AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage began his speech Sunday at the Maine Republican Party convention by saying he was glad he wasn’t campaigning.
He then proceeded to give to a friendly and cheering audience 25 minutes worth of remarks that sounded a lot like a campaign speech.
“This November represents a real choice at the ballot box. Do you want to remain a sinking welfare state?” he asked convention-goers, who responded, “No.”
LePage then asked, “Can we revive the American dream?” to which the audience replied, “Yes.”
Maine’s governor also took specific aim at two men who are not current opponents of his.
“Remember Eliot Cutler? He’s still running for governor,” LePage said to laughs. “He mocked me. He said I was pandering. But we did what Eliot Cutler and the liberal media said wasn’t possible: We passed the largest tax cut in Maine’s history.”
LePage touched on a number of accomplishments of the Republican-controlled 125th Legislature and listed areas where he believes more work needs to be done.
He spent the most time talking about welfare.
“I understand welfare because I lived it,” the governor said. “I understand the difference between a want and a need. The Republican Party promised to bring welfare change. We must deliver on this promise.”
LePage said the Legislature must summon the courage to pass structural changes to the state’s welfare programs.
“Maine’s welfare program is cannibalizing the rest of state government,” he said. “To all you able-bodied people out there: Get off the couch and get yourself a job.”
That last line earned a standing ovation.
Moving on to energy allowed LePage to take aim at another political independent: former two-term governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Angus King.
“Before the media coronates him, let me do it,” LePage said. “Angus King is the king of the wind cartel. Yes, he’s likeable, but let’s not forget that he has made a fortune off your backs.”
LePage moved on to bonds and reiterated the same point he’s made for the last two weeks.
“I refuse to allow bonds to be passed until the Maine Legislature balances its budget and pays its bills,” he said. “Our Democratic friends claim the solution to our problems is more borrowing.
Rep. Rich Cebra, R-Naples, introduced LePage by calling him a “breath of fresh air” in Augusta.
“This guy is not a politician,” Cebra said. “He’s a businessman who’s committed every day to making Maine prosperous. He’s plain-talking and a no-nonsense kind of guy. He’s making promises and he delivers on those promises.”