Maine Governor Paul LePage is considering resigning

Maine Governor Paul LePage testifies before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 13, 2015. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Maine Governor Paul LePage says he's considering resigning following a rash of incendiary and odd outbursts, including calling a state legislator a "socialist" and a "cocksucker" in a voicemail message.

"I'm looking at all options," the twice-elected Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a radio station in Bangor. "I think some things I've been asked to do are beyond my ability. I'm not going to say that I'm not going to finish it. I'm not saying that I am going to finish it."

He later said, "If I've lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it's time to move on."

LePage canceled a town hall Tuesday in Westbrook, the hometown of that state legislator, Drew Gattine, and is meeting with Republican legislators Tuesday night, fueling speculation that a resignation could come soon.

The ranting, angry voicemail was left for Gattine last week after the legislator commented on remarks by LePage about race and drugs. Since the beginning of the year, when the governor said that the state, which like many others is suffering from an opioid crisis, was being inundated by drug dealers with names like "D-Money" who are getting "white girls" pregnant, LePage has come under fire from critics in both parties for conflating race and crime in a manner that's at best thoughtless and at worst racist—plus basically irrelevant in such an overwhelmingly white state. Maine is the 47th ranked state in terms of African-American population, according to the 2010 Census, at about 1 percent. It is 49th in Hispanic population, also at about 1 percent.

Last week, LePage exacerbated the situation when he said that he was in possession of binders full of pictures of convicted dealers and that the dealers were overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, adding that they were "the enemy"—a comment that seemed to suggest that all blacks and Hispanics were the enemy. Gattine, who represents a suburban Portland district, criticized LePage's comments for being racially charged. When a reporter relayed Gattine's comments to LePage, inaccurately saying that Gattine had called the governor a racist, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

LePage left a voicemail rant for Gattine and encouraged him to publicize it. Then he called in reporters from a local paper and said he wished it were 1825 so he could challenge Gattine to a duel. He vowed he would not fire in the air but would take dead aim at the legislator.

Such erratic, menacing behavior has raised questions about LePage's stability just weeks before an election in which state Republicans are concerned that LePage's antics could drag down the party. Republicans control Maine's Senate, but Democrats have the majority in the House. Because Maine is one of just two states that apportion presidential electors by congressional district, the state has received renewed interest in the presidential contest. While Maine has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, the Trump campaign is hoping to pick off the state's northern, more conservative second congressional district, which is represented by a Republican in Congress, Bruce Poliquin, who is up for re-election this year. He won by 6 percent in 2014 and is being targeted by Democrats.

Since his election in 2010, LePage's pugilism is nothing new, and his combative style has drawn national attention to sleepy Augusta, the state capital. He declined to meet with the NAACP, and after the group encouraged him to meet with black prisoners, he said they could "kiss my butt." He had a mural covered up at the state's Department of Labor that included Rosie the Riveter and a scene from a Depression-era strike because it wasn't sufficiently pro-business. LePage referred to the Internal Revenue Service as the Gestapo, before backing off.

That was nothing compared with the time in 2013 when LePage said state Senator Troy Dale Jackson "claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline." He added that Jackson, a logger, "ought to go back into the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work."

Despite the controversy, LePage was re-elected by a solid margin in 2014, albeit in a three-way race. If he resigns, he'll be among only a few state chief executives to quit because of reasons other than legal inquiries. In recent years, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber was forced to resign following revelations about his fiancée's business ties with the state. Sarah Palin chose to resign in 2009 during her first term as governor of Alaska to pursue a career in the private sector. In 2002, New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey resigned after it was revealed that he had appointed his lover to be state homeland security chief.