It didn’t take long for the sparks to fly at Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate. Twenty minutes in, former Gov. Paul LePage denounced Gov. Janet Mills as “a liar” for asserting he had supported President Trump’s executive order banning U.S. entry to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

Problem is, LePage did support the 2017 travel ban at the time, tweeting a message contrasting his position with that of Mills, who was then the state’s attorney general.

“AG Mills speaks for herself on immigration order,” LePage wrote in his Feb. 7, 2017 tweet, which made headlines in Maine. “I fully support @realDonaldTrump exec action to protect all Americans,” followed by the “MAGA” hashtag.

It was one of several of clearly false statements LePage made at the debate, continuing a pattern he had as governor. He claimed Mills was distributing “crack pipes.” He also said he had never questioned election results, including Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential race, when in fact he had done so loudly and repeatedly.

His competitors, Mills (a Democrat) and semi-retired physician Sam Hunkler of Beals (an independent) did not pose the same challenge for fact checkers.

Hunkler’s consistent message was that he didn’t have the answers and might not have expertise in many areas but would listen to people to come up with helpful policies. Mills sometimes used ample spin in describing her record, making her fraught negotiations with Maine’s tribes sound warm and happy, but made few plainly false assertions.


Republicans have also pushed back at her assertion that she has an inclusive leadership style, inviting many stakeholders and legislators into her policy making discussions. “Gov. Mills absolutely did not work with legislators during the pandemic,” Rep. Josh Morris of Turner said in a statement Wednesday.

LePage took umbrage when Mills denounced his support for Trump’s 2017 executive banning citizens from seven majority Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – from entering the country for 90 days and ending the resettlement of Syrian refugees. “Janet Mills, you’re a liar,” LePage said.

Later he proclaimed he had “never rejected any election, including the 2020 presidential election.” In reality, LePage has a well documented history of having cast evidence-free aspersions on Maine’s 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections and recently questioned if Maine’s larger towns hold as clean elections as the small ones that form the base of his support. And shortly after it became clear that Donald Trump had lost the 2020 election he told radio listeners it had been “clearly stolen” and suggested Democrats might have cast votes on behalf of his deceased parents.

LePage repeatedly accused Mills of “giving out crack pipes” to drug users and at one point clarified that this was done through a federal harm reduction program for drug users. That program, from the U.S Health and Human Services’ substance abuse arm, does not provide crack pipes. When informed of this on the stage by Maine Public panelist Steve Mistler, LePage referenced as evidence a debunked story from a conservative website.

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