Gov. LePage’s end-run around the Constitution to keep Bill Beardsley in charge of the Department of Education without facing a confirmation hearing in the legislature would be a shocking move from any other governor, but here it’s just one in a long line of LePage’s ridiculous stunts. Only a few weeks ago, the governor had been saying that he would name himself commissioner as a way of working around the law.
What’s perhaps most interesting is LePage’s reasoning for this latest extra-constitutional maneuver. In an email to the Portland Press Herald, LePage spokesperson Peter Steele insisted the governor’s decision to pull Beardsley’s nomination was not a response to questions about whether he failed to respond adequately to allegations of child molestation while he was president at Husson University, but an effort to avoid Democrats making his confirmation hearing “a sideshow on transgender bathrooms.”
Steele is referring to comments Beardsley made in an appearance with LePage on the right-wing conspiracy-theory radio show The Aroostook Watchmen during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, where he claimed that parents are forcing their children to be transgender and advocated for removing “gender or sexual orientation” from the Maine Human Rights Act. LePage agreed with him at the time.
If we take Steele at his word, the sole reason LePage is going to such extraordinary lengths to flout state law is to prevent legislators from asking legitimate questions about Beardsley’s apparent bigotry towards some of the most vulnerable students at the institutions under his control.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, I guess it’s this: even LePage now apparently realizes that attacks on transgender children and their families are difficult to justify in an open forum.