Maine Gov. Paul LePage is quickly cultivating a combative reputation, feuding with labor groups in recent weeks by removing a mural from the state Department of Labor building that he deemed too pro-union and taunting critics who protested the move. But his aggressive tack is generating a backlash from his own party as a group of eight Republican senators publicly call on him to tone it down.
In an op-ed Monday authored by Maine state Sens. Roger Katz and Brian Langley and co-signed by six other lawmakers, the group wrote that they “feel compelled to express our discomfort and dismay with the tone and spirit of some of the remarks he has made.”
“Were these isolated incidents, we would bite our collective tongues, because we are all human and make mistakes,” the piece reads. “But, unfortunately, they are not isolated but frequent. Therefore, we feel we must speak out.”The senators, who represent a large chunk of the GOP’s 20-14 majority over Democrats in the Senate, singled out LePage’s handling of the Department of Labor mural for criticism, decrying the governor’s unnecessary provocation of union supporters. LePage ordered a mural depicting a history of labor in Maine taken down last month in response to alleged complaints that it made business leaders uncomfortable and resembled North Korean propaganda. The move drew protests around the region and LePage said that he would “laugh at the idiots” who tried to prevent the mural being taken down through civil disobedience.
“Belittling comments, whether they come from the governor or his opponents, have no place in Maine public life,” the lawmakers wrote. “By demeaning others, the governor also discourages people from taking part in debating the issues of the day – worrying if not only their ideas, but they themselves as people, will be the subject of scorn.”
They added: “We are not the enemy of labor and labor is certainly not an enemy to us.”
Maine has a tradition of electing moderate Republicans and the authors of the op-ed cited current GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as well as former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and former senator and defense secretary under President Clinton, William Cohen, as models for LePage to follow.
In a nod to bipartisanship, they also paid tribute in the piece to Maine’s Democratic leaders, including former Gov. Edmund Muskie.