Despite agreement against Question 1, LePage’s rift with Thibodeau continues

Gov. Paul LePage, left, and Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, during the governor's second inauguration in January. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

On Thursday, the Bangor Daily News published a column co-authored by Gov. Paul LePage, Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette which had some people wondering whether the rift between LePage and the Legislature, which reached epic proportions earlier this year, has begun to narrow.

Not so, said Thibodeau.

While the three top elected Republicans in state government are unified in their opposition to Question 1 — and directed their staffs to collaborate on Thursday’s column arguing against the measure to strengthen Maine’s public campaign financing system — Thibodeau said LePage continues to ignore his requests for a meeting and that their most recent face-to-face meeting was in April.

“We need to get this fixed; we need to work on what is clearly a strained relationship between the governor and the Legislature,” said Thibodeau. “All of us, the entire state of Maine, needs the governor to be successful and we need him engaged with the Legislature. I would hope to be able to have a meeting with him and I have reached out to him several times but at this point he is not willing to meet with me.”

A spokesman for Fredette said he was not available for comment on Friday and LePage’s office did not respond to a request for comment from the Bangor Daily News.

Thibodeau’s relationship with LePage melted down in dramatic and public fashion in May and June of this year when it became clear that Thibodeau and Senate Republicans would not support LePage’s state budget proposal, which included a controversial cut of municipal revenue sharing funds and an extensive tax reform proposal that included an increase and expansion of the state’s sales tax.

LePage’s supporters event went as far as targeting Thibodeau and other Republican Senators with robocalls in their home districts, accusing them of engaging in “backroom deals” with “liberal Democrats to oppose Gov. LePage’s income tax cuts and to provide taxpayer funded welfare for illegal aliens.”

LePage has also threatened to campaign against Senate Republicans in next year’s elections.

Thibodeau said his chief concern is convincing the governor to change some of his ways.

“The bottom line is that I want the governor to be engaged in the legislative process,” said Thibodeau. “I want him to make his commissioners available to the Legislature. … I’d like to talk to him about the idea of vetoing every bill and requiring two-thirds approval for everything. … I want to work out an agenda he can be engaged in. He’s not willing to do that at this point and it’s unfortunate. An entire state suffers.”

The relationship between LePage and Thibodeau could be headed for more complications. LePage’s daughter, Lauren LePage, announced recently that she is vying to be elected the Maine Republican Party’s national committeewoman. Thibodeau has already endorsed another woman, Corenna O’Brien, a long-time Republican activist, for the post. The position on the national committee is currently occupied by Ashley Ryan.

Thibodeau said Friday that O’Brien is a long-time friend of his family and that his support of her has nothing to do with Lauren LePage.

“She’s an old friend,” said Thibodeau. “This is about long-term relationships.”

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.