Lepage wows Franco crowd in Lewiston

LEWISTON — Before a crowd of hundreds at the Franco-American Heritage Center on Wednesday night, Gov. Paul LePage made a bold confession.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Gov. Paul LePage, right, shakes hands at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston on Wednesday.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Gov. Paul LePage talks about growing up in Lewiston at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston on Wednesday.

When he was 12 years old, a French kid living on Lincoln Street, he used to hide out in Little Canada and steal Halloween candy from children.

"Isn't that awful?" LePage said. "And now I'm governor of Maine."

LePage wasn't simply unburdening his soul or carrying on about a childhood memory. He had a point to make. The point was that the state of Maine has been deeply in debt in every budget but one since 1992.

"Now that I'm governor of Maine," he said, "there's nothing left to steal."

The governor's speech, brief but energetic, was short on politics and long on reflection. He grew up in a tall tenement with 12 apartments at 115 Lincoln St., surrounded by other children.

"There were 83 kids in that building," LePage said. "Our family led the way with 18."

They used to hang out at the park, now a fire station on Lincoln Street.

"All you had to do to get a crowd," LePage said, "was to tell all the kids that somebody had lollipops or Tootsie Rolls."

The celebration was part of "La Semaine de la Francophonie," French for Week of the Francophone. But the larger part of the event Thursday night was to welcome LePage, a Franco-American.

The crowd, a virtual who's who of local leaders, including mayors, former mayors, representatives and senators, made no bones about their pride in the fact that a hometown boy rose all the way to the Blaine House.

"Governor," Mayor Larry Gilbert said. "Welcome home."

LePage said he was surprised and thrilled to be invited. He has deep memories of his childhood in Lewiston, some good, some not so good. There was poverty and struggling all around him. For a time, he lived on the streets.

"Paul's difficult childhood is known to all of us," said Severin Beliveau, Maine's Honorary Consul General of France. "Paul recognized the value of frugality and hard work."

Not that there was much doom and gloom at the podium. The governor had them laughing 10 seconds after his speech began.

When he first arrived back in Lewiston, he came into the former St. Mary's church, a place that had been important in his youth. He climbed the stairs, turned a corner and there it was: the confessional.

"I was born here, I was baptised here, I made my first confession here," LePage said, pointing in the general direction of the confessional, "And I spent more time in there ... "

LePage spoke for roughly 10 minutes. The speech followed two hours of mingling on the lower floors of the old church. During that time, the governor worked the room, becoming the center of knots of people wherever he went. They included both Democrats and Republicans.

"It doesn't make any difference what party you belong to," said state Rep.  Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston. "It's up to us all to talk together."

Many said they came both to mingle and to hear what the governor had to say. His speeches, sometimes controversial, are almost always described as colorful.

"He's a working person," Roger Roy said. "That's the way he talks."

A string of speakers introduced LePage. Each noted, in a mixture of French and English, that the governor's background in Lewiston surely influenced his life in a way that led him to Augusta.

LePage is most commonly associated with Waterville, where he served as a city councilor and mayor before making a run at the Blaine House. But the group assembled at the Franco Center on Wednesday night won't let anybody forget where the governor really comes from.

"We're so proud to have you," said Rita Dube, executive director of the center. "A native Lewiston boy."

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

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Comments

RONALD RIML's picture

Steals from the Little People..... (Starting at Age 12)

And he brags about it........

 's picture

Oh come now

I am sure LePage has done worse than that in his life time.

Greg Rose's picture

Yes, he has.

And he is doing worse than that RIGHT NOW.

Brad Severance's picture

"There's nothing left to steal..."

But don't worry folks, he's still looking. Only a little less than 4 more years of this embarassment to go, Thank God!

KATHRYN PENDLETON's picture

This guy can give a

This guy can give a speech,and you walk away knowing what he said. Now that's different!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Brad doesn't seem to think

Brad doesn't seem to think so. However, he fails to mention the embarrassment all of us a suffering that occupies the white house.

RONALD RIML's picture

That's "occupie(d)" - Past tense

"You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." —--George W. Bush to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" ——--George W. Bush , Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

"I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That's the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2009

Three ought to do it...

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