Maine lawmakers to debate impeaching governor

FILE - In a Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House, in Augusta, Maine.

FILE - In a Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House, in Augusta, Maine.  (AP)

Maine lawmakers are expected to debate an impeachment order against Gov. Paul LePage Thursday over allegations of abuse of power.

The proposal, submitted by Democratic Rep. Ben Chipman, hopes to punish the Republican governor for allegedly using his influence to pressure a school operator into rescinding a job offer from Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. Eves responded to the action by filing a civil lawsuit in federal court.

"It's a matter of principle," said Chipman, of Portland. "It's about holding the governor accountable and standing up to his behavior."

LePage critics are also seeking to look into allegations that he forced out the president of the Maine Community College System, refused to allow administration officials to testify in front of committees and involved himself in the internal workings of the unemployment compensation board.

LePage was initially elected as Maine’s governor in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. The 67-year-old governor has defended his actions, saying he has done nothing wrong and claiming the attacks against him are political and a tantamount to a “witch hunt.”

A majority vote in the Democratic-controlled Maine House would be all LePage’s critics need to kick off an investigation. However, some Democrats fear the decision to go ahead with a vote on the proposed order will prove futile and could embolden the already outspoken governor.

The state attorney general, Democrat Janet Mills, has already declined to investigate LePage's conduct. She said there was no evidence he committed a crime when he pressured Good Will-Hinckley, an organization that serves at-risk young people, to rescind the job offer to Eves.

LePage is known for a blunt style and off-the-cuff remarks that get him into trouble. 

He was criticized last week after saying out-of-state drug dealers with names like "D-Money, Smoothie and Shifty" sell heroin in Maine and "half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave." He later apologized for the comment, calling it a slip of the tongue.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an impeachment supporter and political independent, said the governor's white-girl comment was just the latest in a long line of abuses.

"The governor's remarks unmask what many of us already knew about his racist and xenophobic tendencies, his class war against poor people of all colors and his vindictiveness toward immigrants based on color and religion," Evangelos said.

LePage has also said President Barack Obama could “go to hell” and likened the IRS to the Gestapo. LePage also once told the Portland NAACP to "kiss my butt." He said a political opponent gives it to the people "without providing Vaseline."

Republican Rep. Kenneth Fredette, of Newport, defended LePage’s comments, telling The Boston Globe the governor may have mistakenly chosen his words because his first language is French.

An impeachment order would be unprecedented. It also wouldn't likely survive long as it would eventually go to the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Boston Globe reported that an investigative panel would have until April 1 to report any findings and recommend an impeachment. The trial would move to the Senate where a two-thirds majority vote is required to remove LePage from office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from The Boston Globe.