LePage campaign tightens control on media, attendees for campaign announcement

Details are beginning to emerge about perhaps the least-surprising political news of the year — that Republican Gov. Paul LePage will announce next week, on Election Day, that he will seek a second term — but as it turns out there are some mildly surprising aspects of what is clearly planned to be a tightly scripted event.

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s chief political strategist, said the event, which he described as a sort of “mini Republican convention,” will go way beyond the typical candidate speeches at the podium. Though Littlefield was tight-lipped about what he has planned, he said the announcement on Tuesday will be made in a party-like atmosphere complete with music, refreshments and booths manned by Republican committees, business groups and charity organizations.

That’s the sort of surprising part. Not at all surprising is that the event will be tightly controlled to ensure that what voters see is exactly what LePage and Littlefield want them to see.

Reporters have been told that they will be limited to a roped-off area and that there will be no opportunities to ask questions of the governor. In addition, all attendees, including media, are required to pre-register and acquire tickets in advance. Littlefield said each ticket request is being vetted carefully. Everyone will pass through a security checkpoint at the event.

Controlling access to political events is nothing new. Any campaign wants only the candidate’s most die-hard supporters present for what is arguably the most important campaign event other than the actual election. Controlling the message is as old as politics itself, though LePage’s history of making controversial off-the-cuff statements in public — which he openly admits has caused him problems — was no doubt a factor in planning for the event.

“There’s nothing special about that,” said Littlefield. “Other people have been focused on political attacks while the governor has been focused on doing his job … After the announcement he’ll be out there and openly talking to Maine people and answering questions and being active in the communities.”

Both Democrat Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler, who are opposing LePage in the gubernatorial election, took questions from reporters at their campaign events, according to the Michaud campaign and a BDN reporter who covered Cutler’s announcement.

Littlefield said he expects LePage’s speech to be brief but that others will speak on his behalf — and not just Republicans. 

“The event is going to be an indication that there are Democrats, Republicans and independents supporting Paul LePage’s candidacy,” said Littlefield.

With a year between LePage’s announcement and the November 2014 election, Tuesday’s event will be a distant memory for voters by the time they hit the polls, unless, of course, LePage goes off script again and says something that’s memorable for the wrong reasons.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.