AUGUSTA, Maine — The latest attempt to oust Gov. Paul LePage from office has been rejected by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
On Tuesday, independent Rep. Jeff Evangelos of Friendship launched a petition to convince Dunlap to begin a process through the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to remove LePage from office.
According to Evangelos and Dunlap, that effort has failed.
“It is my belief that the actions of the governor, while reprehensible, do not indicate that he is unable to perform the duties of the office,” Dunlap wrote to Evangelos in a letter that was made public Thursday afternoon. “If any evidence of such inability comes to my attention in the future, you may be assured I will not require correspondence in order to act on behalf of the Maine people.”
In a letter Thursday morning to the Bangor Daily News, Evangelos wrote that Democratic legislative leaders in the House and Senate have “joined the cowardly Republicans to reject our appeal.”
“Failing to learn the lessons of history, Democratic leadership and the Republicans are doomed to repeat it,” wrote Evangelos. “The fault for the consequences is theirs.”
Evangelos argues that there are “more than reasonable grounds” for Dunlap to act, but Dunlap disagreed.
“I take my own oath of office seriously and consider the honor of holding the office of Secretary of State to be a sacred duty, not a political job,” wrote Dunlap. “I have driven myself to exhaustion contemplating these questions and if the manifest evidence before me were an explication of the governor’s inability to perform his duties, I would suffer any danger to leap into the breach, even if I stood alone and failed to safeguard the future of Maine. I lack that manifest evidence.”
The removal provision in the Maine Constitution, which has never been used, is reserved for the most extreme circumstances in which a governor is unable to fulfill his or her official duties. It requires a majority vote of Maine supreme court justices, who can then reinstate a governor when he or she is deemed fit to resume serving.
The effort by Evangelos comes after two weeks of turmoil in Maine politics that started on Aug. 25 when LePage made remarks regarding the race of drug traffickers in Maine that were widely judged to be racially insensitive. After LePage apologized and brushed aside calls for his resignation, legislative Democrats spearheaded an effort to call a special session to consider sanctions against LePage, but that effort failed earlier this week after Republican leaders in the House and Senate declined to poll their caucuses about reconvening. Republicans called the Democrats’ effort illegal, unconstitutional and an election-year campaign stunt.
Maine Republican Party Chairman Richard Bennett said in a written statement that the allegations against LePage by Evangelos are “preposterous and represent an absurd overreach of legislative power.”
“I am stunned by the arrogance that enables these legislators to act as armchair psychologists,” said Bennett.
Evangelos, who earlier this year co-sponsored a failed bill that could have led to LePage’s impeachment, did not mince his words.
“Any person in this state who repeatedly threatened to kill colleagues at their place of work would be immediately fired, would be reported to police and would be placed under mental health watch,” he wrote. “The use of violent language by this governor, combined with political anger, presents a real threat to public safety and is a serious violation of his oath of office, his oath to the Constitution, the 14th Amendment equal protection clause and his duty to protect the public safety for all.”