Maine Republicans showcase candidates for governor and Congress at state convention

LePage criticized his opponent – his successor -- Democrat Janet Mills, for increasing state spending, her stewardship of the local economy, and her handling of the coronavirus.
LePage criticized his opponent – his successor -- Democrat Janet Mills, for increasing state...
LePage criticized his opponent – his successor -- Democrat Janet Mills, for increasing state spending, her stewardship of the local economy, and her handling of the coronavirus.(WMTW)
Published: May. 1, 2022 at 9:48 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - Maine Republican shifted their focus from the party platform to their top-tier candidates on the second and final day of their biannual state convention on Saturday, with former Governor Paul LePage as the headliner.

“Together, let’s move Maine forward! Together, we can get it done!” LePage said during his 30-minute speech to hundreds of convention delegates. “The choice in November is very clear. I stand for faith, freedom, and trusting the Maine people. My opponent stands for power, control, mandates, and D.C. swamp politics.”

LePage criticized his opponent – his successor -- Democrat Janet Mills, for increasing state spending, her stewardship of the local economy, and her handling of the coronavirus.

LePage said, “The Mills Administration and her liberal cronies are sending us down the path of big government, high taxes, loads of red tape, and folks, Maine people have had enough.” He argued Maine’s economic recovery from the pandemic is weak with sluggish post-pandemic job growth that he said ranks among the worst in the nation.

He also blamed the president and governor for higher energy prices. ”Thanks for nothing, Joe Biden and Janet Mills,” LePage said.

As he has before, LePage criticized Mills’ coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers and promised to see hospital nurses and emergency responders be rehired with back pay and seniority restored.

”During the pandemic, her true nature was revealed. She doesn’t trust Maine people,” LePage said. “She offered no flexibility. It was either the shot or the pink slip.”

A centerpiece of his campaign, LePage promised to phase out the state income tax, like neighboring New Hampshire and Florida, where LePage and his wife, Ann, briefly retired before coming back to Maine.

”Far more prosperous than we are, have a higher median income, and they still offer good quality of life,” LePage said. “The concept that the harder you work, the more government should take out of your paycheck is absurd.”

An hour after LePage completed his speech, Maine Democrats held a news conference outside their state headquarters in Augusta.

“His remarks are filled with lies,” said Democratic Party Chairman Drew Gattine, a former state legislator. “Paul LePage’s eight-year tenure as governor was filled with catastrophic failures.”

Gattine and four current Democratic legislators said the Democratic-controlled House and Senate and Governor Mills have not raised a single tax during her three years in office.

Senator Mattie Daughtry, the Assistant Majority Leader, said, “We’ve managed to be able to increase a lot of the services offered throughout the state while not increasing taxes.”

The Democrats blamed LePage for inequitable cost-shifting with his previous income tax rate cuts.

Representative Maureen Terry, the House Chair of the Committee on Taxation, said, “His tax schemes just forced increases to sales and property taxes, shifting the tax burden onto Maine’s middle class.”

Representative Teresa Pierce, House Chair of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, said 98.5% of Maine jobs lost during the pandemic are back, and unemployment is down to 3.6%, below the New England average.

Pierce said, “We’re in the best fiscal health we’ve been in in decades.”

The Democrats defended Mills’ handling of the budget, including the state’s “rainy day” fund growing at a faster pace than during LePage’s tenure to a record $500 million, while financing 55% of local Kindergarten through 12thgrade public school costs, as required.

Representative Michael Brennan, House Chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, said “Under eight years of Paul LePage, we never came close to 55%.”

Daughtry said she had been motivated to run for office at age 25 to expand health care, which she said, LePage had made less accessible and affordable by blocking expansion of Medicaid, or MaineCare, under the Affordable Care Act, even after voters approved it in a referendum.

“He fought for years against everyone from doctors to state legislators to folks literally in front of the state capitol begging for this action,” Daughtry said. “LePage’s obstruction not only cost our wallets but potentially cost lives.”

More than 380,000 low-income Maine residents are now enrolled in MaineCare, with 93,000 added since Governor Mills ordered the expansion in her first day in office in January 2019.

LePage said 86% of the new enrollees are childless adults – a majority of them are men, many in their 20′s -- who should be required to work.

In his speech, LePage made no mention of the social issues in the party platform, which opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, and sex education.

He limited his comments on election security to requiring a photo ID to vote, without elaborating on voter fraud or endorsing hand-counting only of paper ballots, a platform plank.

“Use common sense, and let’s have an ID to vote,” LePage said.

Three Republican congressional candidates also took center stage at the convention with stump speeches on Saturday.

Liz Caruso, a local elected official, rafting guide, and co-founder of a home-schooling cooperative, is one of two Republicans on the June primary ballot vying to challenge Democrat Jared Golden in the 2nd congressional district.

Caruso said, “Mainers want a real, rural Maine leader that they can identify with that can restore their confidence in government.”

The other is Bruce Poliquin, a former two-term congressman who Golden defeated in 2018.

“You know me. You can trust me,” Poliquin said, saying he had a “proven track record” and would once again advocate for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.

Poliquin said, “When you run a business for 40 years or you’re your state treasurer, you know you only spend what you take in.”

Ed Thelander, a former Navy SEAL, volunteer firefighter, and reserve deputy sheriff, is challenging Democrat Chellie Pingree in the 1st congressional district in his first run for elective office.

“We need to come together right now,” Thelander said to his fellow Republicans. “If we don’t do this now, there might not be another chance, folks.”

Copyright 2022 WABI. All rights reserved.