Divided crowd listens to LePage in Rockport as part of ‘capitol for a day’ event

Posted June 17, 2011, at 9:13 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — Before Gov. Paul LePage entered the Camden Hills Regional High auditorium Friday night, there was already a war. A sticker war. On one side was Eden Spear of midcoast Maine’s tea party. At the front of the auditorium, Spear, in a red shirt, held a ribbon of red, white and blue stickers above her head. Each sticker had “LePage” embossed on it.

“Any takers?”

None approached her. Every chest in the row she was sitting in was already plastered with support for the governor.

“It’s a tough crowd,” Spear said as she took her seat. “It’s because it’s Camden. It’s liberal. But I’m behind [LePage] 100 percent.”

Outside, in the rain, stood her opponent.

Joe Madore was in a blue shirt with a neat roll of stickers. His were a teal-colored picture of Maine with “61%” written on them. Madore is an organizer with Maine’s Majority, a group that rallied to ensure the governor represents all Mainers.

“We feel 61 percent of people who didn’t vote for him aren’t being represented,” Madore said Friday.

“Yeah,” said Scott Allen, of Northport who held a sign for Maine’s Majority outside of the high school Friday night. “I’ve been upset since the election. I don’t know how someone can take office with such a small percent of the vote. That shouldn’t happen.”

Madore and Allen, with their teal stickers, were in the majority Friday night. Officials with LePage’s office estimated that the 300-person crowd was made up of about 30 percent supporters and 70 percent opposition to the governor.

But the goal of Friday night was to make Knox County the “capitol for a day” and get people engaged in Maine politics, and according to LePage’s press secretary Adrienne Bennett, that was the case in Rockport.

The audience engagement got boisterous at points. The hour and a half town-hall-style meeting with the governor and his staff bounced from topic to topic.

While talking about Maine’s dependency on foreign oil, LePage explained that the state needs heating alternatives, like natural gas.

“We want renewables, but the technology isn’t there now,” LePage told the audience.

That was whenpeople started yelling.

“Conservation,” one person yelled.

“What, we don’t heat our homes?” LePage said back.

“Put on a sweater,” another person yelled.

“Use less,” another person yelled before Bennett told the audience to stop shouting and be respectful.

This was one of a handful of like incidences.

Another was when the audience asked LePage to tax the rich to help with the state’s budget woes. Lepage rebutted, “How are you finding rich people? Because I cant.”

At least one person yelled back to the governor, “You’re in Camden for God’s sake.”

LePage also briefly touched on issues of transportation, education and the budget.

The governor said he would like to give pay incentives to teachers who perform well to improve education. He plans to, by January, look through the state’s entire employee list and determine if any people are both being paid for their retirement and are still working for the state and obliterate that “double dipping” by early next year. He wants to quickly bring natural gas to Maine in a major way to get more diversity in heating options for Mainers. He would also like to crack down on “deadbeat dads” and make sure people who are supposed to pay child support do so.

The governor got a brief tour of Knox County including a Thomaston cement factory Dragon Cement and a boat yard in Camden to see windjammers. The governor will visit each county in Maine and make it the “capitol for a day.”

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