Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage is sitting in hot water right now after making statements at a Wednesday town hall gathering that Democrats are calling racist.
Midway through the Wednesday night meeting held in Bridgton, Maine, LePage took a question on how his administration is handling the state’s growing drug problem. The governor responded by pointing the finger for the state’s substance abuse woes at out-of-state, drug dealing interlopers.
“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these types of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage stated, according to the Portland Press Herald. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”
The pseudonyms LePage gave his hypothetical drug dealers were taken to imply they were racial minorities, and several national outlets latched onto the story in response to the perceived dog-whistle.
State and national Democrat leaders were quick to denounce LePage and his remarks. A spokesman for Hillary for America said of the affair, “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems.” The chairman of the Maine Democratic Party called the governor’s statement “outrageous” and “coded racism.”
A Democratic National Committee representative issued a statement saying, “Paul LePage’s comments are disgusting, racist and represent the worst form of conservative politics – one that plays to the darkest elements of the Republican Party’s base.” The DNC also called upon New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to disavow LePage’s endorsement for the presidential candidate’s bid for the White House.
Christie has so far not said anything on the matter and LePage is not apologizing for his comments. “The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant,” Peter Steele, the governor’s communications director, told the Portland Press Herald. “What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers. His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood, too. We need to stop the drug traffickers from coming into our state.”
This week’s controversy is not the first time LePage has made comments his political opponents found offensive. In 2011, he told NAACP leaders to “kiss my butt” during a dispute over the governor refusing to meet solely with black inmates in the state. During a radio address in 2012, LePage labelled the IRS “the new Gestapo” for its role in enforcing Obamacare.