Republican Gov. Paul LePage is in full-throated apology mode for the now-infamous comments he directed at Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook last week.
During his weekly radio appearance on WVOM, LePage said there are no excuses for the obscene voicemail he left for Gattine last week and that he wants to discuss the situation in person. LePage said his office is reaching out to Gattine this morning in an attempt to arrange a meeting.
“There’s no excuses. It’s unacceptable,” said LePage. “I apologize to the Maine people and Rep. Gattine’s family.”
Gattine confirmed Tuesday morning that the governor’s office had contacted him.
“I received a voicemail from the governor’s office last night asking me to call about setting up a meeting,” he told the BDN. “The subject matter of the meeting was not mentioned. …. I do plan to return the call from the governor’s office to discuss the request for a meeting.”
LePage also said he has been in consultations with his staff and family about what else he intends to do to in the wake of the controversy, which erupted last Wednesday when a television reporter told LePage that Gattine had called him a racist. He didn’t explain what other options are on the table but when asked by one of the hosts whether he’ll finish his second term, the governor said this:
“I’m looking at all of the options,” said LePage. “I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not going to say that I am going to finish it. I need to meet with Mr. Gattine and then meet with my team to look at the options.”
LePage said his meetings Monday with Republican lawmakers went well.
“The gist of the meeting is that the Republican House wants to salvage what we can and move forward,” he said. “The [Republican] senators are making demands. I can do a lot of them and some of them I can’t do. There are limits on what a person can do and can’t do. We’re looking at those options.”
LePage said, as he has before, that his anger took over and led him to leave Gattine the voicemail.
“This was the first time in my entire life I couldn’t breathe because I was so angry,” said LePage. “Deep down in my heart I know I am not a racist. I am a lot of different things and I have faults like everybody else.”
Of the word “racist,” LePage said “it’s like calling a black man the N word or a woman the C word. It just absolutely knocked me off my feet.”
The controversy around LePage’s comments — which included him saying that more than 90 percent of drug dealers who peddle heroin in Maine are black or Hispanic people from New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut — intensified over the weekend. Some lawmakers are calling for LePage’s resignation; others are suggesting disciplinary action such as a censure. Republican lawmakers have a caucus meeting scheduled for later today to discuss the issue.
In the meantime, an anti-LePage rally at Capitol Park — which is just across the street from the State House and governor’s mansion in Augusta — is scheduled for this evening. LePage attempted to schedule his next town hall on Wednesday in Westbrook — which is Gattine’s hometown — but officials there voted Monday night to cancel the event.