“Words to me are like thunder. They make a lot of noise, but they don’t accomplish anything,” LePage said Thursday. “And that’s how I feel. And if that takes me down, it takes me down.”
Unlike Chris Christie, another rotund Republican governor from the Northeast with a reputation for a sharp tongue and short temper, LePage has suffered for his straight talk, with his reelection chances and national standing falling. Democratic and independent challengers — and even Republicans seeking a primary challenger — sense his vulnerability in the 2014 race. This week, an early poll showed LePage behind his likely Democratic opponent.
The 64-year-old descendant of French Canadians sported frameless glasses and a blue shirt and pink tie during an interview in his airy office, where busts of Ronald Reagan and a giant eraser marked “For Big Mistakes” adorned his desk. He said that if the electorate is “concerned with words over actions, I may not run.”
There’s plenty that opponents can seize on to stoke the electorate’s concerns.
In 2011, LePage told members of the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” He called lawmakers “idiots,” compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo, and ordered that a mural celebrating workers be peeled off a wall of the state’s Labor Department because it didn’t champion entrepreneurs. In June, he verbally shredded state Sen. Troy Jackson — a Democratic congressional candidate and frequent LePage antagonist — for Jackson’s effort to cut LePage’s pension. “Senator Jackson claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people of Maine without providing Vaseline,” the governor said at the time.
Jackson, who roamed the statehouse during a special session on Thursday, complained that LePage was “erratic and makes unbelievably insensitive comments all the time.” But the governor didn’t seem entirely repentant.
“When you come from the streets — okay? — you develop sort of a mechanism inside of you, which is to protect what’s yours,” LePage said. “What he didn’t realize is that I take care of my sick mother-in-law and a wife. And when he made that attack [on my pension], that was against them. You can do anything to me, but don’t touch my family.”
But it is August that has proved the most thunderous month. A few weeks ago, LePage sat in a F-35 cockpit simulator for a photo op. “The demonstrator says to me, ‘Governor, what do you want to blow up this morning?’ And I said, ‘How about the [Portland] Press Herald.’ Next thing you know, they call the FBI!”