As he recently pledged to do at a private fundraiser, Gov. Paul LePage has asked Attorney General Janet Mills to give up her government job because she is running for governor. He asked the same of State Treasurer Terry Hayes, who is also running for governor.
“To avoid any potential conflict of interest, you should not take a taxpayer-funded paycheck while you are using your office to run your campaign,” LePage wrote in a letter to Mills, a Democrat.
He had a similar message for Hayes. “You should not run your political campaign while also trying to serve as a full-time treasurer,” he wrote. “That is not fair to the hardworking Mainers taxpayers who pay your salary.”
Hypocrisy is nothing new to LePage, but his paternalistic demands for Mills and Hayes to resign are ridiculous.
First, LePage ran for re-election in 2014 while he was still serving as governor — and continued to collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck. Attending campaign events while he was governor apparently wasn’t a conflict then, but somehow it is a conflict for Mills to do the same. LePage campaigned to keep is governorship while trying to serve as a full-time governor. This was fair to Maine taxpayers, but Hayes doing a similar thing is not.
Perhaps LePage believes that only men, like himself, can multitask and manage a state job and run for office at the same time. He points out, in his letter to Mills and Hayes, that his former commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, Mary Mayhew, left this job before running for governor.
None of the six Maine secretaries of state or attorneys general who ran for higher office in the past 30 years resigned to do so, the Associated Press reported in 2012. All of them were men, except for Mills.
In the 2012 Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat, three of the candidates were constitutional officers — State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Attorney General Bill Schneider. LePage did not ask any of these men to resign from their state jobs or to take a leave of absence during the campaign. Summers, who won the GOP primary, continued to serve as secretary of state through the November 2012 election, which was won by former governor Angus King.
The left-leaning Maine People’s Alliance called on Summers to resign in 2012 as secretary of state because his government duties included overseeing elections, including his own. This was a conflict of interest, the group argued. LePage did not join this request.
So, maybe LePage believes that only Democrats and independents, like Mills and Hayes, should step down, but not Republicans.
What is more likely, of course, is that this is just another attack by LePage’s against Mills, one of the few Democrats to stand up to the governor. As attorney general, she has declined to represent LePage is numerous lawsuits.
LePage argues this is a dereliction of her duty. It is not. The attorney general represents the people of Maine, not the governor. When Mills’ office has determined that the governor has a weak case and is unlikely to prevail in court, it has declined to represent him. LePage has lost several of these lawsuits, such as over his refusal to release Clean Election and job training funds and his administration’s attempt to take MaineCare away from low-income 19- and 20-year-olds, wasting taxpayer money on private attorneys in the process.
There is no reason for Mills or Hayes to give up their jobs to campaign. They are capable of doing two — or more — thing at once, just as dozens of men before them have done.
Follow BDN Editorial & Opinion on Facebook for the latest opinions on the issues of the day in Maine.