AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine Gov. Paul LePage is so angry at Democrats for rejecting one of his nominees that he canceled the swearing-in ceremony for a newly elected senator who had driven 75 miles for the event with her brothers and two friends.
The Republican governor on Friday refused to sign a proclamation certifying the result of Tuesday's special election.
Democrat Susan Deschambault, of Biddeford, said she received a message from the governor's staff on Thursday evening to show up at LePage's office at 8:50 a.m. the next day to be sworn in. But when the retired social worker arrived at the Statehouse in Augusta on Friday, a staff member told her that LePage was unable to meet with her.
"I was stunned," said Deschambault, 68. "I kept thinking, 'This ain't right.'"
LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett says the governor canceled the event in response to a party-line vote Thursday in the Legislature's labor committee, which turned down his pick for the unemployment insurance commission. Bennett said Democrats treated the nominee, Steven Webster, "despicably."
Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said LePage is disregarding the will of voters.
"Once again, the governor decides to throw a temper tantrum and refuse to do his job because he did not get his way," Bartlett said.
Bennett said LePage is not refusing to swear in Deschamault. Maine law gives the governor five business days to certify the results of an election, she said, and LePage doesn't want to "prematurely" cut off the unsuccessful candidate's statutory right to request a recount.
It was not a tight race. Deschambault beat her Republican opponent Stephen Martin by a margin of 16 percentage points.
She later walked into the Senate chambers and sat in the back of the room with other members of the public. Senate President Michael Thibodeau, a Republican, noticed her and announced that "Senator-elect Deschambault" was present. Both Democrats and Republicans rose to their feet and applauded. The meeting came to a halt, and senators from both parties lined up to shake her hand.
"They wanted to let me know I was welcomed," she said.