Last night, Governor Paul LePage spoke to the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce at their annual awards dinner. The event was open to both Chamber members and the public, with individual tickets starting at $30.
According to Chamber executive director Cory King, no media was present at the event and LePage’s staff asked the organizers to prohibit any recording devices from being used, although several attendees took notes.
“One of the things that the governor’s team asked is that we take recording equipment away from anyone that we noticed had it,” said King. “The democrats’ tracker showed up and I asked if I could hold on to his recording equipment and he had no problem with it.”
King says he kept the equipment locked in his vehicle during LePage’s speech.
Lucky for those of us who find it interesting to hear what LePage has to say when he thinks the wider public can’t hear him, not all of the recording devices in the room were confiscated. (In the age of smart phones, how did they possibly think that they could be?)
Thanks to an anonymous source, I have a recording of LePage’s speech, which includes a number of statements that should raise questions and/or eyebrows. Over a series of posts, I’ll upload some of the more interesting ones and attempt to provide some context to the governor’s remarks. I probably have a week’s worth of blog posts here, but I’ll try not to drag it out for that long.
First up is this remark about next year’s gubernatorial election. Not only does LePage commit to running again (a statement he has avoided making so far) but he promises that he will be “the next Scott Walker,” a reference to the divisive Wisconsin governor who survived a high-profile recall election last year after he attempted to strip union bargaining rights from public employees.
“I will guarantee you that you will see the most vicious education campaign ads that you’ve ever seen in your life next year, because I am going to be the next Scott Walker in this country, because I am challenging the status quo,” declared LePage.
LePage says that the ads will come from “out-of-state union bosses” that he says are the cause of problems in Maine’s education system.
The Maine Education Association and other organizations have objected to many of the education measures LePage has proposed so far, including plans to divert public money to private charter schools and a budget proposal that would cut revenue sharing payments to towns and could lead to deep cuts in local schools.
In his speech, LePage says the division over his policies will only get worse in “the next week or so,” as his administration releases letter grades for their set of performance measures for all Maine schools.
“If you think I’ve caused trouble lately, you wait in the next couple weeks when the grades on all the schools come out,” said LePage.