Former Gov. Paul LePage is hoping to raise at least $500,000 for the victims of last month’s mass shooting in Lewiston, the deadliest in state history.

LePage grew up less than a half a mile from Schmengees Bar & Grille, and said the Oct. 25 shooting at the bar and a nearby bowling alley that claimed 18 lives “rocked me pretty hard” and compelled him to help his old hometown.

LePage said he arrived in Lewiston the day after the shooting to attend a wake. The city was under lockdown because the shooter still hadn’t been found. LePage said he was at the funeral home most of the day and began to see family members coming in to make arrangements.

“I got back home and (my wife) Ann and I decided, ‘Let’s do something.’ Here we are, we’re doing it,” the former Republican governor said during an interview on WVOM radio from his home in Florida on Monday morning. “I’m on the phone every day trying to raise money.”

In an interview later Monday with the Press Herald, LePage said he already has raised $260,000 toward his goal, primarily from large donors. He’s hoping to reach his goal in the coming weeks so the money can be dispersed to the families shortly after a Dec. 15 fundraiser in Lewiston and before the holidays.

“I just want to help the families right now, going into the Christmas season,” he said.


The Dec. 15 fundraiser will be held at the Royal Oak Room at 1 Bates St. in Lewiston. Admission is $150 a person or $250 a couple. Larger donors can be a platinum host for $25,000, a gold host for $10,000 or a silver host for $5,000, he said.

LePage said all of the money raised will go to the families of the 18 people killed and the 13 people who were injured in the shooting.

“The monies will be 100% distributed to the victims’ families, both those who lost their loved ones and those who were injured,” LePage said.

LePage’s fundraiser would add to money others also are raising for the families. More than $1.8 million already has poured into the Lewiston-Auburn Area Response Fund, with most of that money designated to go to the families.

During the WVOM interview, LePage was asked what needs to be done to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

“We have to deal with mental illness,” he said. 


While some Maine lawmakers are calling for better access to mental health care in the wake of the shootings, gun safety advocates are calling for additional firearm restrictions, including banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and adoption of universal background checks and waiting periods for all firearm purchases.

During his two terms in office, LePage opposed limits on gun access and helped Maine become a constitutional carry state that allows most people over the age of 21 to carry a firearm either concealed or openly without a permit.

LePage vetoed a bill that would have established a red flag law, which allows police or family members to petition a court to temporarily restrict access to firearms when someone is a threat to themselves or others.


Some Maine legislators are preparing for a renewed push to adopt such a law in the wake of the shootings. Twenty-one other states have a red flag law, while Maine adopted a so-called yellow flag law after LePage left office. Maine’s version requires someone to be in police custody and receive a mental health evaluation before access to firearms is restricted.

In his 2018 veto letter, LePage said the red flag bill did not have enough due process protections before removing someone’s constitutional right for up to two years.

LePage told the Press Herald on Monday that he stands behind that veto, although he believes it could be amended to strengthen the role of concerned family members.

LePage praised the decision by Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey to establish a special commission to study the events and police responses before, during and after the shooting.

“The system fell apart,” LePage said, referring to the numerous threats of violence and concerns among family and colleagues about the shooter’s declining mental health before the shootings. “I don’t know we will know the truth until the investigation is completed.”

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