BRIDGTON, Maine — Laura McCabe of Bridgton was at Gov. Paul LePage’s town hall meeting Wednesday when he made his now-infamous comments about drug dealers and white girls. It never occurred to her that anyone would be offended.
According to McCabe, who spent part of Friday perusing the antique shops on Main Street in search of wedding decorations, there was little if any immediate reaction to LePage’s statements, which in the span of a couple of hours Thursday were published around the world.
“Nobody reacted,” said McCabe. “Everyone there knew he was trying to show the whole picture.”
LePage, who said Friday during a news conference that he wished he had used different words to illustrate a point about Maine’s drug problem, has developed a reputation for comments that offend people in Maine and beyond. But McCabe said it’s no surprise to her that LePage has support from so many Mainers.
“He says a lot of things that people are thinking,” she said. “I don’t think name-calling is appropriate, but I also understand his level of frustration.”
That sentiment was common Friday afternoon in Bridgton. Chad Giroux of Norway said he doesn’t agree with LePage’s tone at times but appreciates the governor’s focus on fighting drugs and reforming welfare. Giroux said he recently lost his job and had his income cut nearly in half, but he has never received public assistance.
“Everyone is sick of seeing people abusing the system,” Giroux said. He and his wife, Trudy, said LePage’s tone for the most part doesn’t bother them.
“This world is too politically correct as it is,” Trudy said. “People need to be themselves, not something they’re not.”
Kim Susbury of Windham said LePage has the right ideas but the wrong words.
“He has some ideas that really are valid,” said Susbury. “The way he goes about it is not a positive thing. It really turns people off and that’s too bad.”
Susbury is a nurse at Maine Medical Center, where she sees the drug problem firsthand in addicted newborns and their strung-out mothers. That’s a more common scenario than most people would believe, she said.
LePage has cited drug-addicted babies many times in statements about his drug initiatives.
“It’s a huge problem that I think we need to look at it,” said Susbury.
Matt Bowen of Bridgton, who works at a local diner, said LePage’s comments were inexcusable and that he should be impeached.
“The situation is pretty untenable right now for the governor,” he said. “Throwing in the ‘white girls’ piece, you can’t get around that it’s racist.”
Bowen said LePage is damaging Maine’s image.
“Not only does it look bad for us that we voted for him, it makes us look bad as a country that he’s one of our elected leaders,” said Bowen.
Harry Cross, who has lived in Bridgton for 85 years, said he wasn’t too bothered by LePage’s comments.
“I think he’s trying,” said Cross. “Some of it I agree with and some of it I don’t.”
Howard Shaw of Exeter shook his head when asked about this latest outrage about something said by the governor.
“So what? I say things that offend people sometimes, too,” said Shaw. “To hell with political correctness. … The governor is a good old Mainer, and we need more people like him in our government.”