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A toned down Paul LePage says ‘Maine is crumbling’ around his Democratic successor Gov. Jane Mills

In the battle between Maine’s current and former governors, Republican Paul LePage says he does not need to campaign with the bombastic style that he was known for during his eight years in office.

“Life is a journey. You have to keep learning. Otherwise, you get stale,” LePage highlighted in a Fox News interview.

LePage, who was first elected governor in 2010 and re-elected four years later, was prevented by term limits from seeking a third straight term in 2018. The pugnacious LePage became known both inside Maine and across the country for stirring controversy thanks to his off-the-cuff remarks.

Among them, during his first campaign for governor, LePage said he would tell then-President Barack Obama to “go to hell” if he were elected. A few years later, the then-governor said that out-of-state drug dealers with names such as “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” sell heroin in Maine and impregnate “young White girl[s]” before they leave.

MAINE’S PAUL LEPAGE KICKS OFF A NEW BID TO WIN BACK HIS OLD JOB

While he is running this year to win back his old job, some political commentators are calling the more reserved candidate, LePage 2.0.

LePage said when he first ran for governor in 2010 that “nobody knew me… it was clear that in order to win… I had to make a name.” He added that during his second term in office he “started to calm down because I did get a perspective.”

Democrats are not buying it.

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“Paul LePage left office as one of the most unpopular governors in the country so no wonder he’s trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes for his comeback bid,” Democratic Governors Association deputy communications director Christina Amestoy charged. “But despite his campaign lies, LePage is the same combative, divisive man who hurt Maine’s economy, blocked Mainers’ health care, and left families struggling. Maine voters will not be fooled.” 

LePage was succeeded by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who as Maine’s attorney general during LePage’s tenure steering the state, was often at odds with the governor. The current governor is now facing off with her predecessor as she runs for re-election.

During a campaign event Wednesday at Messer Truck Equipment, a more than century old family-owned business in Westbrook, Maine, LePage and New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu focused on the economy and took aim at Maine’s current governor.

“Maine is crumbling around her,” LePage charged. “Our food costs are high. Our energy costs are high. Our electricity took an 87% increase this year. It’s incredible what’s going on. We need a businessman to really come in and fix those areas.”

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LePage stressed that “we need to have a governor in this state that cares for the people and lowers the cost of living.”

Sununu, who on Tuesday night headlined a fundraiser for LePage, emphasized that his friend “brought some awesome economic opportunities to the state for eight years.” He predicted that “Maine is going to become a lot more competitive with New Hampshire in just a few short months when Paul gets elected.”

A lighter moment between Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire (left) and former Maine Gov. Paul LePage (right), the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee, at Messer Truck Equipment in Westbrook, Maine on July 13, 2022

Sitting down with Fox News, LePage argued that “the agenda between Janet Mills and myself is totally different. I’m about growing the entire state. She has been concentrating on one small piece of the state and that’s Portland. One county is where she’s putting all her energy, and she doesn’t want to talk about anything but abortion and the rainbow flag.”

When asked about LePage’s comments, Mills campaign manager Alexandra Raposo charged that “just like he did for eight years as Governor, Paul LePage just continues to not tell the truth.”

Raposo also told Fox News that “Governor Mills has proven what bipartisan, commonsense leadership for all of Maine looks like. Under Governor Mills’ leadership, she has brought together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to expand health care, make historic investments in education, and deliver one of the strongest inflation relief proposals in the nation. Under her, Maine’s economy has grown at the 11th fastest rate in the country over the past three years, and she has grown the Rainy Day Fund to a record high.”

In this Feb. 11, 2019 file photo, Maine Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the Budget address to the Legislature at the State House in Augusta, Maine. 

Thanks to the highest inflation in four decades and President Joe Biden’s negative approval ratings, Democrats face a hostile political environment that is doing Mills no favors as she seeks a second term. However, Democrats hope that with the recent blockbuster move by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark, half century old, Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, an energized electorate will help them defy the current expectations by political prognosticators.

LePage has said he opposes abortion but would not try to overturn or restrict the right to abortion in Maine. He has also refused to promise he would not sign any anti-abortion bill if he is re-elected.

“In the next four years, it’s gonna be the economy, it’s gonna be fuel, it’s gonna be energy, it’s gonna be policing, it’s gonna be children and fixing our healthcare system,” LePage said on the campaign trail last month. I don’t have time for abortion. It’s that simple.”

When asked about abortion at his campaign event on Wednesday, LePage answered “look at the eight years as governor of the state of Maine and look at my track record when it comes to abortion.

Amestoy said that “as governor, Paul LePage proved repeatedly that he didn’t care about the health and well-being of Maine families and as candidate, he’s proving it again. Maine women deserve a governor who will protect their freedom to raise a family on their terms, not someone like LePage who will happily legislate those fundamental rights away when given the chance.”

LePage won his first gubernatorial election in 2010, and his re-election four years later, thanks in part to third-party candidates splitting the Democratic vote. This time around, there’s no major third-party candidate on the ballot.

LePage is confident he will win in November, boasting that “all I need is Janet Mills as my opponent, and I’ll get over 50%.”

Raposo obviously disagreed, emphasizing that “the bottom line is that Paul LePage’s record simply can’t compare to Governor Mills’, so he’s running a campaign on baseless and desperate lies because he’s got nothing else to run on — and Maine people know it.”

LePage, who was known for touting that he was Donald Trump “before Donald Trump became popular,” was a supporter of the former president’s 2016 election and 2020 re-election bid. 

When asked if he would welcome Trump’s help on the campaign trail in Maine during the general election, LePage told Fox News “I don’t know if we need him up here. He’s helped a lot of candidates, and he’s been helpful. There are states that are in bigger need than the state of Maine.”

“If he comes, he comes. If he doesn’t come, I think we’re doing fine,” LePage added.

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