Setting it straight: Troy Jackson and the attempt to sell the Blaine House

Last week, Gov. Paul LePage held a meeting with several State House reporters (I was one of them) during which he talked about his plans for welfare reform and the problems plaguing several programs and facilities of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The governor gave out a lot of information about his policy agenda, and his take on the claims of mismanagement lobbed at DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

But right at the end, LePage turned his attention to himself, and about his tendency to be “outspoken” (his word). He said that since he’s been governor, there’s only one statement he’d like to take back: That time he said that Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, “claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.” He also said Jackson had a “black heart,” among other things. The line became infamous after it piqued the interest of politics reporters and bloggers nationwide.

LePage said he wished he could take the comment back because he got personal with Jackson. The governor should never get personal with political rivals, he said.

“He tried to throw my wife and my mother in-law out of the Blaine House, and I took that personal,” the governor said. “Nobody sitting in this seat should take it personal. That day, I took it personal, and I went after him. That’s the only reason I got angry at him. I have a sick mother in-law who lives with us and he tried to throw her out on the street and I took offense to that.”

LePage seemed to be referencing a bill submitted last session that would have sold the Blaine House and sent the proceeds to the General Fund. The thing is, Jackson had nothing to do with that bill. It’s sole sponsor was Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland.

Her bill was rejected unanimously at the committee level back in March. Still, Russell defended her bill on Twitter today:

A spokeswoman for LePage said Monday that prior to making the “Vaseline” statement, LePage had been told by a reporter that Jackson mentioned his support for the bill during an interview.

The mix-up here is kind of understandable. Russell’s bill would not only have sold the Blaine House, but targeted the governor’s health care benefits and pension. And while Jackson didn’t put his name on Russell’s bill, he did propose his own that would have required a governor be elected twice before being eligible for a state pension.

That bill was rejected by the Legislature’s state and local government committee the same day as Russell’s. Both bills were opposed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.