PORTLAND (AP) — Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s request for a Republican to recuse himself from an investigation into whether the governor overstepped his authority underscores an ongoing rift that threatens GOP unity only a few months out from the next legislative session.

Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau is standing behind Government Oversight Committee co-chairman Roger Katz, saying he’s the right person to lead the committee. But in the House, Republican leader Kenneth Fredette says the governor has a point in calling out Katz because of comments he’s previously made about the governor.

The investigation that threatens to become the “gorilla in the room,” according to Fredette, focuses on LePage’s actions that led a private school to rescind a job offer to a political foe.

But the governor was angry with lawmakers even before that. He said he planned to bypass lawmakers altogether with a referendum on eliminating the state income tax and reforming welfare.

Thibodeau said relations have gotten so bad that the governor has refused his requests to set up a meeting. But he said lawmakers will work to advance good policy with or without his help.

“This dustup the governor is having with the legislature is something that shouldn’t be the focus. We should be focused on making sure we pass good legislation,” he said.


Fredette agrees with Thibodeau on the need to get beyond the “politics of personality” but said he doesn’t expect anything to change before lawmakers return in January. “If we focused on the work instead of the personalities, we would get a lot more done. That applies to Republican and Democrats alike,” he said.

The Government Oversight Committee is made up of six Democrats and six Republicans. Katz is the Senate chairman; Rep. Chuck Kruger, a Democrat, is the House chairman.

The panel voted unanimously to investigate whether LePage crossed the line in getting Good Will-Hinckley to take back a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. Katz was one of two Republicans to vote this month in favor of subpoenas for several administration officials who declined to appear before the committee.

LePage complained in a letter to GOP legislative leaders and state GOP Chairman Rick Bennett that Katz has vilified him and used his chairmanship as a soapbox. Katz responded that LePage has mistaken “honest policy disagreement with personal animosity.”

Katz said Monday he had no additional comment. LePage’s office had no immediate comment Tuesday.

Bennett said he expects Republican lawmakers will ultimately rally because the party has “more that unites us than divides us.” But he said a certain amount of infighting shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“A Reagan biographer said the natural state of the Republican Party is one of rebellion,” Bennett said. “It’s fine for people to have disagreements within our party. It just shows we’re moving the ball forward and trying to do something, instead of just being caretakers.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.