Gov.-elect LePage takes oath Wednesday

Republican Gov.-elect Paul LePage chats after voting Nov. 2 in Waterville.
AP FILE PHOTO BY ROBERT F. BUKATY
Republican Gov.-elect Paul LePage chats after voting Nov. 2 in Waterville.
Posted Jan. 04, 2011, at 10:09 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Four Maine governors will be among the 5,000-plus people expected to crowd into the Augusta Civic Center to watch Republican Gov.-elect Paul LePage take the oath of office on Wednesday.

Although state lawmakers will begin carrying out their inauguration-related duties earlier Wednesday morning, the official inaugural ceremony for LePage is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.

Inauguration coordinator and LePage adviser Brent Littlefield estimated Tuesday afternoon that between 5,200 and 5,400 people had secured spots at the invitation-only event, although he acknowledged that number was still in flux. Littlefield said the confirmation process had closed and the inauguration team was no longer issuing tickets for the event.

He said doors open at 10 a.m., and advised people to come early to get through security.

In a change from past inaugurations, LePage extended an invitation to outgoing Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. After Baldacci accepted, the LePage team invited other former governors who were already invited to the Blaine House for tea and coffee before the ceremony, as is tradition.

“In addition to Gov. Baldacci, we are very proud that we are also going to have Gov. King, Gov. McKernan and Gov. Brennan,” Littlefield said.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both Republicans, will be in Washington, D.C., for their own swearing-in ceremonies at noon Wednesday. However, Snowe, who is McKernan’s wife, may attend the evening reception, according to her spokesman.

On Tuesday afternoon, the civic center was buzzing with activity as workers readied for both the inauguration ceremony and the evening reception for LePage. In another break with tradition, LePage opted to hold both events on the same day and to forgo a formal inaugural ball in order to keep costs down. The ceremonies are being privately funded.

Crews were preparing to hoist rafters of spotlights above the stage while technicians were working on the video and sound systems. A color guard that included representatives of all five branches of the armed forces drilled at the entrance to the civic center floor.

Earl Kingsbury, a staff member with the Augusta Civic Center who was helping oversee the setup, said work likely would continue until about 1 a.m., Wednesday, and then another crew would resume work at 6 a.m.

Last week, LePage transition team members had said they expected about 4,000 people to attend the midday inauguration ceremony, which is typically held in the evening. But Littlefield said he believes the larger guest list is an indication of the anticipation surrounding the first Republican governor and GOP-controlled State House in decades.

“It’s exciting for us to be able to prove that we can lead,” Littlefield said.

During the ceremony, attendees will see and hear performances by the Maine Army National Guard’s 195th Army Band, the Maine Steiners a cappella group from the University of Maine at Orono and a Passamaquoddy drumming group.

The inauguration will be broadcast live on MPBN radio and television.

The invitation-only reception lasts from 7 to 8 p.m. and features entertainment, dancing and a cash bar.

In the State House on Tuesday, staffers with the Baldacci administration who haven’t already left were busily finishing up their work as staff with the incoming administration prepared to take over.

Meanwhile, across the street in the governor’s mansion, the changeover had already taken place.

A LePage adviser said Baldacci and his wife, Karen, had moved out on Sunday and that the governor-elect and his family were already living in the Blaine House on Sunday. It is not uncommon for governors-elect to move in before the inauguration.

The LePages sold the family home in Waterville, and made the move 20 miles south to Augusta. His family says living in the Blaine House will be a good thing because LePage is a self-described workaholic. After burning the midnight oil, his commute will be a short walk across the street.

Joining Paul and Ann LePage in the seven-bedroom mansion will be their daughter and Ann LePage’s mother, as well as their dog, Baxter.

The inauguration will be broadcast live on MPBN radio and television.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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