BIDDEFORD — Gov. Paul LePage had a constructive discussion of real issues facing Maine on Tuesday night, thanks to thoughtful questions from the audience and the governor’s willingness to answer with candor.

One of the more memorable moments was when a member of the audience asked LePage to explain one of the more shocking things he has ever said to the television cameras: That Mainers should “load up and get rid of drug dealers.” 

A member of the audience said Tuesday in Biddeford there were drug dealers in his apartment building and that the state’s top elected official making such a suggestion made him feel unsafe. LePage said he was misunderstood when he made those remarks in January during a photo op at Simones restaurant in Lewiston. LePage said Tuesday that he meant Mainers should pick up the telephone to deal with drug dealers, not a gun.

“I do not advocate anybody taking a gun and going to shoot your neighbor for any circumstances,” said LePage. “Get on the phone, call the hotline, report names and addresses and that’s all you do. We take care of the rest.”

LePage continued to say the thrust of the questioner’s question “was something I think he read into it that’s not there.”

Most people would agree that the governor doesn’t really want Mainers to shoot drug dealers, but in reality, that’s exactly what he said. There’s no way LePage — who has also said, jokingly, that members of the Legislature should be publicly executed and that he would like to shoot a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist — meant “get on the phone” during his comments at Simones. Here’s what he said:

“Everybody in Maine, we have constitutional carry,” he said, referring to the 2015 enactment of a bill that allows for the carrying of concealed weapons. “Load up and get rid of the drug dealers because folks, they’re killing our kids.”

I am not here to pile on the governor but I am also not here to let him revise history. Suggestions of violence by our elected officials, even when framed as jokes, have the potential to cause real violence, as we’ve seen hints of in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In this case, as in every other case, what the governor says is important. He brashly dismissed the audience member’s concerns.

“If you’re that stupid, sir, I’m sorry,” said LePage. “I can’t fix stupid.” 

MORE COVERAGE: Gov. Paul LePage expects Maine to lose up to 1,500 jobs

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