), and a nefarious plot to seize honest people’s guns.

But the celebrity guest at the press conference stole the show.

Instead of staying on the Brakey message, Gov. Paul LePage took the opportunity to make some news of his own. In response to a reporter’s question, the governor announced that he would be getting out of Maine as soon as possible, choosing to spend his golden years in Florida so he won’t have to pay so much in taxes. And suddenly, nobody wanted to ask about Brakey’s poster, with its colored boxes and timelines.

Conspiracy theories are fun, but it’s not everyday you hear a governor say that he can’t wait to get out of his own state. They usually act like they think it’s the greatest place on earth.

But LePage has never played that game. His disdain for Maine has never been a secret. The middle finger he’s extending on his way out the door is the same one he’s been showing us for years.

Has there ever been a governor of “Vacationland” who has made a point of spending all of his vacations someplace else?

John Baldacci made sure we knew how much he enjoyed climbing Mt. Katahdin. Angus King rode around on his Harley. But LePage goes to Jamaica every spring, and based on the medical reports, he has spent time in Florida (where he was hit by a car while cycling) and New Brunswick (where he had a “cardiac issue” that got him helicoptered to Bangor.)

Percival Baxter probably set an unattainable standard for future governors when he showed his love for Maine geography by reaching into his own pocket to buy huge tracts of land to”remain forever wild.” But even successors without such deep pockets were able to make a point of preserving some rivers and mountains and say a few kind words about the state’s natural beauty.

LePage would have none of it. Conservation by land trusts was Maine’s No.1 problem, the governor said last year.

Voter approved Land For Maine’s Future bonds sat on his desk for years. He flew down to Washington D.C. to testify in favor of giving back the gift that made the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument possible.

LePage assured the members of Congress that the land was not worth taking, not even for free. Visitors to Maine only go the coast, he explained. “Very few will be in the mosquito area.”

But don’t think that means that LePage himself is fond of the coast. He was the only governor on the eastern seaboard to say he would welcome offshore drilling for oil and gas, over the objections of the fishing and tourism industries.

So, if it wasn’t the landscape, was it Maine’s people that LePage wanted so badly to serve? Maybe, but not all of them. Maybe not even most of them.

For starters, he didn’t like ones who lived in the southern half of the state, saying in a hand-written note on official stationary to a woman from Cape Elizabeth that people who live in the south “exploit those who are not so fortunate” and don’t “understand the level of corruption that southern Mainers ignore and welcome!”

That doesn’t mean he’ss crazy about everyone who lives up north, however. In a classic 2013 diatribe, when he made crude comments about state Sen. Troy Jackson’s non-use of lubricant, the governor continued, that people like Jackson (who is a logger when he’s not in the Legislature) “ought to go back in the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some work.”

It wasn’t just loggers on the bad list.

There’s also state employees (“corrupt”), teachers (“a dime a dozen”), people of color (“the enemy”), and immigrants who, he says, bring “foreign-type diseases,” like “the ziki fly.”

He also says that he hates the news media, but I don’t completely believe that.

He talks about us so much, he must — on some level — care, and the feeling is mutual, if complicated. After he finally makes his exit, I suppose there are going to be days when some of us will wish for an impromptu hallway press conference, a new veto binge, or hearing about the latest secret commission he planned to form.

But, I’m not a sadist. If the guy hates it here so bad, he should have left a long time ago.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor for the Portland Press Herald.


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