Why LePage is suddenly so fixated on ‘socialists’

Socialists, socialist, socialists, socialist, socialists, socialist, socialists, socialist, socialists, socialists, socialist and socialists.

Because calling the Legislature a bunch of socialists once in the span of about five minutes it takes to read Gov. Paul LePage’s State of the State address isn’t nearly enough. He used it a dozen times.

Good morning and welcome to Augusta, where last night’s snow will delay until late morning the Legislature’s progress on, according to LePage’s address, turning Maine into Greece, Cuba, Venezuela or the former Soviet Union. (I vote for Greece. Their baklava would be tasty with our maple syrup, as long as the government doesn’t take over the sugaring industry. Greece can keep its ouzo, though. Yuck.)

Here’s our state’s new soundtrack, though I really hope the Maine Stein Song can still be like, our vice-soundtrack or something.

I’m sure you know by now that the governor, as promised, delivered his State of the State address Monday by letter. And you’ve heard that unlike his previous addresses, in which he tried to strike a respectful and collaborative tone, this one is full of the fiery insults we’ve become used to hearing from the boisterous governor.

Many of LePage’s political opponents were quick to dismiss much of his letter as ridiculous, but they should beware: Instead of using the State of the State as a vehicle for discussing policy and progress, LePage has used it to launch his new political strategy leading into the November elections. I haven’t checked them all, but I’m confident the word “socialist” made it into every news story about the letter, and most of the headlines. It’s a word we’re going to hear from the governor a lot in the coming months and make no mistake, it’s calculated and deliberate. Here’s why:

The possibility of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, becoming the Democratic nominee for president looks more possible every day. If he makes it through the Democratic Party’s nominating process, the Republicans will spend millions lambasting his socialist proposals, which of course are the antithesis of conservatives’ free-market, personal liberty ideals.

LePage would love nothing more than for the Maine people to elect more hard-right Republicans to the Legislature to help him with his policy agenda during the final two years of his tenure. Feeding the impression that legislators who buck the governor are socialists is designed to do exactly that.

Under the dome today, the House and Senate will convene some time after 10 a.m. Of note in committee work this afternoon are work sessions on two bills sponsored by Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (on behalf of the governor) that are designed to lower energy costs.

Also on today’s committee docket is a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, which would create the Maine Capital Investment Program to support new business ventures with projected costs of at least $50 million and that would create at least 250 full-time jobs. All that’s needed to make it possible is a $250 million nest egg for the Finance Authority of Maine.

We can only imagine what word LePage would use to describe that bill. — Christopher Cousins

Housing needs higher than ever

Avesta Housing, a nonprofit provider of some 2,000 units of affordable housing in Maine and New Hampshire, has released a survey that found requests for affordable housing have reached an all-time high, especially among senior citizens.

“The level of unmet need for a safe, affordable place to live is higher than we have ever seen,” said Avesta President Dana Totman in a news release. Here are some of Avesta’s findings:

  • In 2015, 3,348 people sought housing from Avesta, representing a 9 percent increase from 2014.
  • The largest increase in housing requests came from people 55 or older, with an increase of 163 over 2014.
  • Primarily because of new units that were created, Avesta was able to find housing for 28 percent more applicants in 2015 than it did the previous year but still had more than 2,200 people on its waitlists.

While affordable housing is clearly scarce, the number of homeless people in Maine is on the decrease, according to this recent article from the Kennebec Journal. Margaret Bean, deputy director of the Maine State Housing Authority, said recently during a United Way meeting in Augusta, that more than 7,000 Mainers were homeless at some point in 2015, but that that number has decreased by more than 700 over the past three years. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Gov. Paul LePage will hold the latest of an extended schedule of public town hall meetings tonight in Farmingdale. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Hall-Dale High School,111 Maple St., Farmingdale.
  • This is a political column so I feel obligated to remind y’all, in case you’ve missed the past six months of wall-to-wall media coverage about it, that the New Hampshire presidential primary is today. After all, New Hampshire is RIGHT THERE. Obligation fulfilled. Maine’s presidential caucuses aren’t for another month. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Is Jeff McCabe a babe?

First, some disclaimers:

  • I have misspelled people’s names in news articles.
  • I will misspell more people’s names in news articles (even though it’s the cardinal sin of journalism).
  • Everyone who pays attention at all to Maine politics knows how to spell Jeff McCabe.
  • People who publish thousands of words a week deserve forgiveness, in my opinion, for an occasional slip of the finger

Now, this correction, published Monday by a news organization in Maine: “This story has been corrected to show the House Majority Leader’s name is Jeff McCabe, not Jeff McBabe.”

It reminded me of something I saw once about an apparently good-looking warden named McCabe on the television show North Woods Law, where a woman said something like “he’s more like McBABE.”

Here’s a photo I took of McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan, at a recent news conference (sorry I caught you with your eyes closed, Jeff):

UntitledI feel unqualified to judge his looks, so I asked my wife if he’s a babe. At first she said “I’d never judge someone by his appearance” and I was worried that was code for “he’s ugly.” But then she added: “He’s definitely good looking in a warm, grizzly kind of way.”

I think I just learned something about why she married me. — Christopher Cousins


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.