By John Celock
Maine lawmakers voted Thursday to defeat an effort to launch an impeachment investigation into Gov. Paul LePage (R).
The Democratic-controlled Maine House of Representatives voted 96-52 to “indefinitely postpone” a resolution that would have launched an investigation into impeaching the two-term governor, who has become one of the most controversial state chief executives in the nation. The effort to impeach LePage was based on allegations that he threatened to withhold state funds to a charter school if they hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) as the school’s president.
The vote came after several hours of intense debate, where supporters of the impeachment resolution said that an investigation was needed into the allegations and whether LePage abused his power as governor.
“Using official action to have a political foe fired from his job outside political service is a severe abuse of power,” Rep. Christopher Babbidge (D-Kennebunk) said.
The complaint against LePage was that the governor allegedly told officials at Good-Will Hinckley Academy that he would withhold state funds for the school if Eves was made the new president. Eves, who has been offered the school’s presidency, was later dropped from consideration for the job. Eves would have continued serving in the Legislature if he had taken the school post.
The debate though veered into other complaints from lawmakers against LePage, including a recent threat the GOP chief executive made to veto all bills coming from Democrats. The House presiding officer on multiple occasions had to tell lawmakers to focus solely on the complaints against LePage made in the resolution and not into other areas of dislike against the governor.
Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) told her colleagues that she believed that her most important work as a lawmaker was to “safeguard democratic institutions in the state.” She said that the reports against LePage with regards to Eves and the charter school warranted an investigation.
“I oppose the motion to postpone because the incidents and behavior alleged here, on their own level may not rise to the level of impeachable,” Grant said. “But taken together then can rise to the level of power abuse.”
LePage, who was first elected in 2010, has long been a target for national Democratic and progressive groups, fueled by a series of controversial comments from the conservative chief executive. LePage has taken down murals from the state capitol that have favored labor unions, threatened newspapers in the state and pushed one of the most conservative state agendas in the nation.
Opponents of the impeachment measure said that it was time for lawmakers to move on from the attacks against LePage and focus on a series of other state business including drug addiction and the budget.
Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) told her colleagues that she hoped the Legislature could dig deep into LePage’s behavior and the impact it is having on the state nationally.
“The message that I want to send to Maine people and to the people around the country and the world is that we have a long standing history in this state of standing up against oppression,” she said.