Can a governor effectively govern a state when he dislikes (some would say despises) a large chunk of the state and the people who live there? This, unfortunately, is not a rhetorical question.

Louise Sullivan of Cape Elizabeth wrote a note to Gov. Paul LePage suggesting he should resign. Not the nicest thing you could write to a governor, but certainly Sullivan is free to share her thoughts.

In a handwritten response, LePage assures Sullivan that his resignation is “not going to happen.” But first, he denigrates all of southern Maine. “You live in the south who exploit those who are not so fortunate, or understand the level of corruption that southern Mainers ignore and welcome!”

With such attacks on southern Maine, LePage is tapping into strongly held beliefs — maybe even resentments — among the state’s rural residents, which is also the Republican base. There’s the “real Maine,” in the minds of some, and then there’s “Northern Massachusetts.”

When politicians like LePage snarl about Portland, they’re really denigrating a set of values at odds with their own. Portland is decidedly liberal; LePage got just 20 percent of the vote there last year.

As BDN reporter Mario Moretto wrote in March: “[Portland] means youth, the arts, innovation and the diversity needed to save Maine from demographic winter. Or it stands for bloated government, overly generous welfare programs and a vision of Maine at odds with its heritage.”

The problem with this thinking is that the Portland area, with its do-gooders and generous welfare programs, is vital to Maine’s future.

Southern Maine, specifically Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties, accounts for more than half of the state’s economic output. Nearly a third of the state’s sales tax revenue comes from the region. And, one-third of the state’s jobs are in the greater Portland area, which is also where much of the state’s limited population growth is occurring.

An elected official writes off this region at his peril, political and otherwise.

The governor’s note drew a strong rebuke from long-time Republican strategist Lance Dutson, who lives in the Portland area and has formed a group called Get Right Maine. “When he says ‘Southern Mainers,’ he’s talking about roughly half the people in our state,” Dutson wrote in an email to his new group full of bold and underlined text to emphasize his points. “This is our governor. From our Republican Party. We all worked to get him elected, twice.”

“Paul LePage is hurting our future prospects of electoral success by senselessly alienating the people of Maine,” Dutson added. “If we want to win elections in the future, we need this to stop.”

LePage’s rage, threats and rants transcend concerns about winning elections; they violate principles of common decency that one should expect of any elected official, and they damage the state’s reputation.

The text of his note to Sullivan, along with a recitation of other LePage insults and threats, was published Wednesday by Business Insider, under the headline “GOP governor sends bizarre, aggressive hand-written letter to constituent.”

This is the opposite of the type of attention Maine needs if it stands a chance, as LePage would like, of drawing businesses to the state to grow employment and prosperity. Maine is a small state off much of the country’s radar. It can’t afford to have residents of different regions badmouthing and working against one another.


The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...