During a speech to the Orono-area business community, Gov. Paul LePage lashed out Tuesday night at independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, accusing the former governor of using Maine politics as a stepping stone to increasing his personal wealth through investments in wind energy.
LePage later told MPBN that during his weekly town hall meetings across the state, more and more Mainers are urging him to challenge King for the seat he now holds in 2018. And LePage says he seriously contemplating the race.
In Augusta Tuesday night, lawmakers were wrapping up their work as they looked ahead to possible adjournment by the end of the week. In Orono, Gov. Paul LePage was speaking to a group of area members of the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs at the Black Bear Inn, and he told them that he was also looking ahead — to 2018 and a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by former independent Gov. Angus King.
LePage said Maine deserved a senator who did not put his financial well-being before the interests of Maine voters. And he accused King of enriching himself at the expense of Mainers struggling to pay their electric bills.
“He ripped us off by $104 million during his eight years as governor — he ripped us off, royally, and I can’t wait until 2018 because I’m thinking that’s the guy I’m going after,” LePage said.
The governor has never been shy about expressing his criticisms of King, who he said amassed a fortune at the expense of Maine ratepayers as a former large stakeholder in Independence Wind. But LePage has seldom been so direct in his criticism of King.
While saying King was a “good governor, a nice man and likable guy,” LePage also made it clear that the senator’s business dealings did not mesh with his politics.
“If you go into public service, you do it for public service – you don’t do it for money,” LePage said.
The governor has expressed an interest in running against King in the past, but has also later distanced himself from those statements. After his presentation to members of the Orono business community, LePage said he’s making plans for 2018.
“I’m seriously, seriously giving it some very serious thought and I am talking around the state and I am really looking at the distinction between his performance and my performance,” LePage said. “And I believe that I’ve outperformed him for the people of the state of Maine as governor and I think I can outperform him in Washington as a senator.”
LePage will take his message about the state of Maine’s economy and his future plans to Newcastle on Thursday for another of his weekly town hall meetings.
Editor’s note: After this story was published, Scott Ogden with Sen. Angus King’s office issued a statement to MPBN.
“The governor only got two things right: that Sen. King is a good guy and that he was a good governor,” Ogden said.
He also said he was unsure of how LePage arrived at King receiving “$104 million during his eight years as governor,” pointing to a 2012 Portland Press Herald report in which King defended his wind career.