Is it refreshing to have a governor who speaks his mind? Or is he setting a bad example and causing embarrassment to the state of Maine?

As with most things, it depends on whom you ask.

Gov. Paul LePage’s suggestion that his critics can “kiss my butt” Friday caused a flurry of reaction from our readers and others. Their responses ranged from resignation to outright fury.

“Someone needs to remind Gov. LePage,” said Claire Gamache, a retired teacher from Lewiston, “that 38 percent of the electorate elected him and that 62 percent did not vote for him. When a politician campaigns, he should please his followers, but when he governs he should govern for everybody.”

Although LePage insisted his rebuff of the group had nothing to do with the people the NAACP represents, some couldn’t help but see it that way.

“What he said was a slap in the face to me, a black citizen of Maine,” said Phyllis Rand of Lewiston. “I am not a ‘special interest,’ I am a black Mainer and have always been proud to be one. My governor just insulted my racial heritage.”

The Sun Journal posted a story about LePage’s remarks at about 3 p.m. Within two hours, roughly two dozen people had commented on the Web story. By early evening, that number had risen to more than four dozen.

Throughout the afternoon, every other comment on Facebook, as well, seemed to be about the latest gubernatorial controversy.

“There’s nothing ‘direct’ or ‘appealing’ about a governor being a potty-mouth,” Jeffrey Hotchkiss, a Yarmouth man, wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s just childish. We’ve elected a 5-year-old.”

Reaction was feisty from the get-go. Shortly before the supper hour, news of the governor’s remarks began to appear on national news stations, including CNN.

“Great,” a commenter going by the name of George wrote on the Sun Journal website. “I’m sitting here watching national news and across the bottom I read: ‘Maine governor tells NAACP to kiss his butt.’ Way to go Governor. Like someone else said earlier, this should help attract future business and or vacationers to Maine! Whatever else you had to do, you could have used your brain and not responded with such a foolish answer. I’m ashamed and our state should be too!”

For many, the comment to the NAACP was just one more in a long line of flippant remarks from LePage, less than two weeks in office. The consequence of those kinds of controversies, they suggested, is going to inflict the state with a lasting stigma.

“LePage doesn’t think before he speaks,” Rand wrote, “and for someone whose main goal is to bring business to Maine, he’s going to stick his foot so far down his throat if he doesn’t cool it that businesses aren’t going to want to be associated with Maine.”

In defense of the tension between the governor and the NAACP, LePage said he did not intend to be “held hostage by special interests.” To that, some cried hypocrisy.

Wrote Gamache, the retired teacher, “He claims not to associate with special interests but I doubt the executives from WellPoint or Maine Med or the folks from the Heritage Foundation would have a problem getting his time and attention.”


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