Arthur Christopher Schaper
Maine's current governor, Paul LePage, boasts a rags-to-riches story that would make you weep, a governing record that would make you clap for joy, and when you hear him speak, you want to stomp and cheer, or laugh out loud (or both).
Born in Lewiston, Maine in abject poverty to an alcoholic father and an abused mother, Paul ran away from home and lived on the streets for two years, before friendly neighbors (Eddie and Pauline Collins) took him in and cared for him. He worked his way through hard times, taking odd jobs (including shoe-shiner and bus boy). From bootstrapping to managing grocery stores, LePage invested himself in heavy industries, holding nothing back, not looking for handouts, but trusting in the values of a strong education. He earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Business, an education which has benefited him professionally and the state of Maine professionally.
As a city council then Mayor of Waterville, LePage put fiscal conservative principles to work, balanced yearly city budgets and enlarging a rainy day fund from $1 million to $10 million.
In 2010, he announced his campaign for Governor, entering a fray with seven candidates, which whittled down to five after the primaries. LePage won the Governor's seat by 38%.
When it comes to candidates and governors who shoot from the lip and hit the target (or sometimes shoot themselves into the foot), look no further than what media critics have dubbed "Maine's Craziest Governor". They should have expanded the roster to "The Craziest Governor in the USA", but in a good way.
How about: "The Wickedest Governor in America."
Forget New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Paul LePage makes Gov. Fatboy look (and sound like) a wall flower.
Here is a sample of LePage's best (and brashest) comments during his 2010 campaign:
And as your governor, you're going to see a lot of me in the front pages saying: "Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell!"
Oh, I wish he had been running for office in my state. Governor Moonbeam shines us on, but loves to leave the limelight on President Obama and every liberal, progressive (read, perverse) policy one can think of. This timely use of the netherworld stands in stark contrast to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Torrance), whose desperate attempt to shore up votes for a redistricting campaign lead to her shouting: "The TEA Party can go straight to hell!"
I liked LePage's comments much better.
His candor was on full display during this gubernatorial debate, when he responded with what he would ask President Obama to do to help the state of Maine.
Get out of my state!
How about get out of the White House? Or my country?! That would be the most helpful thing President Obama could do for all Americans, including Mainers.
About the prolix tax structure in Maine, the governor ridiculed one ridiculous levy:
I don't know if you know this, but Maine is the only state in the United States that charges a sales tax on bull semen.
While critics fired back that his statement was untrue, the truth is that LePage's reforms have cut taxes and spending in Maine, and he had more than the semen to call out the Democratic legislature for their spending spree.
When reporters were giving him a hard time because his wife claimed tax exemptions in two states, he cut them short and sweet:
Let's just cut the bullsh--t!
Today, the mainstream media suffers from an all-time low of respect and trust from the American People. For the duration of the Obama Administration, the Mainstream Media has held water for the President, cleaning up his messes, covering up his failures, and burying Obama's bad polling data
He also bantered back and forth with a reporter who wouldn't let the home exemption die down.
I am running for governor. Not my wife!
Not that it mattered, since LePage won the governorship. And his wife is now the First Lady!
Unapologetically Politically Incorrect
After getting elected Governor, LePage faced criticism from the NAACP for turning down a meeting with black state prisoners.
His interview with local Maine reporters:
They invited me to go to the state prison to meet with black prisoners. I told them I would go, I would be more than happy to go, but I would meet with all prisoners.
When the reporter then suggested that this rejection was a pattern (or racism?) with the Governor, LePage responded:
Tell them to kiss my butt!
Take that, PC mongers. Granted, his final comments lacked the decorum one associates with the head of state in a state, but the blunt frustration of race-baiting infuriates many people, and for once, the governor in one state refused to be bullied by a minority interest group.
About regulations for a key chemical, the governor remarked off the cuff:
Until I see the science that tells me BPA is a problem, and I haven't seen it, quite frankly. The only think I have heard is that if you heat plastic, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. The worst case, some women will have little beards.
Strange remark, but what would anyone expect when a governor is making light of a non-issue in the first place?
When a local referendum voted down building a casino in his hometown, city residents felt betrayed by their native son. His answer
"The governor has said he's not getting into a pissing match with a skunk, because if you do you come out smelling."
Would that more of our politicians would avoid the skunks and fight the fights that count, such as. . .
Following the passage and the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act, LePage denounced the law and its subtle, totalitarian implications:
We the people have been told there is no choice,” he said. “You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the IRS.
These comments sparked outrage around the country, but just one year later, allegations surfaced that the IRS was questioning political action groups seeking tax exemption were subjected to undue, unconstitutional scrutiny. When evidence surfaced that the IRS was indeed targeting conservatives (and then buried the information during the 2012 campaign), IRS officials claimed that the emails detailing the conversations on these controversies had been destroyed. One can hear the voice of the chubby Nazi from Hogan's Heroes swearing: "I know nuth-ink! Nuthink!"
Perhaps Gestapo was not heavy-handed enough of a remark.
Some of LePage's policy comments command a great deal of respect. Every year of his first term in office, LePage has pushed right-to-work legislation, which would prevent labor unions from taking dues involuntarily from employees for collective bargaining. Negotiations among Maine legislators had suggested that LePage would authorize a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act with right-to-work legislation. Both sides then claimed that no such deal was authorized.
Still, the governor's remarks on right-to-work sound like Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder took up residence in New England:
I don't believe a person should be refused a job because he won't join a union.
About the difference between Democrats and Republicans, and why he is a Republican, LePage commented:
I was a Democrat until I learned to count.
This remark came in response to Democratic lawmakers' interest in the Medicaid expansion earlier this year, but the provided an assessment which took no account of costs to the state, particularly from those who would drop their own insurance to get something free from the state.
His latest splash in the national press ties in with the domestic violence epidemic and the NFL, in which he wrote a heated letterto the NFL commissioner after the lenient two-game suspension for wife-beater Ray Rice:
[T]aking thugs and wife-beaters off the field may be bad for business, but you are playing games with people's lives.
He later suggested the following for Rice:
“As a matter of fact, the team should have taken him out in the back shed and taken care of him…”
Sure beats "tell them to kiss my butt."
From his off-color remarks on the campaign trail to his hard take on key issues, Governor LePage pulls no punches and tells it like it is.
Now facing a tight reelection fight against Congressman Michael Michaud, the governor has the small advantage of running in a three-way race with a liberal independent who will pull away votes from his Democratic opponent.
If he does win reelection, Maine will have another term with a governor who has led efforts on welfare reform, domestic violence legislation, tax cuts, spending reductions, and policies key to reinvigorating a slow economy, plus a wicked wit!
If anyone has a problem with that powerful combination in a governor. . .
Tell 'em to kiss my butt!
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.