SCARBOROUGH, Maine — At a public event in Scarborough on Tuesday night to discuss a tax reform plan being proposed by Democrats, Westbrook Town Councilor

said if Republican Gov. Paul LePage died “it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit,” according to the Portland Press Herald.

The newspaper reported that Emery later apologized for his remarks, but not before denying he said them, dismissing them as “a joke” and attempting to confiscate a Press Herald reporter’s cellphone — which the reporter said contained a recording of the comments.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, who hosted the event alongside Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, condemned the comments, telling the Press Herald, “That’s not what our public discourse should be about.”

Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton, City Council President Brendan Rielly and council Vice President Michael Foley told the newspaper in an emailed group statement they were “shocked” by the remarks.

“If those are accurate, they are entirely inappropriate and do not, in any way, represent the city of Westbrook,” Hilton, Rielly and Foley said, according to the Press Herald. “We pride ourselves on working with local, state and federal leaders of all political parties in a civil and constructive way.”

The newspaper reported that Emery first told the approximately 150 people in attendance at the event that “if [LePage] goes to meet his maker it wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit.”

“In some countries, assassination is a political strategy, but unfortunately not here,” he continued, according to the Press Herald.

Ultimately, Emery told the newspaper his behavior was “unacceptable.”

While LePage has made headlines over his political career with flip remarks others have found offensive, in more recent weeks, the governor has been at the receiving end of the politically motivated outbursts.

Earlier this month, former state lawmaker Joanne Twomey of Biddeford had to be escorted from a Saco event LePage was speaking at after approaching the stage and tossing a jar of Vaseline toward him.

The Vaseline was apparently a throwback to one of the governor’s aforementioned flip remarks — in 2013, LePage said then-Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, “claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

Both the Saco event and Tuesday night’s event in Scarborough are part of competing tax reform campaigns. LePage and his rival Democratic leaders have taken to public forums around the state to pitch their tax plans.

LePage hopes to do away with the state income tax, among other things, while Democrats are proposing a strategy that would focus on tax cuts for middle class earners.

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