LePage flashback: ‘I will work with legislative leadership on both sides’

Good morning, and welcome to the Reminiscing Edition of the Daily Brief, or the Back in the Day Edition, your choice. Where you file today’s post is up to you.

Tonight, Gov. Paul LePage takes his ongoing statewide road show to Newport, which is a town I know a little about, having covered it during my first two years working for the Bangor Daily News. (Hello, Newport! I miss you! Yes, Pittsfield, you too.)

In 2010, I was also covering the Republican gubernatorial primary, which had seven candidates vying for the nomination. LePage came to Palmyra, which neighbors Newport, for a campaign stop I’ll never forget.

Early in that primary race, LePage was seen by many as a long-shot, though by May 12, 2010, about a month before the primary election, he was beginning to gather steam. His appearance at Palmyra Consolidated School for a spaghetti supper fundraiser was the day I personally realized how much energy was behind his campaign and that he would likely become the nominee.

Hollywood couldn’t have contrived a more electric scene. The mood was subdued until LePage entered the room and woke it with a jolt. A man sang big-band hits onstage as the crowd enjoyed the meal. The speech was a real barn-burner. I remember not so much applause as outright euphoria. Here’s my report of that event.

In case you don’t care to check that story out, here are some LePage quotes that five years later, sound all too familiar:

“We’re seeing our taxes go up and our freedoms eroded. The government is putting shackles of economic slavery to each and every one of us. The Maine taxpayer has been put at an extreme advantage.”

LePage was proud of his tax-cutting, rainy-day-fund replenishing record as Waterville mayor, which he touted throughout his first campaign. Here was LePage’s response to those who said he was too extreme for the Blaine House:

“I’ve heard that some people think I’m a nutcase or some kind of wacko conservative extremist. If those accomplishments are what makes a wacko, then I’m a wacko. I’m a fiscal conservative and I’m not ashamed of it.”

And then there was this LePage quote, which might have won him some votes in 2010 but which hasn’t turned out to be LePage’s governance style, to put it mildly:

“I will work with legislative leadership on both sides. I don’t like party-line votes because I don’t think they’re the will of the people. I’m not a centrist; I’m a doer. You’ve got to find common ground. You’ve got to get the job done.”

LePage’s town hall forum tonight begins at 6 p.m. at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, which is maybe six or seven miles from the Palmyra location of that memorable campaign stop more than five years ago. Don’t expect LePage to be talking about bipartisanship and finding common ground with the Legislature. — Christopher Cousins

Speaking of bipartisanship…

When former Maine Sen. George Mitchell speaks, a lot of people listen. By the time you’re reading this, Mitchell has probably wrapped up a keynote speech he was scheduled to deliver today in Falmouth at a benefit event for the Resources First Foundation.

In recent years, Mitchell has made promoting bipartisanship and ending congressional and legislative gridlock his mission. That was the core of his message in 2014 when he spoke to the Legislature and that was the subject of this morning’s speech, according to advance materials.

Hey, you can’t blame the guy for trying.

Interesting side note: Among the members of the host committee for today’s event is Les Otten, who was one of the six Republican candidates vying against LePage — and first runner up in the primary election results. Remember him? — Christopher Cousins

Willette becomes assistant district attorney in Sagadahoc County

You’ve read a lot here in the Bangor Daily News about the political career of Republican Alex Willette, who at one time was the youngest person in U.S. history to be elected to a leadership position in a state Legislature.

After a two-term run in the House, Willette quit the Legislature in September 2014 so he could work for LePage’s re-election campaign. Willette also staged a very brief run for Congress in 2013 which ended after less than two months when he was unable to gain any traction.

Willette didn’t stop there and remains active in the Maine Republican Party. He is one of Maine’s representatives to the Republican National Committee and for several months has been a spokesman for the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Those of you keeping track of Willette’s resume (am I the only one?) will be interested to know that he passed the bar exam earlier this year and is among Maine’s newest lawyers. With his new legal cred in hand, he was recently hired as an assistant district attorney in Sagadahoc County.

Willette told me this morning that he intends to continue as one of Maine’s national committeemen, which means he’s keeping Republican politics in his wheelhouse. After having compiled such a long resume in such a short time, I’m sure there are some Republicans in Maine who are pleased with that decision. — Christopher Cousins 

Reading list

Neil Young vs. John Lennon

I’m conflicted. Regular readers of the Daily Brief know that more often than not, I link to a soundtrack. It’s not something I intentionally set out to do but usually, I’ve got tunes going in the background while I’m writing. And, I’m one of those guys who when I get fired up about a song, I just can’t resist sharing it.

The response has been positive, to the point that I occasionally receive requests. I’m not sure how many political blogs receive musical requests, but there can’t be many.

Yesterday, I noticed two news bits from the musical world:

One of my editors said Lennon beats Young any day but I’ve taken that as a suggestion, not an order. Regardless, here’s Neil Young singing Imagine from one of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen on television: An Oct. 2, 2011, fundraiser for the 9/11 terrorist attack victims.

I’m not aware of Lennon recording any Young tunes but here’s a gritty performance of “I found out” featuring just John and his acoustic guitar, from his 1998 anthology box set (It’s so good I’ve worn mine out over the years). Not sure if the six-string on this track is the $2.4 million Martin or not, but it still gives me goosebumps. — Christopher Cousins 

NOTE: The Daily Brief will be on hiatus on Wednesday in observance of Veterans Day. Here at State & Capitol, we tip our caps to everyone who has served, not the least of which is our respected peer, Scott Thistle of the Sun Journal. 

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.