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Democratic Maine Legislature Reaches out to Republican Gov, to No Avail
11/14/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Since the Democratic sweep of the Legislature last week, the new majority has been anxious to engage Republican Gov. Paul LePage in preparation for the upcoming session in January. But according to Democratic leaders, the governor has not shared that enthusiasm. Justin Alfond, the presumptive Senate president elect, says he has reached out twice to the governor, but to no avail. Meanwhile, LePage has declined interview requests from the media, and is becoming increasingly reliant on taped messages to communicate with Mainers. A.J. Higgins has more.

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The day after the election, Gov. Paul LePage declined requests for his reaction to Democratic victories in both the Maine House and Senate, instead releasing an e-mail message stating he was willing to work with "those who will put Mainers first and won't allow the political rhetoric to continue."

LePage did make a public appearance at a Veterans Day event at the Maine Veterans Cemetery, which was captured by Kennebec Journal photographer Andy Molloy.

"Many of you have have fought together, the Democrat and Republicans -- the mean season is over and this monument today should remind us all that we're Americans," LePage said. "When John F. Kennedy once said, 'Ask not what you can do for your country -- but what your country can do for you,' which is just the opposite of what he said. And I say that that way, because the mean season is over."

State. Sen. John Patrick of Rumford, a long time member of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, was played the audio of the governor's remarks, and says he found them to be inappropriate for the setting.

"There's no place for trying to bait one party or the other," Patrick says. "I think what we've got to do is just focus on what is important -- veterans on Veterans Day, jobs, jobs, jobs for the people of the state of Maine when we get back to work."

LePage has given one interview to MPBN reporters in two years. And he has become increasing reliant on communicating with Mainers through pre-recorded statements. Last week, for the second time in two weeks, LePage released a video message -- this time a prepared statement to answer critics of his education policies.

State Sen. Justin Alfond, a Portland Democrat and the presumptive incoming president of Maine Senate, says he has tried twice to meet with LePage since Tuesday. "I will continue making phone calls to meetk with Gov. LePage -- I want to work with Gov, LePage," Alfond said.

LePage is attending the Republican Governor's Association conference this week in Las Vegas, but Republicans are urging him to stand firm on nearly $400 million in tax cuts that are scheduled to phase in next year.

Rep. Lance Harvell, a Farmington Republican, says that although Republicans suffered severe losses in the House and Senate, they cannot support Democratic calls to undo core GOP accomplishments. During a leadership vote, he told Republicans they owed that much to GOP lawmakers who had lost their elections.

"Any failure of us to surrender on these principles that they gave their political lives for is little more than treason," Harvel said.

State Rep. Mark Eves, the Berwick Democrat who is the presumptive next speaker of the House, said he will reach across the aisle to collaborate with Republicans -- but not if it means crafting bad legislation, which for Democrats, includes the LePage tax cuts.

"I think we're going to need to look at how we bring in our revenue and how we spend it," Eves says. "And I think the fact that that tax cut was not paid for, we need to reevaluate, reassess and then move forward."

The House and Senate will meet formally on Dec. 5 to elect constitutional officers, which include the secretary of state, state treasurer and state attorney general.


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