LePage foe files voter suppression complaint over joke at Trump rally

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) after LePage introduced him at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine March 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Joel Page

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) after LePage introduced him at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Joel Page

Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, has filed a voter suppression complaint to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap over comments made by Republican Gov. Paul LePage Thursday when he introduced Donald Trump during a presidential election rally in Portland.

LePage said to the crowd — and to presumably thousands or millions of online viewers — that the Democratic caucuses are next Sunday. Here’s the video (the comment in question is at about the 5-minute mark).

“Vote Sunday,” yelled someone from the audience after LePage urged Republicans to caucus on Saturday.

“No, the Democrats will vote next Sunday,” replied LePage, triggering laughter from the audience. “Don’t tell them this week.”

Maine’s Democratic caucuses are Sunday, March 6. The Republican caucuses are Saturday, March 5.

Evangelos is one of LePage’s most active opponents. In addition to continued criticism of the governor that dates back years, Evangelos is one of the lawmakers who led a failed effort to launch an impeachment investigation against LePage earlier this year.

“The idea that a sitting chief executive would willfully and intentionally lie about an election or caucus date in a clear effort to suppress voter turnout is just the latest example of Mr. LePage’s contempt for the rule of law and contempt for common decency and fair play,” Evangelos said Friday in a written statement to the Bangor Daily News.

Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for  Dunlap, a Democrat, said Friday morning that the secretary of state is reviewing the complaint.

“This is a desperate attempt by Evangelos to stay relevant after the humiliating defeat he suffered when he tried to impeach the governor on baseless and politically motivated grounds,” said LePage spokesman Peter Steele in response to questions from the BDN. “Clearly, the governor was joking and the crowd laughed. If Evangelos is so concerned, he should officially join the Democrats instead of poorly disguising himself as an independent and help get the word out about their caucuses.”

Evangelos, who is not running for re-election, said he will register as a Democrat in order to caucus for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday and then switch back to independent.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a written statement to the BDN that he is expecting a strong turnout.

“Fortunately, Maine Democrats know it is pointless to look to Gov. LePage for factual information,” said Bartlett.

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.