OLD TOWN, Maine — Most people enjoying the sunny afternoon in Riverfront Park on Tuesday took a lenient tone in discussing the recent difficulties of Rep. Richard Blanchard.
Some were eager to share their opinions on the lawmaker’s predicament but reluctant to give their names. Old Town is a small place, they noted correctly — and it doesn’t pay to rub other people the wrong way.
Brian Dore, who was eating lunch near the playground with his great-granddaughter, said it just sounds like “things got a little out of hand” at Blanchard’s camp on Cold Stream Pond in Enfield the night of July Fourth. That’s when the lawmaker allowed fireworks to be set off on his lakeside property and, according to an official report of the incident released on Monday, poked an investigating officer in the chest, making belligerent and threatening statements. The report said Bouchard smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated.
“I think he could have used a little more dignity,” Dore said. “But he didn’t do anything different than a lot people do in their homes.”
Officers with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Maine Warden Service may have been a little aggressive at the scene, Dore speculated, adding that Blanchard should serve out his current two-year term and run again in 2010.
A blunt-spoken fellow having lunch alone, who declined to give his name, said neither side in the dispute is blameless.
Professionals and people in positions of power have a special responsibility to act appropriately, he said. “There’s no excuse for the guy being drunk, but the confrontation could have been avoided,” he said.
Another man in the park said Blanchard, whom he knows personally, “probably overran his power.”
“He knows he made a mistake,” he said. “He didn’t do the right thing by pushing somebody.”
Blanchard, he said, is “a churchgoing man from a good family.”
“He should stay in the State House,” he said. “I’d vote for him again.”
In his small shop just down the street, barber Carl Nevells said Blanchard’s behavior around the fireworks incident was unfortunate, but now the episode should be put to bed.
“He was wrong to use fireworks, period — that’s against the law,” Nevells said. “As a state representative, he should have known better. But a lot of people do things that are in poor taste. He’s paid his fine. Let’s get on with it.”
The elderly man in Nevells’ chair declined to comment, but a young man waiting for a trim said, “Everyone should be held to the same standards.”
“You just expect people to behave themselves,” he said. “But when you get to politicians — well, they all lie, anyway.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Blanchard, whose case has been referred to the House Ethics Committee, issued the following statement:
“On July 4th I allowed fireworks to be set off on my property, which is against the law. I want to apologize to the people of Old Town and Indian Island, to the citizens of Maine and my legislative colleagues for making a bad decision and setting a poor example. As a person entrusted by my community to develop Maine law, I should hold myself to a much higher standard — and for failing to meet that standard I’m truly sorry.”