AUGUSTA, Maine — They put on clown noses in committee, lambasted each other with crude insults on television and spent time thinking with or about their “man brains.”
Maine politicians, both Democratic and Republican, were anything but boring in the things they did or said in 2013. And it wasn’t even an election year for most of them, as 2014 will be.
Here’s a quick look at some of the things that left us scratching our heads or simply shaking them in dismay.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s critics found a number of things he said in 2013 offensive, but top among them was his comment to a television reporter in June attacking state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.
LePage said Jackson “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.” LePage also said Jackson, a logger by trade, should return to the forest “and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work.”
Jackson responded, saying, “He can say whatever he wants; I just think it’s inappropriate the way he said it. We can be disagreeable without making nasty comments like that.”
But LePage wasn’t the first at the State House to reference the brand-name petroleum jelly.
State Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, referred to Vaseline in speaking about the management at Maine’s large paper mills, according to a 2011 state Senate transcript LePage’s office issued shortly after the governor made his Vaseline remark. Senate Republicans, in the majority at the time, objected to Patrick’s reference.
LePage later apologized to loggers and others but did not apologize to Jackson personally.
The comment and others LePage has made over his three years in office grabbed national media attention more than once, including a New York Times report in August that suggested the cumulative effect of the governor’s gaffes could have an impact on the 2014 governor’s race.
Lower on the political totem poll, state Rep. Brian Bolduc, an Auburn Democrat, in December attacked a segment of Maine’s working class — truck drivers.
In an email to his city’s police department, Bolduc railed about the noise from the trucks passing by his home at all hours of the day and demanded police do something about it.
The message, laced with profanity and misspellings, suggested truck drivers “probably dont (sic) have a whole hell of allot (sic) of brains in their heads.”
Bolduc later apologized for his message.
But it was female lawmakers who were offended by state Rep. Ken Fredette, the House minority leader, who made his gaffe about brains during a speech on the House floor.
Fredette, making an argument against expanding Medicaid in Maine, referenced the best-selling nonfiction book, “ Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, ”when he said, “My brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not. If it’s free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.”
Fredette’s comment also made a splash nationally online, and he later apologized to those who were offended by it.
Bring in the clowns
It wasn’t what they said but what state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, and state Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, did that had Craven apologizing in April.
During a meeting of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, which Craven co-chairs, she and Lachowicz donned red foam clown noses. The gesture, Craven said, was meant to provide some stress relief and levity after a long day of hearings on the state budget.
But state Sen. James Hamper, an Oxford Republican, also on the committee, found the joke humorless.
“It was beyond the pale to watch the trust of the Maine people and the process being so disrespected. The people of Maine deserve better,” Hamper said.
Craven apologized for her actions, saying, “Sometimes we all need a little light moment after a long day of stressful bills and stressful situations. If Sen. Hamper is offended, I apologize.”