From the 1930’s to the 1950’s Republicans controlled the governor’s office in Maine, but since the early 50’s, Maine’s electorate appears to like the idea of playing ping-pong with the governor’s seat, as it has switched between the two major parties almost every election cycle ever since.
This year is no exception as the often combative, Trump-supporting conservative, two-term Governor Paul LePage is retiring and has been replaced by the first woman to win a Maine gubernatorial election. One of LePage’s favorite combatants, the state’s Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills, will be taking over in Augusta in January.
On Monday, LePage told the Portland Press Herald that he is headed to Florida, after turning over the governorship to Mills, where he will spend a significant portion of each year in a state where income taxes are non-existent.
And where, following Tuesday’s gubernatorial victory of Trump-endorsed Republican Ron DeSantis and the likely victory of former governor Rick Scott over incumbent US Senator Bill Nelson, he will surely find a more congenial political atmosphere.
I’ll be a resident of Florida if Janet Mills wins, I can promise you that,” LePage said. “I’ll also be in Florida if Shawn Moody wins because I am going to retire and go to Florida. I am done with politics. I have done my eight years. It’s time for somebody else.
The 70-year-old governor-elect Mills, who had been in various roles in the Maine Democratic Party structure for decades and LePage butted heads on more than one occasion after she assumed the AG job in 2013.
One of their major dust-ups was over the issue of asylum seekers being eligible for welfare assistance in the state.
Maine has been one of the few states in the nation where asylum seekers, immigrants who have not yet been granted legal status as refugees, may apply for welfare benefits including eligibility to participate in the SNAP program, commonly referred to as the food stamp program.
In fact, the large Somali populations in some of Maine’s cities, especially Portland and Lewiston, had initially grown there because the word went out nationally that Maine was welcoming and so was its welfare.
According to the Bangor Daily News, LePage’s 2014 proposal to prohibit so-called “general welfare” to immigrants and asylum seekers stirred up a hornets nest among Democrat and ethnic group activists around the state.
Attorney General Mills attempted to block his reform effort by calling it “illegal and unconstitutional.”
However, by 2015, LePage had achieved some success in turning back some of the state’s generous welfare assistance as Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew reported on the Laura Ingraham radio program.
We’re no longer defining success in this state by the number of people coming on to these welfare programs, but rather by the number of people coming off these programs.
One year later, by 2016, LePage’s welfare reform was being hailed by Forbes as a success.
Another action undertaken by Governor LePage, angering Democrats, was to remove the state from the US Refugee Admissions Program, a largely symbolic move as the federal government has made it clear, so far, that Washington has the power to send refugees to the state no matter what the governor says.
But, as long as Donald Trump is in the White House and keeping refugee numbers low, battleground state Maine should escape a deluge even as Democrat Mills is sworn in come January 2019.
Mills is on record as opposing the President’s slowdown of refugees from certain dangerous hot spots worldwide.
In 2017, LePage’s “admiration” for the President caused Leftwing publication The New Republic to sniff, that LePage’s “lord and savior” (meaning Trump) and the governor shared a common bond because both men demonstrated a “hatred of the press, and a disregard for collegial behavior.”
Citizen LePage hopes to teach when he settles in Florida, and some admirers say professor LePage’s classes would be far from boring. Indeed a little diversity of thought in US colleges would be refreshing.
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Anna Marie Bolton is a reporter at The Ohio Star.