Western Maine lawmakers speak out on LePage 'tracker' complaints

Joel Page/The Associated Press

Gov. Paul LePage speaks Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 at the swearing in ceremony for new representatives at the State House in Augusta, Maine. LePage administered the oath of office to the new legislature who were elected last month. 

AUGUSTA — Western Maine lawmakers offered mixed reactions Wednesday to Gov. Paul LePage's complaint that hiring a Democratic operative to track his public appearances was "vulgar," "vile" and "vicious."

LePage criticized Maine Democrats for hiring a so-called "tracker" to videotape the governor at public events. His complaint came just before he administered the oath of office to newly elected members of the Maine Senate and House.

“I’m very distinguished," LePage said from the Senate rostrum. "I’ve been honored to have a private paparazzi paid for by the Democratic Party.” 

He said the Democrats could have at least hired a person from Maine, instead of somebody from Massachusetts.

“I think it’s vulgar, I think it’s vicious, and I think it’s vile to me and my family,” LePage said. “I say that to you, for the lack of respect that the office of the governor of the state of Maine is receiving. Having said that, we have to go to work. I want to work with each and every one of you.”

LePage on Tuesday canceled a meeting with the incoming Democratic speaker of the House and Senate president after the governor confronted the tracker at a chamber of commerce event in Bangor. LePage has said he was most angered when the tracker tried to film him on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, when LePage was trying to talk to an elderly veteran about health concerns.

LePage issued a news release saying he wouldn't meet with the new Democratic leaders until they pressured party officials to call off the tracker.

Several lawmakers said Wednesday they could understand the governor's frustration, but some said they didn't approve of his choice of venue for raising the issue again.

Even some members of LePage's Republican Party had some tough words for the governor's choice of words and especially his choice of venue. Rep. Lance Harvell, R- Farmington, said LePage's issue over the political party campaign tactics took the spotlight away from newly elected lawmakers who had worked hard to win election.

"They are here with their families, their mom, their kids," Harvell said. "It's a day of transfer of power that takes place in all democracies. We lost the majority, the other side has the majority. If you say you have respect for the institution and the Constitution then you ought to show some . . .  and then the attitude in there is he comes in and he fulfills his constitutional obligation to swear us all in — and he thanks us and he walks away — that's dignified. This fight he's having with his tracker, it doesn't belong here this day."

Harvell said LePage could be risking the Republican votes he would need to resist any veto overrides that could come.

"I mean, I really don't see how we hold this caucus together with that approach," Harvell said. "It certainly doesn't help at all to set a tone about the way you are going to govern. It just doesn't."

LePage is right on many policy issues, Harvell said.

"But the politics of it is just abysmal," he said. "When it comes to vetoes, we are talking about we lose seven, eight people, we're done. You start taking people in this caucus and they are saying we are not following that train wreck."

Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton, said he understood the governor's frustration and agreed it was inappropriate for a tracker to be harassing the governor when he was trying to meet with a veteran, but LePage's comments Wednesday were "inappropriate."

LePage voiced his concern to the media, and his discomfort and disgust with the practice of tracking was made clear in most of the state's newspapers Wednesday, Black said. That should have been the end of it.

"I don't think it's right what they are doing," Black said. "But I don't understand it today. It just doesn't make sense and it's just not appropriate."

Other Republicans were quick to defend LePage. Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake of Turner said the practice of tracking was used heavily by Republican opponents in 2012 campaigns. 

"If you want respect, you've got to show respect," Timberlake said. He said he had seen trackers using "gotcha" tactics on campaigning candidates, including fellow Republican Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls.

"I've seen it a couple of times," Timberlake said. "They are right there with you, following you all the time. You get sick of it after a while."

Mason said LePage's comments and complaints were not nearly as distasteful as somebody trying to record a private conversation between the governor and a U.S. military veteran. 

"If you asked me, that is certainly far worse than anything the governor could have said about it," Mason said.

Lizzy Reinholt, the communications director for the Maine Democratic Party, said the operative hired to film LePage has strict rules he is required to abide by.

"It's not papparazzi in any way shape or form," Reinholt said. She shared a link with the tracker's video from the Veterans Day with the press which doesn't include any up close footage of LePage.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

Editor's note: This story was updated on Thursday, Dec. 6 to reflect the comments from the Maine Democratic Party.

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Comments

John Frecker's picture

Waste of time and money.

I'm not "enrolled" in either party and I'm not a fan of Governor LePage, but I agree with him to a point. This idea of following politicians around in hopes they make some kind of public faux pas is childish.

From what I've seen, politicians from both parties dislike being followed around with a camera for political purposes. (Unless it's some occasion where they want their picture taken.) Why not have the leaders of both parties in Maine sit down and agree that both parties will stop the practice? Might be a chance to show some bipartisan cooperation.

 's picture

LePage continues to reinforce the view that he is one of

Maine's all time worst Governors. He has no qualifications, no abilities, and no skills required of a Governor. The Democratic majority should expose him at all times. Say pass a bill permitting the impeachment of the Governor for cause. He'll veto it. Then let's see him defend his veto.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

LePage is just jealous.......

The tracker is apparently working harder than he is, makes the Governor look bad.....

 's picture

I'm still not sure

I'm not sure what exactly the governor's beef is. Is this guy following him everywhere he goes and sitting outside his hours? I was under the impression he was simply attending public events and taping a public figure. The only issue over the cameraman recording LePage talking to a vet, is whether or not he then got a signed release from the vet. LePage's office had already given approval for the cameraman to be there.

If LePage is so concerned about not using the citizen's of Maine as political props, he needs to stop bringing up this issue in public complaints, and sit down and talk with the parties involved and resolve it. Doesn't make sense to me that he'd cancel a meeting with the people in a position to do something about his problem. If he had had a meeting and they refused him for no good reason, then he'd have recourse to complain.

Then again, I just caught myself expecting our Governor to be reasonable and act like an adult. Every time I do that, I'm disappointed, I should really stop.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Why didn't this issue of

Why didn't this issue of trackers make such headlines when they were following Angus King? Oh yeah, it is okay for republicans to make use of such things but not democrats. More of the same old double standards in government.

Because Angus is a Democrat

Because Angus is a Democrat, our Democrat owned media wouldn't want any undue attention to fall upon him..we'd think bad about him. But our Governor LePage is a target so anything he does, says or breathes is news for all who are entertained by such. I'm more interested in what he is accomplishing than how he is viewed by those entertained by "reality" tv. Enjoy the reduction in taxes Mainers!

DONALD FERLAND's picture

The point I was trying to

The point I was trying to make is that both sides do it and the only one whining about it is Governor LePage. The only ones making a big deal out of it are the media and Governor LePage but the same isn't true when the other side does it. This Governor needs to grow some thicker skin and start acting like an adult and not a two year old throwing a temper tantrum.

Robert McQueeney's picture

"Harvell said..... This fight

"Harvell said..... This fight he's having with his tracker, it doesn't belong here this day."

If this fight doesn't belong, then why didn't those hiring him call him off? Why did they have to bring him there?

Harvell is a Republican. He

Harvell is a Republican. He and his party have nothing to do with this tracker. And there's no mention of whether the tracker was at the swearing in.

AL PELLETIER's picture

A waste of money.

Democrats are wasting party money by hiring a tracker to try to catch Lepage saying something dumb. Mainstream media does it just fine.

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