AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, seeking to return for a third term, attacked the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills during a speech Saturday at the Maine Republican Party’s convention at the Augusta Civic Center.
He criticized Mills for everything from her handling of the pandemic to what he said were the state’s ongoing economic woes and rising energy costs.
He sought to tie Mills to President Joe Biden and faulted her for relying too heavily on one-time federal funds related to the pandemic saying “when the funny money is gone, Janet Mills’ IOUs are going to come due.”
His remarks were a continuation of attacks on Mills’ leadership during the pandemic and pandemic-related restrictions.
He has criticized the $ 850 relief checks – a giveback first suggested by legislative Republicans – in the governor’s latest budget that received bipartisan support as an election year “gimmick.” LePage said the surplus should’ve been used to address tax reform.
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“Never has an administration done more to destroy Maine’s economic environment than the Mills’ administration,” LePage said. “Inflation is destroying our prosperity. It is destroying our very way of life. ”
Mills’ campaign has defended the governor’s actions during the pandemic, saying it led to Maine having one of the nation’s lowest rates of infection and deaths from COVID-19. The campaign has also credited other efforts like improving health care and education, delivering property tax relief and diversifying the state’s economy with good paying jobs.
LePage ticked through a series of policy positions Saturday, saying he is a supporter of the Second Amendment, is a strong proponent of school choice, backs the use of voter IDs and would work to end the state income tax.
“The notion that the harder you work the more the government can take out of your paycheck is absurd,” he said.
He also said the state needs to do more to encourage those relying too heavily on government assistance to “get off the couch and go to work,” adding that a stronger work ethic needs to be instilled in the state’s young people.
“We need to teach them how to work at a much younger age.” He said. “Eighteen is too late.”
LePage, who used to refer to himself as “Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular,” is known for his blunt-spoken style, even though his aides have suggested he wants to tone down his polarizing comments if elected.
Other speakers were Ed Thelander, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL who’s challenging Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree; former US Rep. Bruce Poliquin and businesswoman and whitewater guide Elizabeth Caruso, who are vying for the 2nd Congressional District nomination; and US Sen. Susan Collins.
But the highest-profile race will be the gubernatorial contest. Mills and LePage are locking into what’s shaping up to be a hard-fought, expensive race without an independent spoiler.
There’s no love lost between the two.
The two battled when Mills served as LePage’s attorney general while he was governor. LePage hired his own counsel because he was unsatisfied with her defense of the administration.
Under the Maine Constitution, LePage was prevented from seeking a third consecutive term. But he’s allowed to run again after sitting out a term.
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