Completing a key step in his third bid seeking Maine’s top job, the state's former bombastic governor, Paul LePage, has qualified to run in a Republican gubernatorial primary in June.
Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Maine’s Secretary of State confirmed to NECN/NBC 10 Boston that LePage, who served two consecutive four-year terms as Maine governor, had submitted at least 2,000 signatures that had been certified, allowing him to proceed as a candidate.
Joining campaign staff in dropping off the signatures at a state office building in Augusta was a crowd of supporters and LePage himself, who together, gathered and walked past the Blaine House, Maine’s official governor’s mansion as part of a campaign event.
"We want to get rid of inflation," said LePage in remarks to the crowd shortly before the signatures were delivered, explaining that key priorities of his were Maine’s economy, its future prosperity and ending pandemic restrictions in the state like a vaccine mandate for health care workers enacted by the administration of Maine’s current governor, Janet Mills, a Democrat.
"They’re going to come back to work," said LePage, of the Maine health care workers who lost jobs after the mandate began to be enforced.
"It’s time to treat us like human beings and not prisoners," LePage added.
The former governor also called on Mills to use a state budget surplus for a long-term reduction in Maine’s income tax instead of a $500 payment as she has proposed, in a plan she says was inspired by other Republican lawmakers.
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Asked if he supported Mills’ plan to make community college free for students in high school classes between 2020 and 2023, LePage said those schools should be free for anyone at the "K-14" level with a focus on those in trades like plumbing and construction.
Mills has also signaled she would support a longer-term implementation of a free community college plan.
The economic and pandemic messages resonated with members of the attending crowd at LePage’s event.
"It’s horrible to see my 4-year-old granddaughter so compliant, put on that mask," said Margaret Matthews, who said she is confident LePage could advance to win a third term in office.
Though the event was outside the Blaine House, Mills was at another event organized by state officials in her hometown of Farmington, Maine, speaking about ways she plans to invest in or expand child care in Maine at a state university campus.
Asked for a statement about LePage submitting the signatures, Mills’ 2022 campaign replied saying:
“Under the leadership of Governor Mills, Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates, one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates, a record budget surplus, and a record high Rainy Day Fund. Our unemployment claims are back to pre-pandemic levels, our GDP is growing, and our economy is making a comeback. Governor Mills is focused on delivering what Maine people need – like more housing, child care, and broadband and financial relief to combat inflation – so that we can keep moving Maine forward.”