FARMINGTON — Freshman Ally Hammond, an Auburn native, said she was shocked that a sign she held up Tuesday prompted Gov. Paul LePage to storm off a stage at the University of Maine at Farmington, calling her and another student “idiots.”

Hammond, 19, a psychology major at UMF, said she doesn’t dislike LePage because he’s a Republican but because she doesn’t believe he represents “Maine values.”

“He’s outwardly very rude,” Hammond said Wednesday. “He makes offensive comments and he makes no effort to protect our environment, which I think is one of Maine’s most important assets. He’s openly insulted educators and education itself for some reason, which is another big problem.”

Hammond said she and fellow student Nick Bray, a Democratic candidate for the state Legislature’s House District 113, felt compelled to make known their feelings about LePage. District 113 includes the towns of Farmington and New Sharon.

Hammond said their intent was only to hold their signs quietly in the back of the crowd. They didn’t intend to disrupt the ceremony in honor of former UMF President Theodora Kalikow, for whom a building was being renamed. Kalikow served as UMF president from 1994 to 2012.

LePage was a speaker Tuesday at the renaming of the University of Maine at Farmington Education Center to the Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center

Hammond held a sign that read: “LePage: Maine’s Shame.” Bray’s sign read: “Report Card, Subject: Environmental Issues, Theo Kalikow A+, Paul LePage F.”

“April 26th, 2016 will forever rest in my memory as the day Paul LePage personally called me an idiot,” Hammond wrote on Facebook. “I stood silently near the back of the crowd holding a sign that said “LePage: Maine’s Shame” and not ten seconds into his speech, he stormed away, calling me and Nick Bray ‘idiots.'”

Bray posted a photo of his sign on Facebook without much explanation.

Reaction on social media and in reader comments on published reports has ranged from accusing LePage of having “thin skin” to admonishing Hammond and Bray for showing disrespect.

“Why should LePage have stayed and been disrespected? It was not a political rally. Why would he want to stay and be insulted. Why are people defending the students’ First Amendment rights?” Dylan Antone wrote on the Sun Journal’s Facebook page.

“And to anyone saying we ‘ruined’ the dedication: No, wrong,” Hammond wrote on Facebook. “It’s not our fault that our governor is prone to temper tantrums.”

Hammond, a 2015 graduate of Edward Little High School, is attending UMF on a George Mitchell scholarship,which she earned for outstanding academic achievement and for being the first from her family to attend college. Her mother works overnight at the Auburn Wal-Mart.

Bray is also a George Mitchell scholar, Hammond said. 

Hammond said she intended to contact Kalikow by email because she had heard Kalikow has always been supportive of students having the right to practice their First Amendment rights.

While she’s a registered Democrat, Hammond said she believes both conservatives and liberals have a role to play in American society.

“I’m obviously a liberal,” Hammond said, “but I don’t hate Republicans and I think that both Republicans and Democrats have their place. I’m not that partisan, but I do lean left. If (LePage) was just any Republican politician, I wouldn’t be bothered by him.”

She said it was LePage’s rude comments and other behaviors that she finds offensive. Hammond also said LePage, despite saying he wanted to help lower college costs for Maine students during his second term, has done little to help students.

Peter Steele, a spokesman for LePage, said Wednesday that LePage has worked on legislation, including a pair of bills sponsored by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, to provide a state income tax credit for student-loan debt and a new low-interest student loan program.

“These bills should help decrease Hammond’s student debt,” Steele wrote in a message to the Sun Journal. “It’s not surprising that many of these protesters don’t even know what they are protesting.”

As a student of psychology, Hammond said, LePage’s reaction Tuesday to a pair of signs being held up by a couple of college students was revealing.

“He’s clearly got a lot of pent-up anger going on in there,” Hammond said.

A message to LePage’s communications team seeking clarity on why he left the UMF ceremony so abruptly Tuesday was not immediately returned.

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