LEWISTON — As he wound up a two-hour campaign swing through downtown, Gov. Paul LePage said what he’d like to do when he leaves the state’s top job is to teach economics and politics at a university.
“I’m so glad I’m going to be done” in a year, the two-term, lame-duck governor said.
After ruling out a U.S. Senate run, he said that either teaching or going to work for a company would interest him most after he leaves office.
Though the governor is heading to the White House next week for a Christmas party, he said he’s not going to jump into the 2018 race against U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent.
LePage dismissed a story in The Washington Post this week that said President Donald Trump planned to ask him to take on King.
“That’s fake news,” LePage said, adding that Trump hasn’t asked him about it and that he’s not going to do it, anyway.
“A man has to know his limitations,” the governor said. “And I’m a doer. The Senate does nothing.”
Besides, LePage said, “I like being married.”
Even so, LePage hailed the prospect of Congress approving a controversial $1.5 trillion tax bill.
“The American people deserve a tax break,” he said. “Americans spend their money better than government does.”
The governor said that Maine businesses that are struggling to find workers should consider recruiting some in Puerto Rico, where many are skilled and bilingual. He offered the state’s help if any are interested in pursuing the idea.
“They’re having a tough time down there” after taking a beating from two hurricanes, LePage said, and many Puerto Ricans may be willing to move for a good job in Maine.
LePage made one of his increasingly rare public outings Thursday to campaign for Shane Bouchard, one of two mayoral contenders on Tuesday’s runoff ballot.
The governor gulped down one hot dog at the 110-year-old Simones’ Hot Dog Stand, a longtime favorite for politicking candidates, and talked with patrons and journalists. Afterward he toured the Argo Marketing Group on Lisbon Street with its owner, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque.
Along the way, LePage used every opportunity to plug Bouchard, who has strong backing from Republicans. His opponent, Ben Chin, has the support of Democrats in the officially nonpartisan race.
LePage, Bouchard and Levesque each criticized Chin for some leaked internal campaign emails in which he described some of the voters he met going to door to door as racists.
“The people of Lewiston are not racists, despite what Ben Chin says,” the governor said. The Lewiston native said he was offended by Chin’s words.
Chin said later that LePage “is the last person in the world who should be lecturing anybody” about language. Chin said that everyone can see from his emails that he only described a few voters he met and never called the community or any neighborhood racist.
Bouchard said one reason people should vote for him over Chin is that he has “an open line of communication” with LePage and will make sure he maintains one with whomever succeeds him.
“A leader has to be able to put politics aside,” Bouchard said.
Chin said that “no one has good relations with the governor” for long unless they do “exactly what he wants, no matter how bizarre or inconsistent” it may be.
It’s important “to take a stand and have principled disagreements” as well, Chin said. “It’s not about kissing up to the governor. It’s about articulating what our city needs.”
LePage talked about a wide range of issues as he chatted with reporters, politicians and potential voters.
He said that as soon as he gets a list of three people who could serve as sheriff of Oxford County from Democrats there, he’ll pick one of them the next day.
LePage said he would love to see Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Eric Brakey of Auburn defeat King next year but isn’t sure the challenger can pull it off.
He said people on the left side of the political spectrum are intolerant of those who disagree with them. He said they trash those who have a different approach on the issues of the day.
“We’re the most tolerant of all,” LePage told Bouchard and Levesque.
The governor also expressed concern that America’s “internal character” may fade and the country could fail as so many have before it, from China to the Ottoman Empire to Great Britain.
“It’s what destroys every civilization,” LePage said.
LePage also urged people to abandon the press.
“You guys have to stop reading newspapers,” he told one woman. “It’s all fake.”
One place the governor won’t be getting his news is Twitter, the president’s favorite.
“I don’t know what Twitter is,” LePage said. “They keep me off of it.”
Gov. Paul LePage shows off his trim physique during a campaign visit to Simones’ Hot Dog Stand on Thursday. After weight reduction surgery in 2016, he said, he’s lost so much weight that he’s now about 10 pounds under his initial goal. He said he’s glad he discovered a frequent buyer’s discount for his suits at Joseph Banks. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)
Lewiston mayoral candidate Shane Bouchard, left, with Gov. Paul LePage during a campaign stop at Simones’ Hot Dog Stand on Thursday. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)