AUGUSTA, Maine — A spokesman for Gov. Paul LePage blamed “petty partisan politicians” for the Republican governor’s Thursday decision to withdraw 18 nominees to state boards and commissions — including one who was unanimously endorsed by a legislative panel.
LePage adviser Michael Beardsley told a legislative panel on Thursday morning that committees wouldn’t hold hearings scheduled on the governor’s nominees. By Thursday, the governor had filed form letters with legislative leaders canceling 18 nominations in all.
The announcement came a day after the Legislature’s Transportation Committee opposed two LePage nominees. In separate votes, Deputy Maine Transportation Commissioner Jonathan Nass and former state Sen. Doug Thomas were rejected for spots on the boards of the Maine Turnpike Authority and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, respectively.
On Wednesday, the governor canceled the nominations of Thomas and Ronald McKinnon of Chebeague Island, whom the legislative panel endorsed unanimously for another term on the rail authority board. The Senate must approve these nominees, but it can only override a negative committee recommendation with a two-thirds vote.
In a Thursday statement, LePage spokesman Peter Steele said the governor “works very hard to nominate Mainers with excellent qualifications,” but he will withdraw them if “petty partisan politicians are going to punish highly qualified people” for wanting to serve.
“It is unconscionable for legislators to put good people through that kind of grueling process, all for nothing,” Steele said.
Two legislative panels were set to hold 16 confirmation hearings Thursday and several more through Tuesday. The office of House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, provided 16 form letters from LePage sent to legislators Thursday canceling those nominations.
There was confusion Thursday about how many nominations were being canceled. Gideon spokeswoman Mary-Erin Casale said LePage had withdrawn all nominees up for hearings through next week. Jim Cyr, a spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said his office understood that only Thursday hearings were canceled. Steele didn’t answer a question on that subject.
In October 2017, LePage withdrew nominations for five judicial appointments three days before confirmation hearings were scheduled. But he reversed that decision and the nominees went to the Senate, where they were confirmed. That followed Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy’s ruling against the governor in a lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Mills.
The Associated Press and BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.
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