“Inspiring today. Transforming tomorrow.” This is a sentiment that radiates truth with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. On October 27, 2022 they held a forum for the Gubernatorial Debate between incumbent Governor Janet Mills and rival candidate Paul LePage. This forum saw President of the chamber, Dana Connors welcome everyone to this event that is held every election year. This event that was held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, in Portland was a reception and dinner event that brought together community businesses, community leaders, and students from the colleges and universities around the State of Maine.
In this paper, our discussion will be focused on the previous Maine Governor and a current candidate in the Gubernatorial election in the State of Maine: Paul R. LePage. A 74 year-old Maine native with a knack for business and politics, LePage hails from the city of Lewiston. This former governor isn’t much different from folks today. This is a man who experienced and escaped domestic violence before turning 12 years old; this is a man who was born into a flawed and “dysfunctional” family of 18. This is a man who knows and believes that, “if it is to be, it is up to me”– a saying that powered his resilience and success from a young age.
LePage built his repertoire as a businessman by helping the chain store Marden’s to expand and succeed. With a business background, Paul LePage was elected governor with a “$1.3 billion shortfall, I had another $750 million off-balance sheet debt to the hospitals,” and an unemployment rate topping 8.2%. In the course of his 2011-2019 tenure, LePage turned that around, and ultimately left office in 2019 with the state “in the best shape it’s been in 50 years.” This is a claim that allowed LePage to attack Janet Mills with the comment: “in the private sector when you spend more money” but receive less of a result “you get fired” uttering the governor as the final word.
Although LePage, with a desire to seek two more terms, has an eight-year program to reduce or fully eliminate income tax through the means of laying off a couple thousand employees, as he did in 2011 by reducing state employees from around 14,000 to around 11,000. However, using
New Hampshire as an example, his desire is to turn Maine’s negative growth into positive growth. This comparison was deemed unworthy by incumbent governor Janet Mills, saying that Maine has worked to rebuild its infrastructure after LePage “decimated the Maine Center for Disease Control”, also through the means of hiring more educational employees.
Janet Mills proudly spoke that under her guidance, the state hasn’t contracted out any services to out-of-state companies. Instead, it has “kept the state employees that knew what to do” when it mattered the most.
In a question to the incumbent governor regarding 2008, LePage asked: “Years before Putin ever invaded Ukraine, you banned fossil fuel investment in Maine. Did you do it because you didn’t understand the impact of your decision, or did you do it to force Maine people to buy electric cars?” This question was posed by Paul Lepage seeking an answer to Mill’s move to ease Maine off fossil fuels.
In response to LePage, Governor Mills issued a dire warning for Maine people: “It is code red for humanity to reduce fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.”
This remark caused LePage to say without haste that in 2008, “oil hit four dollars a gallon and we lost lives”. LePage stated that with kerosine hitting $7 and heating oil is $6 a gallon going into this winter, “we are going to lose lives again… because this governor is so committed to the Green New Deal”. This remark from LePage should be taken with a grain of salt, primarily because the Recession of 2008 saw a heavy loss of jobs and lower prices, which could equate to the loss of lives during that time.
When asked by the Free Press about his thoughts on the political landscape of Maine during the gubernatorial debate, LePage replied with a quote from President Lincoln, stating that: “It is like the political landscape of America, there is too much hate… and that a house divided against itself cannot stand.” A good sign to hear is that even a former governor can see the political divide in the United States.
However, in a move to incorporate dissent, Paul LePage is quite hypocritical because through his channels, he funded a page to spread misinformation, called janetmillslied.com.
October of 2021 was a significant period for many Mainers in the healthcare industry. Two months prior in August of 2021, the Mills administration mandated that by October 1, 2022, if a healthcare employee had yet to receive their Covid-19 vaccine, then they would be released from their healthcare job, also further requiring all healthcare providers to have received a vaccine. Melissa Brown asked what each candidate thought about the mandate.
Gubernatorial candidate Paul R. LePage doesn’t believe that Janet Mill’s mandate to protect those who are reliant on the healthcare system, was a move filled with compassion. However, he boldly stated that the healthcare workers were “heroes” in 2020, but became “zeros” in 2021. This statement from LePage might be controversial to some, and cost him their votes.
A question posed by Emily Rinchich: “Would you be in favor of requiring this [COVID-19 vaccine] for school children in Maine?”
LePage responded first with: “Absolutely not! Period,” whereas Governor Mills mentioned that it is still an emergency use authorization. Ultimately leaving the final say as to whether their children receive the vaccination up to parents, after a recommendation from their children’s pediatricians and the National Center for Disease Control (CDC).
When it comes to increasing the workforce of Maine, LePage’s firm belief was simple: stop paying people to stay home, and to put them to work. LePage mentioned that Maine’s workforce went from 65% workforce participation to under 59%, with a 3% unemployment rate. LePage stated that there are businesses that need to close several days a week to give their employees a break, simply because they don’t have enough employees for full-time hours.
Paul Lepage contradicted himself, near the kick-off of the debate: he mentioned that Mill’s move to ban fossil fuels in 2022 was dangerous, and just asking for trouble. However, when asking Janet Mills his question, LePage mentioned in his question, “Years before Putin ever invaded Ukraine, you banned fossil fuel investment in Maine.” What did Paul LePage mean by this?
Despite the fact voting has been concluded for the Maine Gubernatorial Elections, don’t forget to register to vote in future elections. Maine has same-day registration, absentee voting, and of course– the classical voting area/booths. However, don’t worry! Your vote doesn’t go to waste! Maine is one of a few states with ranked choice voting, meaning you vote in order of preference! Ultimately your vote doesn’t go to waste if your preferred candidate places third!