PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage unleashed an obscene tirade on a Democratic legislator, leaving him a voicemail message that said “I am after you” and telling reporters he wished it were 1825 so he could challenge the lawmaker to a duel and point a gun between his eyes.
The governor later apologized to “the people of Maine” but not to the legislator.
LePage said in the Thursday voicemail that he wanted to talk with Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook about the legislator calling him a racist. Gattine has denied calling LePage a racist.
“I want you to prove that I’m a racist,” LePage said, adding that he had spent his life helping black people and calling Gattine a vulgar name related to oral sex. “I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you.”
LePage, who’s white, was accused of making racially insensitive comments Wednesday at a town hall in North Berwick, where he said photos he’s collected in a binder of drug dealers arrested in the state showed that 90 percent of them “are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut; the Bronx; and Brooklyn.” He displayed the binder at a Friday news conference.
The governor issued a public apology to “the people of Maine” on Friday for the vulgarity but said he was right to defend himself against Gattine because he considers being called a racist worse than any insult.
House and Senate Democrats and the Maine Democratic Party on Friday questioned LePage’s capacity to lead. LePage said he would not resign unless several of his political opponents, including Gattine, did as well.
Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon called for a “political intervention” from members of both parties to either ensure that the governor “gets the help that he needs” or that he’s removed from office.
Gattine said Friday that the governor left him another voicemail Friday morning, asking him to debate him at a town hall meeting next week. Gattine said the governor didn’t apologize.
After leaving the voicemail on Thursday, LePage invited reporters to the governor’s mansion, where he said he wished he and Gattine could face off in a duel.
“When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” LePage said, according to the Portland Press Herald. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”
Police in Westbrook said Friday that they had received a citizen complaint about the voicemail. A police official said the complaint came from someone who didn’t live in the city. It’s unclear if there will be an investigation. Gattine said he didn’t plan to file a police report.
Gattine has clashed with the governor on how to address welfare reform, drug addiction and eligibility for developmental disabilities programs.
Gattine said he wasn’t concerned about his safety, but he called the voicemail a distraction and the latest of LePage’s personal vendettas against lawmakers. Gattine shared the voicemail’s audio with the Press Herald.
“The fact is he sits around fantasizing about having duels with legislators or obsessing over the race of people who are arrested for crimes,” Gattine said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a statement that it’s “embarrassing” that LePage is contributing to the “steady loss of civility in politics.” Michael Thibodeau, the Republican president of the Maine Senate, also rebuked LePage, saying it “damages our public institutions when inappropriate comments come from either party.”
LePage, in his second and final term as governor, has a history of drawing attention for his blunt remarks. In January, Paul LePage said drug dealers with names like “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” are getting Maine’s white girls pregnant. He later apologized, saying he meant to say “Maine women” and not “white women.”
LePage has compared his style to that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom he supports, though he recently said Trump was his third choice for president after Chris Christie and Jeb Bush.
“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular, so I think I should support him since we’re one of the same cloth,” he told a radio show host in February.
LePage this week called the father of a dead Muslim U.S. Army captain a “con artist” for criticizing Trump. LePage’s daughter Lauren has been hired by Trump and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence to work as the state’s coalitions director.
Associated Press writers Patrick Whittle and David Sharp in Portland contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that LePage said he wished it were 1825, not 1812.