LePage ready to work, fight

AUGUSTA — Paul LePage walked slowly, solemnly into the State Reception Room of the Blaine House on Wednesday morning. A Senate committee was waiting to notify the Lewiston native that the election results were official. 

Paul LePage, Ann LePage, Kevin Raye
Pat Wellenbach

Republican Paul LePage, left, holds his hand on a Bible as he takes the oath of office while being sworn in as Maine's next governor on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, in Augusta, Maine. Holding the Bible is his wife, Ann LePage, and Senate President Kevin Raye, right, administers the oath of office. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

Meeting the governor
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

State Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, greets newly inaugurated Gov. Paul LePage at the Blaine House in Augusta on Wednesday. She introduced herself as a senator from the town where he was born.

LePage was to be sworn in as Maine's next governor.

It was a quiet moment, interrupted only by clicking camera shutters, soft-spoken congratulations and Baxter, the LePage family dog, whose tiny paws made a tick-tack sound on the wooden floors.

As LePage left the room, he stopped to comment on a portrait of President Ronald Reagan leaning against the fireplace. New art for a new governor.

A new governor for a new government.

The state's new political dynamic — a Republican governor and a GOP-controlled Legislature — likely will bring few moments as quiet as the one LePage enjoyed Wednesday morning in the Blaine House.

Democrats, stung after bitter defeats, are gearing up for a fight against what they see as LePage's overzealous desires to cut government and remove safety and environmental regulations.

And LePage appears to know it.

"The taxpayers are tired of footing the bill for a bloated establishment in Augusta," he said during his 32-minute inaugural address at the Augusta Civic Center.

He later said, "I do not care about editorials, opinion polls or the next election. I have four years and a job to do."

True to form, LePage deviated frequently from his prepared remarks and seemed most comfortable when he did.

As he talked about his unlikely rise from a field of GOP candidates, he said pundits initially wondered, "Who the hell is this guy?"

The audience laughed, almost nervously.

LePage has already taken plenty of heat for being plainspoken.

On Wednesday, he joked about that, too.

"My staff gets nervous when I use two words, 'quite frankly,' " he said. "That means I'm going to go off on a tangent."

LePage didn't unveil specific policy proposals Wednesday. Instead, his speech reiterated the main points of his campaign.

More than 5,000 people walked under a banner of "Move Maine Forward" into the Augusta Civic Center. Once inside, they heard LePage promise to move the state toward a new era of economic prosperity.

LePage, 62, the state's first Republican governor in more than 16 years, outlined a plan to make Maine more hospitable to business by reducing its regulatory and tax burden.

LePage underscored his pro-business, pro-jobs agenda by saying the word "profit" eight times.

"Profit is not a dirty word," LePage said. "In fact, it is the direct and indirect solution to all our challenges."

LePage said his pro-business agenda would not come at the expense of regulations.

"We need a cooperative relationship between regulators and the private sector," he said.

He also promised a government that would put people first.

"The word 'people' appears in the Maine Constitution 49 times," he said. "You cannot find a single mention of the words 'politics,' 'Republican,' 'Democrat,' 'Green' or 'independent' in 37 pages of preambles, articles and sections of our state Constitution."

He said, "The framers had it right. People come before politics."

LePage promised to hold monthly breakfast meetings with groups of teachers, business leaders and environmental groups.

"Solutions and oatmeal will be on the menu," he said.

LePage, who was Waterville mayor until midnight Tuesday, also planned to reintroduce town hall meetings in each of Maine's 16 counties, a practice created by Republican Gov. John McKernan.

The new governor promised to focus on education, vowing to make Maine the best in the nation in learning. He said he wanted to bring back vocational training to high schools and initiate a five-year high school program that would give students credits toward an associate or bachelor's degree.

"I really hope both sides of the aisle can come together in educating our most important asset: our kids," he said.

LePage also promised an overhaul of state welfare assistance, which, he said, shouldn't be "a lifetime career."

"We must focus our efforts to change from dependency to self-sufficiency," he said.

LePage said that although Mainers are generous, the state has limited resources. He said he planned to focus its public assistance resources on Maine residents, a declaration that drew thundering applause from portions of the crowd.

LePage will oversee the first Republican-controlled Legislature in decades. Despite those advantages, he acknowledged his agenda will encounter resistance.

He appeared ready to defy it.

"Being governor is not about me, my administration, the Legislature or Augusta bureaucrats," he said. "It is about Maine people, and I'm going to let Maine people be the judge in the next four years."

LePage was joined by several members of his family, including his wife, Ann, daughter Lauren, son Paul and adopted son Devon Raymond, as well as family members from his first marriage.

Bruce Myrick of Sabattus also spoke during the ceremony. Myrick was one of a few individuals credited with helping LePage turn his life around after a hardscrabble youth on the streets of Lewiston.

Myrick said that although he and others receive credit for assisting LePage, it was Maine's new governor's ambition that changed the course of his life. 

"It was Paul who worked hard to succeed and overcome," Myrick said.

Four of Maine's six former, living governors attended the ceremony: Gov. John Baldacci, Gov. Angus King, Gov. McKernan and Gov. Joseph Brennan. Former Govs. Kenneth Curtis and John Reed live in Florida.

LePage's four predecessors sat behind him on the stage, representing 31 years of experience. As the ceremony drew to a close, LePage expressed a willingness to forge his own legacy.

"Now, let's get to work," he said.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Ed Enos's picture

Reading the negative comments

Reading the negative comments posted here is truly disheartening. It would seem that some people will never accept any ideas, or change without seeing only the negative. Based on these comments, how would anyone have any success? Fort. Gov. LePage has said he is not interested in polls or newspaper headlines. I wish him luck and fortitude in fixing the State and to grow employment opportunities in the private sector. I hope he starts by fixing the roads. What company would want to relocate here with the roads being the shape they're in?

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

LePage

"We need a cooperative relationship between regulators and the private sector" - BP oil disaster in Gulf of Mexico; Bush 2007-09 Great Recession; John Boanhor handing out Tobacco Co bribes on the US House Floor. These are the products of "cooperation between regulators and the private sector". A business government to destroy the working people of this state.
We already have nepotism in the Blaime house; welfare fraud leading the Maine House, and a criminal convicted of 14 felonies leading Florida as we enter the most corrupt period of Maine government in more than 100 years.

 's picture

It appears that alot of the

It appears that alot of the rabid right are being attacked with bouts of amnesia.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Exactly when and where did he

Exactly when and where did he state he would not use notes?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I read the same article.

I read the same article. Must've missed the part about him not using any notes. Kinda tough to get it all some times, you know, with the patch over one eye and all.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

oBAMa said he would close

oBAMa said he would close Gitmo; he has not. oBAMa said unemployment would not rise above 8%; it currently sets at 9.7%.
Any more little jewels of inconsistency, Angel?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

My point was, Angel, that

My point was, Angel, that inaccuracy in statement does not always equate to a lie. It ain't a lie unless you intend for it to be a lie. Otherwise, you're merely uninformed or inaccurate, neither of which is a criminal offense. You are wise in hanging on to a 30 year gig, especially in this economy. Right now, any work is better than none. Hopefully, these new politicians we have elected will stick to their promises. Otherwise, we should throw them out of office, too.

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